counter create hit Four Lost Cities: A Secret History of the Urban Age - Download Free eBook
Hot Best Seller

Four Lost Cities: A Secret History of the Urban Age

Availability: Ready to download

A quest to explore some of the most spectacular ancient cities in human history—and figure out why people abandoned them. In Four Lost Cities, acclaimed science journalist Annalee Newitz takes readers on an entertaining and mind-bending adventure into the deep history of urban life. Investigating across the centuries and around the world, Newitz explores the rise and fall A quest to explore some of the most spectacular ancient cities in human history—and figure out why people abandoned them. In Four Lost Cities, acclaimed science journalist Annalee Newitz takes readers on an entertaining and mind-bending adventure into the deep history of urban life. Investigating across the centuries and around the world, Newitz explores the rise and fall of four ancient cities, each the center of a sophisticated civilization: the Neolithic site of Çatalhöyük in Central Turkey, the Roman vacation town of Pompeii on Italy’s southern coast, the medieval megacity of Angkor in Cambodia, and the indigenous metropolis Cahokia, which stood beside the Mississippi River where East St. Louis is today. Newitz travels to all four sites and investigates the cutting-edge research in archaeology, revealing the mix of environmental changes and political turmoil that doomed these ancient settlements. Tracing the early development of urban planning, Newitz also introduces us to the often anonymous workers—slaves, women, immigrants, and manual laborers—who built these cities and created monuments that lasted millennia. Four Lost Cities is a journey into the forgotten past, but, foreseeing a future in which the majority of people on Earth will be living in cities, it may also reveal something of our own fate.


Compare

A quest to explore some of the most spectacular ancient cities in human history—and figure out why people abandoned them. In Four Lost Cities, acclaimed science journalist Annalee Newitz takes readers on an entertaining and mind-bending adventure into the deep history of urban life. Investigating across the centuries and around the world, Newitz explores the rise and fall A quest to explore some of the most spectacular ancient cities in human history—and figure out why people abandoned them. In Four Lost Cities, acclaimed science journalist Annalee Newitz takes readers on an entertaining and mind-bending adventure into the deep history of urban life. Investigating across the centuries and around the world, Newitz explores the rise and fall of four ancient cities, each the center of a sophisticated civilization: the Neolithic site of Çatalhöyük in Central Turkey, the Roman vacation town of Pompeii on Italy’s southern coast, the medieval megacity of Angkor in Cambodia, and the indigenous metropolis Cahokia, which stood beside the Mississippi River where East St. Louis is today. Newitz travels to all four sites and investigates the cutting-edge research in archaeology, revealing the mix of environmental changes and political turmoil that doomed these ancient settlements. Tracing the early development of urban planning, Newitz also introduces us to the often anonymous workers—slaves, women, immigrants, and manual laborers—who built these cities and created monuments that lasted millennia. Four Lost Cities is a journey into the forgotten past, but, foreseeing a future in which the majority of people on Earth will be living in cities, it may also reveal something of our own fate.

30 review for Four Lost Cities: A Secret History of the Urban Age

  1. 5 out of 5

    Jenna

    View of the central structure of Angkor Wat (built in the 12th century CE), photo by Jakub Hałun In the early days of the Pandemic, there were a number of Americans who apparently believed toilet paper was a powerful antiviral and the more you had, the better you would be protected from Covid-19. Despite the fact that neither the CDC nor the WHO vouched for its efficacy, these people bought so much toilet paper that the rest of us were unable to buy any for months. We had a number of things we co View of the central structure of Angkor Wat (built in the 12th century CE), photo by Jakub Hałun In the early days of the Pandemic, there were a number of Americans who apparently believed toilet paper was a powerful antiviral and the more you had, the better you would be protected from Covid-19. Despite the fact that neither the CDC nor the WHO vouched for its efficacy, these people bought so much toilet paper that the rest of us were unable to buy any for months. We had a number of things we could use instead - washcloths, soap, and clean water being the preferred method but also some people might have gathered fallen leaves or ripped out pages of old, moldy books they had planned to donate to the local library and thankfully now found a better use for. I think it's safe to say that while we might have substituted wash cloths, leaves, or pages from Fifty Shades of Grey, none of us considered sharing it. But that's what they did in Pompeii. As the author of Four Lost Cities relates, not only did the Pompeiians not have individual stalls (their public toilets were in rows with about a foot of space in between each seat), they also shared their toilet paper! It came in the form of a sponge on a stick, or a xylospongia. You'd take a dump then grab the sponge, dip it in water and wipe your ass. When finished, you handed it to the guy sitting next to you or simply left it for the next person to use. I think all of our imaginations can take us places we don't want to go...... Let's move on. This book is full of fascinating details about how ancient people lived in four "lost" cities. As the author explains, these cities were never lost in the true sense of the word but, for various reasons, abandoned over time. Annalee Newitz visited these four ancient cities, interviewed a number of archaeologists, and even assisted at an archaeological excavation in order to learn what has been uncovered about the past, why these cities were built and why they might have been abandoned, and how the citizens of these cities lived. They discuss the cities of Çatalhöyük in Central Turkey, Pompeii in Italy. Angkor in Cambodia, and Cahokia in present day Illinois. I found all of these riveting. Newitz studied not just the elite but also the ordinary people, and provides illuminating details of how they lived their lives... and yes, how in some places they used and re-used toilet paper. They use data archaeology to look at what the masses did and try "to reconstruct their social and even psychological lives". We learn how they built their cities, what they ate, what their beliefs might have been, and how they celebrated. We learn about Dido, a resident in Çatalhöyük who fell from the rooftop entrance to her home, breaking ribs and giving her injuries that, though they healed, made her favour one side of her body for the rest of her life. It's details like these that captivate me, elucidating the lives of our distant ancestors. The most interesting section for me was the one about Cahokia. I am ashamed to admit, though I'm American, I never heard of this city. I know of course that there were ancient Aztec and Mayan cities in Mexico, and yet it never occurred to me to ask if there had been cities in the present day United States. I simply accepted the narrative we are taught in school, that civilization didn't come to America until the white men brought it. In fact, as we learn in this book, there were sophisticated cities long before Europeans arrived, the oldest of which, "called Watson Brake, dates back 5,500 years—centuries before the first Egyptian pyramids were built." Newitz explores in depth the largest pre-Columbian city, Cahokia. It was a sprawling metropolis with a population of up to 30,000 people, more than Paris had at that time. Nearly a third of Cahokians were immigrants from all over the southern future United States. The people of Cahokia (its original name is sadly lost) built huge earthen pyramids, the greatest of which was Monks Mound, soaring 30 meters high (nearly 100 feet). The details we know from archaeologists are fascinating and Four Lost Cities is a joy to read. Newitz meticulously brings these cities alive, sharing what is known of the people who lived there and how they would have spent their days. I kept my phone with me as I read, eagerly Googling images of the places described. Anyone interested in prehistoric times, peoples, and/or cities will find much to appreciate in this book. And as for those people who hoard toilet paper - I imagine they still have mounds of rolls in their homes, lining the walls of their basements, shoved under beds and sofas, and stored in their freezers. You know who you are. And some day in the distant future, an archaeologist will dig out the remains of your home, learning how people lived in the twenty-first century. They will be baffled by all that toilet paper and struggle for an explanation. If future archaeologists are anything like present ones, their interpretation will resort to something to do with spirituality or religion. They will assume the people of the twenty-first century worshipped assholes. Their hypothesis will be confirmed when heaps of Trump flags and red MAGA hats are also unearthed. They'll write an incredible book about their discoveries and readers like me will be fascinated by the toilet paper use of the 21st century.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Rachel (Kalanadi)

    3.5 stars

  3. 4 out of 5

    Katie P.

    Blog ✍ | Facebook 👩 | Twitter 🐦 | Instagram 📸 Four Lost Cities is an incredibly interesting and topical monograph that isn't a monograph. The author, Annalee Newitz, takes readers through a conversation about the rise and fall of four ancient cities. Many scholarly works get bogged down in jargon, but this book takes the reader on a journey with an easy to read style and makes it all the more effective in bringing it's central message to the reader. The ancient cities are Çatalhöyük in Central Tur Blog ✍ | Facebook 👩 | Twitter 🐦 | Instagram 📸 Four Lost Cities is an incredibly interesting and topical monograph that isn't a monograph. The author, Annalee Newitz, takes readers through a conversation about the rise and fall of four ancient cities. Many scholarly works get bogged down in jargon, but this book takes the reader on a journey with an easy to read style and makes it all the more effective in bringing it's central message to the reader. The ancient cities are Çatalhöyük in Central Turkey from the Neolithic period, Pompeii in Italy, Angkor in Cambodia, and Cahokia near the Mississippi River in North America. Going into this book, I knew about two of the four cities and was astounded to read about both Çatalhöyük and Cahokia. Contrary to popular belief, Newitz concludes that the residents of these cities did not die out, rather they migrated from their close-quarters homes. Through the narrative, Newitz analyzes the cultural and historical implications that led to migrations from these ancient metropolis sites. Detailing new and innovative techniques in the field of archelogy, Newitz presents conclusions and findings in a compelling way. Though the author's background is journalism, the research that was put into this book is evident in every paragraph. Though I do not live in a metropolitan area, I see the effects of urbanization within my community and region. Like other reviewers, I focused on the message about urbanism and it's effect on society. I enjoyed reading the historical and archeological analysis of urbanism and migration in ancient cities. Newitz makes a clear statement that the subject civilizations migrated as a result of necessity. This is the message I held on to at the end of the book. We, as humans, must change as a result of necessity, be that migration from urban centers or changing other habits. This is an incredibly timely message for the world!

  4. 4 out of 5

    Monika

    We all would’ve learnt about ancient civilisations in history. But what do we really know about them? Why did people abandon those sophisticated civilisations? These may be questions for archeologists, but as a history seeker I’ve always had these questions in mind. The Four Lost Cities - we follow the exploration of four ancient forgotten civilisations along with the author Annalee Newitz. Newitz explores the rise and fall of four ancient cities, each the center of a sophisticated civilization: We all would’ve learnt about ancient civilisations in history. But what do we really know about them? Why did people abandon those sophisticated civilisations? These may be questions for archeologists, but as a history seeker I’ve always had these questions in mind. The Four Lost Cities - we follow the exploration of four ancient forgotten civilisations along with the author Annalee Newitz. Newitz explores the rise and fall of four ancient cities, each the center of a sophisticated civilization: the Neolithic site of Çatalhöyük in Central Turkey, the Roman vacation town of Pompeii on Italy’s southern coast, the medieval megacity of Angkor in Cambodia, and the indigenous metropolis Cahokia, which stood beside the Mississippi River where East St. Louis is today. With fascinating details, archeological insights and rich cultural background, this is how ancient history should be written. Anyone who is interested in history would like this book. The author is a cohost of Hugo award winning podcast Our Opinions are correct! She is the author of Future of another timeline that will interest time travel enthusiast and scifi lovers alike!! Thank you Netgalley & publisher for the eARC in exchange for an honest opinion!

  5. 4 out of 5

    Jeanette

    This holds oodles of information. My main focus was on Cahokia, yet all 4 parts were thorough. I'm glad I read it. A task that took much longer than any most usual geographical type non-fiction I've read completely as a whole, without any skimming. In driving past Cahokia Mounds at least 4 or 5 times in the last 2 decades, I have always wanted to see more and understand it better. I think I do now- understand it. But there certainly are better and more beautiful places to see in that area of Lit This holds oodles of information. My main focus was on Cahokia, yet all 4 parts were thorough. I'm glad I read it. A task that took much longer than any most usual geographical type non-fiction I've read completely as a whole, without any skimming. In driving past Cahokia Mounds at least 4 or 5 times in the last 2 decades, I have always wanted to see more and understand it better. I think I do now- understand it. But there certainly are better and more beautiful places to see in that area of Little Egypt in Illinois. I've been within Pompeii and watched digs there in the late 1990's. I walked within dwellings back rooms and could go all over then, but this is no longer doable I have heard. The pornography and translations graphs (graffeti) are the most foul I've ever read. (Believe me, many do NOT have to be translated either.) Nothing is sacred. Nothing. It is extremely interesting because unlike these other 3 cities, the ending was so alive. Fully. Yet so abrupt. And it was nearly all libertii (former slaves or offspring of slaves or freedom earned themselves etc. of the first 2 generations) and the mixtures of ethnic peoples of so many tribal areas made it even more tragic. If that is possible. I never knew that if a woman had 3 children she was automatically considered freed. Or that with 4- you got all the kids free too. Or that slavery under Nero was changing and that he gave women rights of ownership in their own names for one of the first times. He was crazy but he wasn't all bad. But I have to warn you a tiny bit. Annalee Newitz does summersaults over gymnastic triples over backwards flips to parse the slavery and manual labors and mass executions of the indigenous cultures. Western civilization BAD, indigenous cultures GOOD- you know. So 1000 dead slaves for one ceremony is not as bad as Henry VIII killing two of his wives. That's the kind of parsing I'm posting about. Made me laugh. It didn't ruin the book for me, but did make me question a few of her main premises about economics vs spiritual substance being the urban imploding etc. When you are sacrificing people in droves of 100's for certain ceremonies, I would believe that the volunteers become skimpy after not too long. It's mind-blowing that the Ankor sites could have been excavated by hand, manual labor. It would be similar to digging out the Panama Canal with a shovel and a pail. I do not think all that labor was done for such periods of time without huge slavery classes. For more than just a few decades. More like 2 or 3 centuries. The author doesn't deny that at all, and yet she vastly underestimates the economics of some of these causes for such outcomes, IMHO. Even within the structural spiritual cultures of highly ritualized living there comes a point what the substance would just not "be there" for the core games or the show. Climates always change, rivers bend into other directions- and economics of trade and possible growth of crops always matters. She never denies that, but her scales are skewed, IMHO.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Mal Warwick

    To say that Annalee Newitz’s interests are eclectic grossly understates the point. They—Newitz’s personal pronouns are they/their/theirs—are the author of two science fiction novels and two works of nonfiction that sprawl across a broad swath of issues and preoccupations. Newitz has also edited or co-edited a number of other nonfiction books and contributed chapters to several more. And a third novel is scheduled for publication later this year. The subjects of these works include mass extinctio To say that Annalee Newitz’s interests are eclectic grossly understates the point. They—Newitz’s personal pronouns are they/their/theirs—are the author of two science fiction novels and two works of nonfiction that sprawl across a broad swath of issues and preoccupations. Newitz has also edited or co-edited a number of other nonfiction books and contributed chapters to several more. And a third novel is scheduled for publication later this year. The subjects of these works include mass extinction, race and class in America, popular culture, robots, and alternate feminist history, among many others. In Four Lost Cities, their latest outing into the realm of the printed word, they venture into urban history through the lens of archaeology. With Annalee Newitz as your guide, you’ll join archaeologists at work in some of the most fascinating spots around the world. A wide-angle portrait of archaeologists at work This book is, above all, a wide-angle portrait of archaeologists at work. Over the course of seven years, including many summers spent at dig sites across the world, Newitz interviewed scores of archaeologists. The picture that emerges is likely to revise the impression most of us have had of what archaeologists actually do. Of course, few take seriously the mythical figure of Indiana Jones as representative of the field. But the far more sober picture of archaeologists on their knees in godforsaken places, sifting through the earth for pottery shards and ancient weapons isn’t much closer to the truth. (OK, it’s a big part of the picture.) Today, archaeologists employ science in manifold ways to suss out the story of the past. How science and technology have revolutionized archaeology Contemporary science and technology come into play in several ways in the pages of Four Lost Cities. Stratigraphic mapping To distinguish among the layers beneath a settlement built atop a series of earlier communities, archaeologists employ stratigraphic mapping analogous to the method used to distinguish one geological epoch from another. Computational archaeology In data archaeology, or computational archaeology, investigators study long-term human behavior and behavioral evolution by discerning patterns in the data sets that emerge from close observation of the tiny details in a dig. For example, they may count the number of times they find pottery produced elsewhere versus pottery produced at the site they’re studying. The might suggest the importance of trade to the inhabitants. Lidar With lidar (Light Detection And Ranging), specialists can probe the location, depth, and dimensions of structures long buried under the earth, even in the midst of a forest or jungle. Newitz’s description of these methods merely hints at the sophistication of the science brought to bear by archaeologists at work today. Dig deeper into the field, and you’ll find a bewildering array of other scientific methods that now figure in this increasingly demanding discipline. Radiocarbon dating is only the most familiar of these techniques. The four “lost cities” Çatalhöyük Located in present-day south-central Turkey, Çatalhöyük was a Neolithic (Stone Age) community that flourished from approximately 7100 BCE to 5700 BCE. At its peak, the city’s population is estimated to have reached 10,000 at most. Many of its inhabitants “were only a generation or two removed from nomadism.” Thus, it may be misleading to characterize the place as a city. Elsewhere, Newitz refers to it as a “Neolithic mega-village.” Çatalhöyük predated the age of empires; “there were no kings or big bosses.” Like most of the other cities Newitz studied, Çatalhöyük is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The site was first excavated in 1958 by James Mellaart, who did his work in the 1950s and 60s and is not among among the many working archaeologists Newitz interviewed for this book. They take him to task for his thesis of “goddess worship,” a discredited analysis of Çatalhöyük’s belief system. Newitz’s emphasis, like that of a great many of the scientists they spoke with, was on daily life in the city and on analyzing why and how Çatalhöyük could have become “lost.” But even when most of the city’s inhabitants had moved on to other, smaller cities or back to village life, “nobody ‘lost’ the city . . . The place remained special, long after people left it.” For archaeologists at work today, Çatalhöyük is most interesting for the light it shines on the rise and fall of cities. Pompeii It’s well known that in 79 CE the volcano Vesuvius erupted violently, burying the Roman resort town of Pompeii and several neighboring communities under up to six meters of burning ash. Largely preserved under the ash, the excavated city offered a unique snapshot of Roman life, frozen at the moment it was buried. But, in Newitz’s telling, what we have learned about Pompeii was not truly representative of Roman lifestyles. Like other communities in the empire, the city, home to an estimated 12,000 people, was specialized. Pompeii was a resort and trading center. It was “a diverse urban community, whose population came from many places, and fused the traditions of of North Africa and Rome into something that was uniquely Pompeii.” It was also wealthy and offered an unusual number of large villas. Some were owned by Romans who summered there to escape the greater heat of the capital, others by those who did business in the bustling nearby warehouse town and port of Puteoli (Pozzuoli today). Newitz writes in fascinating detail about slavery in Pompeii. This was not the chattel slavery experienced by Africans dragged to the Americas but something more closely akin to indentured servitude like that which brought so many settlers to the American colonies. “The typical Roman household,” Newitz notes, “would have been roughly half slaves, and a quarter to a third liberti [ex-slaves]. Up to three-quarters of free people in cities were either ex-slaves or their descendants.” Angkor Wat Angkor Wat is a twelfth century temple complex in Cambodia and the largest religious monument in the world by land area, comparable in size to Los Angeles, but it was also a populous city. According to Oliver Wainwright in The Guardian, “At its peak in the 12th century, when London had a population of 18,000, Angkor was home to hundreds of thousands, some estimate up to three-quarters of a million people. . . [but] it was the prototype of modern-day suburban sprawl.” There was no central city. Newitz goes further. “Eleven hundred years ago,” they write, “Angkor was one of the biggest metropolises in the world, thronging with nearly a million residents, tourists, and pilgrims.” It was the capital of the vast Khmer Empire, which subjugated most of present-day Cambodia, Laos, Thailand, and Vietnam and parts of Southern China. Unlike most accounts of Angkor Wat, Newitz avoids a detailed description of the striking architecture and dwells instead on the lives of the inhabitants. Cahokia Even today, most Americans labor under the illusion that the native peoples Europeans encountered here in the fifteenth, sixteenth, and seventeenth centuries lived exclusively in tiny settlements, if they had settled anywhere at all. But history tells us that, in what is today upstate New York and surrounding states, the Iroquois Federation had achieved a level of sophistication in the organization of its communities and in its government that helped inspire the writing of the United States Constitution. And more than a thousand years before European contact, the city of Cahokia on the shore of the Mississippi River housed a population of over 30,000 people from the ninth through the fourteenth centuries—more than lived in London or Paris at the time. It “was the largest city in North America before the arrival of Europeans,” and Newitz cites the conclusions of archaeologists who have devoted years to studying Cahokia that the city’s purpose was ceremonial rather than economic. “It was a spiritual center rather than a trade center,” they write. Is there any pattern to the rise and decline of these four cities Newitz studied? They think not. “By the 1970s,” they write, “archaeologists and urban historians had accumulated loads of evidence that urban civilizations have no set developmental pattern . . . [and] urban abandonment does not mean some kind of cultural death,” Jared Diamond’s bestseller, Collapse, notwithstanding. Diamond’s environmental determinism “leaves out the crucial political aspects of urban transformation. . . What he gets wrong is that the public is diverse and always changing.” A multitude of other “lost cities” In the course of more than ten millennia, thousands of cities have been founded on every one of the six inhabited continents on Earth. Many have long since passed into history, abandoned or destroyed for reasons that are often difficult to discover. Newitz might have picked a great many other examples in addition to the four she chose. Today, archaeologists are at work on many other sites around the world. Among the best known and potentially most interesting of those she avoided are four. Great Zimbabwe Great Zimbabwe, located in present-day Zimbabwe, is believed to have been the capital of a great kingdom during the Late Iron Age. Built in the eleventh century, it could have housed up to 18,000 people for several hundred years until it was abandoned in the fifteenth century. Petra The ruins of Petra lie in southern Jordan, which has been inhabited since approximately 7,000 BCE. From the second century BCE through the first century CE, Petra served as the capital of a Nabataean kingdom with a population that peaked at an estimated 20,000 inhabitants. Mohenjo-daro and Harappa Archaeologists believe that the Indus Valley Civilization centered in present-day Pakistan during the Bronze Age was contemporaneous with those in the Middle East and China, flourishing from 3300 BCE to 1300 BCE. Mohenjo-daro was one of its principal cities with a population estimated to contain between 30,000 and 60,000 individuals. (Harappa was a similarly large city nearby.) The cities anchored an area containing as many as five million people. Xanadu Xanadu, or Shangdu, was the summer capital of the Yuan dynasty of China that ruled the Mongol Empire, before Kublai Khan moved his throne to what is today Beijing. At its zenith, over 100,000 people lived within its walls. The city flourished for a century until conquered by a Ming army in 1369. Western accounts of the city inspired the famous poem Kubla Khan by the English Romantic poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge. Newitz on “lost cities” “The ‘lost city’ is a recurring trope in Western fantasies,” Newitz writes. But, as they amply demonstrate in the pages of this illuminating account, “modern metropolises are by no means destined to live forever, and historical evidence shows that people have chosen to abandon them repeatedly over the past eight thousand years, It’s terrifying to realize that most of humanity lives in places that are destined to die. The myth of the lost city obscures the reality of how people destroy their civilizations.” Clearly, given how ineffectually we’re responding to the climate emergency and rising sea levels today, it would be naive for us to think that the future of cities is unrelievedly bright. “Eventually,” they argue, “some of today’s megacities will look like something out of a far-future science fiction movie, full of half-drowned metal skeletons covered in incomprehensible advertisements for products we can no longer afford to make or buy.” About the author Berkeley-based writer Annalee Newitz (born 1969) is a prolific author, editor, and columnist who divides their time between fiction and nonfiction. Their continuing roles include work as a contributing opinion writer at The New York Times, co-editor with their partner Charlie Jane Anders of the technology and science fiction website Gizmodo, and occasional appearances in the pages of such magazines as New Scientist, Wired, and Popular Science. They hold a Ph.D. in English and American Studies from UC Berkeley.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Nina

    Very well researched and well written. The cities chosen for this book - Çatalhöyük, Pompeii, Angkor and Cahokia - all have very different stories and backgrounds, which makes this book a real treasure. I especially like that Newitz focuses a lot on the daily life and culture of the common people in the cities, not just the ruling elites. That is something I often missed in history class at school. Another highly recommended book by this author!

  8. 4 out of 5

    Matthew Galloway

    This was a pleasant, light anthropological read that explores four cities around the world and some of the theories about why they were abandoned. I knew a lot of it from my anthropology degree, but it was still fun to listen to and to get some updates on ideas published after I graduated.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Letícia

    So much of what we learn about the history of civilizations is based on big, larger than life concepts: a neat arc of rise and fall, and a focus on what life was like within the elite. Annalee Newitz's Four Lost Cities tells the story of four ancient cities through different lenses. The book questions the idea of collapse and cities being "lost" in the first place, and talks to archeologists who are trying to figure out what everyday life was like in these places and what transformations attract So much of what we learn about the history of civilizations is based on big, larger than life concepts: a neat arc of rise and fall, and a focus on what life was like within the elite. Annalee Newitz's Four Lost Cities tells the story of four ancient cities through different lenses. The book questions the idea of collapse and cities being "lost" in the first place, and talks to archeologists who are trying to figure out what everyday life was like in these places and what transformations attracted or repelled its inhabitants. The result is a book that mixes history, archeology, travel log and urban studies, driven by a desire to reflect on how the concepts of city and urban life have changed over time and what we can learn from this evolution as we face our own challenges, such as climate change. It's a great and easy read for anyone with an interest on these subjects.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Rick H

    It’s hard to rate this book - I enjoyed learning about the cities the author selected to write about and I liked their focus on the lives of non-elites in these cities. The epilogue however was utterly bizarre and the conclusions drawn in it are completely incongruous with the more studious writing about each city’s trajectory through time. Finally, is the title supposed to be ironic? The author repeats over and over again that none of the cities were lost when modern people “found them”. Or is It’s hard to rate this book - I enjoyed learning about the cities the author selected to write about and I liked their focus on the lives of non-elites in these cities. The epilogue however was utterly bizarre and the conclusions drawn in it are completely incongruous with the more studious writing about each city’s trajectory through time. Finally, is the title supposed to be ironic? The author repeats over and over again that none of the cities were lost when modern people “found them”. Or is this just a title focus-grouped by the publisher’s marketing department?

  11. 5 out of 5

    Geoffrey

    (Note:I received an advanced reader copy of this book courtesy of NetGalley) I found Annalee Newitz’s Four Lost Cities to be, among other things, an engrossing look back through the past into daily life in these select ancient cities across, and a very informative glance at the modern-day archaeology that is able to open such windows through history in the first place. However, I would have to say that my unexpected favorite takeaway by far was the way that the author covered these respective cit (Note:I received an advanced reader copy of this book courtesy of NetGalley) I found Annalee Newitz’s Four Lost Cities to be, among other things, an engrossing look back through the past into daily life in these select ancient cities across, and a very informative glance at the modern-day archaeology that is able to open such windows through history in the first place. However, I would have to say that my unexpected favorite takeaway by far was the way that the author covered these respective cities’ different declines. Whenever Newtiz discusses the unique combination of factors that led to every city’s gradual or sudden end, they always take care to focus on how these cities’ eventual ends never meant the total end of the peoples that originally made them in the first place. They often held on for as long as they could, and sometimes changed their respective cities radically in the face of growing challenges, and eventually scattered pragmatically to potentially greener pastures. But as Newtiz makes perfectly clear, none of these civilizations completely died out like many may assume when examining the ruins of their once-great cities. Rather, they and their cultures changed and evolved as necessity dictated, and if necessity made them leave their urban homes, then that was the way it was. By highlighting this worldwide and history-wide pattern of change and resilience in different urbanized environments, Newitz ends up crafting what was an unexpected message of potential hope based upon the historical and archaeological record. It’s a message that I didn’t know that I needed, but as someone living in a heavily urbanized world various challenges of its own, it’s something I definitely find myself appreciating quite a lot.

  12. 5 out of 5

    John

    Sure, this book is full of interesting anecdotes and theories about the four lost (somewhat lost, at least) cities. The first city described, in particular, fascinated me--Catalhoyuk. However, two things irritated me. First, the evidence--fossils and shards and post holes filled in with garbage, etc.--invites a great deal of speculation, but much less certainty. Pompey is a bit different in that accounts and records of that era survive in print. I don't thing the author can be faulted here--we'r Sure, this book is full of interesting anecdotes and theories about the four lost (somewhat lost, at least) cities. The first city described, in particular, fascinated me--Catalhoyuk. However, two things irritated me. First, the evidence--fossils and shards and post holes filled in with garbage, etc.--invites a great deal of speculation, but much less certainty. Pompey is a bit different in that accounts and records of that era survive in print. I don't thing the author can be faulted here--we're going on what they left behind, and it doesn't always add up to a coherent story. What irked me more was this constant moralizing tone that suggested we shouldn't make judgements (about human sacrifice, for example; or engineering) because we are bad too, in our modern era. It strikes me that the evidence from both ancient societies and our own is that we need to be much more willing to call a spade a spade and make the tough calls to change our track. There is a cloying admiration for all ancient societies here, one that serves as a presupposition that detracts from this books overall story.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Richard

    Excellent and thoughtful book. Well written and an easy read. Newitz conveys nuanced concepts in a manner that contemporary readers will be able to easily relate to and absorb.

  14. 4 out of 5

    L A

    Thanks to W.W. Norton & Company and NetGalley for the Advance Review Copy in exchange for an honest review. I do love a lost city...although as Newitz is quick to highlight, some of these cities are far from lost. Newitz explores four cities, Pompeii, Angkor Wat and the less known Cahokia and Çatalhöyük. What I really enjoyed in this book was Newitz’s writing style. They managed to straddle the line between being intellectually stimulating and engaging enough for the layman reader to enjoy. The Thanks to W.W. Norton & Company and NetGalley for the Advance Review Copy in exchange for an honest review. I do love a lost city...although as Newitz is quick to highlight, some of these cities are far from lost. Newitz explores four cities, Pompeii, Angkor Wat and the less known Cahokia and Çatalhöyük. What I really enjoyed in this book was Newitz’s writing style. They managed to straddle the line between being intellectually stimulating and engaging enough for the layman reader to enjoy. The book follows a simple format, exploring each city in turn. Newitz discusses the history, society and the eventual downfall of each of these lost cities. I thought the strongest chapters were the Çatalhöyük and Pompeii chapters although I'm conscious that perhaps my personal interest may have coloured this. I really enjoyed the author’s own reflections and thoughts as they explored these cities which elevated it from what might have been quite dry in some parts. The author’s background as a journalist was clear and I think their style really worked in this book. I also liked the parts about the innovative technologies used in modern archaeology and the way in which they can enhance our understanding of these ancient cultures. I thought out of all the chapters the Angkor Wat chapter was perhaps the weakest. There was a lot of discussion of political machinations and chat about water management features and I just found it all a bit boring. Sorry Cambodia. Newitz also explores themes of cultural resilience and touches upon the future challenges humanity is likely to face with regards to issues such as climate change and increasing urbanisation. By discussing how other cultures in the past have survived and adjusted to a new normal we can see that these peoples and cultures were never really “lost”. This is a note of hope in the doom and gloom of the current discourse surrounding humanities chances of future survival.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Sam

    Four cities from throughout human history spread across the world - who were the people who lived there? What was it about these places that attracted people and why did they end up leaving? If you have an interest in human history and archaeology but don't have much in-depth knowledge or want anything too academic or dense then this is certainly worth a try. The style is more like a newspaper long-read and, although there is some basic archaeological information, there is a lot of speculation a Four cities from throughout human history spread across the world - who were the people who lived there? What was it about these places that attracted people and why did they end up leaving? If you have an interest in human history and archaeology but don't have much in-depth knowledge or want anything too academic or dense then this is certainly worth a try. The style is more like a newspaper long-read and, although there is some basic archaeological information, there is a lot of speculation about the motives of people who occupied and then deserted these cities. Were their choices political, religious, purely practical? What must they have been thinking and feeling? I should say that this speculation seems to largely come from the experts and specialists that the author meets & speaks with and isn't just their own imagination. I learnt quite a bit, even about Pompeii which is probably the most well-known of the four cities, and I'll certainly now look for more reading about the other cities covered. I also liked that the author spent the time discussing why these cities have never really been "lost" because the people and cultures still survive elsewhere or because the local population still knew the location but finding a "lost" city gave notoriety to the western colonial explorers/forces. Personally, I didn't find the style for me - I felt it wandered away from a point to circle back around later or to mention similar things again. I think some photos or sketches may have helped focus the stories being told. Thanks to NetGalley and W.W. Norton & Company for the review copy.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Lori L (She Treads Softly)

    Four Lost Cities by Annalee Newitz is a highly recommended entertaining and informative look at four cities from history that were abandoned. Everyone loves a good lost city story, but these cities weren't actually lost, people knew they existed, but they were deserted. Newitz writes: "Modern metropolises are by no means destined to live forever, and historical evidence shows that people have chosen to abandon them repeatedly over the past eight thousand years. It’s terrifying to realize that mos Four Lost Cities by Annalee Newitz is a highly recommended entertaining and informative look at four cities from history that were abandoned. Everyone loves a good lost city story, but these cities weren't actually lost, people knew they existed, but they were deserted. Newitz writes: "Modern metropolises are by no means destined to live forever, and historical evidence shows that people have chosen to abandon them repeatedly over the past eight thousand years. It’s terrifying to realize that most of humanity lives in places that are destined to die. The myth of the lost city obscures the reality of how people destroy their civilizations. This book is about that reality, which we’ll explore in four of the most spectacular examples of urban abandonment in human history." The four ancient cities examined are Çatalhöyük, Pompeii, Angkor, and Cahokia. Çatalhöyük is a Neolithic site buried beneath two low hills in the Anatolian region of Central Turkey that was founded around 9,000 years ago. People here were settling down into agricultural life after living as nomads. The population was probably between 5,000 and 20,000 for about a millennium. Pompeii is the most well known city. It was a Roman tourist town on the sunny shores of the Mediterranean until the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 and buried the city under a deep layer of volcanic ash. The medieval megacity of Angkor in Cambodia experienced a slow-motion abandonment and destruction as the city was hit by climate catastrophes lasting a century. The indigenous metropolis Cahokia was the largest city in North America before the arrival of Europeans. It grew from a small village located on the Mississippi River bottom where East St. Louis is today to a sprawling metropolis of over 30,000 people and covered both sides of the river. The many groups of people who composed this city and shared spiritual practices eventually experienced several droughts which changed their practices, and they divided back into their individual groups and left. Four Lost Cities is written in a very accessible manner, so even the layperson who is interested in archaeology but hardly a scholar, can easily understand the information Newitz presents. They traveled to all four sites and talked to many of the researchers and scientists studying the sites and they share the new, cutting edge theories and interpretations of what life was like in the cities, before, during and after their decline. And that is the really interesting fact - these cities experienced a slow decline, with the obvious exception of Pompeii, that occurred over decades or longer. People chose to leave the cities, and for good reasons. Each of the cities encountered lengthy periods of political instability joined with major environmental problems. Personally I found Newitz's focus on the everyday people that built and populated these cities and their functions in that particular society fascinating. It is also refreshing to see the new archaeological focus on how each society likely function rather than observing it through the lens of Western Civilization. All of the observations shared are well-researched. They talked to the experts currently involved with the sites and information is included in chapter notes if you would like to pursue more information. My review copy was courtesy of W.W. Norton & Company via Netgalley. http://www.shetreadssoftly.com/2021/0...

  17. 5 out of 5

    Sara

    I first picked up this book because I really enjoyed Annalee Newitz’s 2019 book called The Future of Another Timeline. Since I enjoyed their fiction writing, I was hoping that their newest nonfiction book would be equally entertaining and enjoyable. Luckily, I was correct! This book was a great read and very informative about the history of civilizations of which I had very little prior knowledge. It is easy for a book packed with this much information to be dry and boring, getting lost in the d I first picked up this book because I really enjoyed Annalee Newitz’s 2019 book called The Future of Another Timeline. Since I enjoyed their fiction writing, I was hoping that their newest nonfiction book would be equally entertaining and enjoyable. Luckily, I was correct! This book was a great read and very informative about the history of civilizations of which I had very little prior knowledge. It is easy for a book packed with this much information to be dry and boring, getting lost in the details, but it read like prose. I learned a lot but was still entertained and interested. Newitz mentions in the book that they started researching this book seven years ago. They had tended to write about the present or future of cities, but a sudden life change made them want to investigate the past a bit closer. Newitz debunks and challenges the idea of the “lost city” in this book by explaining the term’s history and its interaction with the colonization of the countries where they are located. There are four “lost” cities profiled in this book: Çatalhüyük (a Neolithic city in Turkey), Pompeii (Roman resort town in Italy), Angkor (giant Medieval city in Cambodia), and Cahokia (Indigenous city on the Mississippi River). Newitz talks to a ton of experts (archaeologists, anthropologists, historians) on each city/population in this book. It was fascinating for me to read about how these professionals can learn about the lives of individuals living thousands of years ago by studying ruins, artifacts, and topography. The chapters of the book that I liked the best were the ones about Angkor in Cambodia. The metropolis’ demise was attributed to political instability meeting extreme climate change. Does that sound familiar? I liked that this chapter went into more detail about the social and political issues that may have happened in the city during its life and that caused its gradual death. It was interesting to read about the class dynamics of Angkor because it was written in an engaging way. Each section did talk some about social and political issues in the cities, but Angkor’s was the most eye-opening to me personally. There is so much more to say about this book, but for the sake of brevity, it was great – there was not a bad part of this book. Four Cities is an ancient history book for people who are not necessarily academics but want to learn about the past. I would recommend this book to anyone who has an interest in ancient history, travel, politics and social structures, and architecture. Thank you Netgalley & publisher for the eARC in exchange for my honest opinion.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Stephanie Fleming

    A really interesting, thought-provoking book! I really enjoyed all parts of this and learned a lot of interesting things. The author puts forward that these cities didn't so much die as were just slowly left by their inhabitants to shrink, and in some cases, disappear (save Pompeii, but she goes into that in detail). If you've ever read Collapse by Jared Diamond, this is the other side of it- where one or two big events don't destabilize things, it's an ongoing process that probably involves uns A really interesting, thought-provoking book! I really enjoyed all parts of this and learned a lot of interesting things. The author puts forward that these cities didn't so much die as were just slowly left by their inhabitants to shrink, and in some cases, disappear (save Pompeii, but she goes into that in detail). If you've ever read Collapse by Jared Diamond, this is the other side of it- where one or two big events don't destabilize things, it's an ongoing process that probably involves unstable politics, difficulties with feeding the city, and just poor urban planning that eventually, over several hundred years, leads to the city being abandoned or the population shrinking to the point that the city can no longer function. She puts forward that these city dwellers then likely moved to other villages or cities and attempts to trace these people where possible The inhabitants don't flee apocalypses (well, save Pompeii)- instead, they simply move to new locations when the opportunities available become too limited. It's something that I always thought was more of a modern concept and was interested to learn that it was something that has appeared to happen since we started settling down. My favourite moments were the breakdown of how Angkor Wat was never a "lost city" (since monks and villagers actually had to be removed by the French in order to "study" it), the dragging of the city planning for Angkor, the relief efforts by the Roman Empire for the Pompeiian refugees, and much of the sections on Cahokia and the Neolithic city. I found the last two very interesting simply because I didn't know much of anything about either of them. I also really liked that she talked more about how these cities were used by normal people, rather than just the elites. The author also ties how the events that led to these cities becoming "lost" could repeat again with our modern cities, which was also very interesting. The author goes into what a day in the life could have been like for people who lived in the cities, which some people might find overly speculative and cheesy. I found a few a bit much (although I believe she was quoting from a book/stories in the Neolithic chapter, which was written by one of the archaeologists who worked on the site), but didn't find that it took away from my enjoyment of the book as a whole.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Jacob

    Ancient Lost Cities? Sold! It pretty much doesn’t matter what the message or topic is supposed to be. The writing is friendly and easy, which must be a challenge when the author has to teach so many words and concepts from other cultures. Ultimately, though, Newitz is trying to illustrate that urban lifecycles turn on the fickleness of both environmental disasters and poor human governments that make “boneheaded” engineering decisions and cannot recover from the environmental effects of them. The Ancient Lost Cities? Sold! It pretty much doesn’t matter what the message or topic is supposed to be. The writing is friendly and easy, which must be a challenge when the author has to teach so many words and concepts from other cultures. Ultimately, though, Newitz is trying to illustrate that urban lifecycles turn on the fickleness of both environmental disasters and poor human governments that make “boneheaded” engineering decisions and cannot recover from the environmental effects of them. The four lost cities are Catalhoyuk, Pompeii, Angkor, and Cahokia. Each has their own reasons for existing, failing, and their own motivations that led to their existence. Catalhoyuk is the proto-city where people built homes next to and on top of each other, creating a human hive, without much thought for infrastructure. Pompeii turns out to be a more swingin’ place than you might have known, where the figurines of penises have penises of their own. It also has the distinction of being the only city here that was actually destroyed. Angkor’s the place that was never lost, until some French dude showed up and decided it was. And Cahokia’s the North American city you never heard of, even though at one point around 1000 CE it was larger than Paris. Newitz spends enough time on each city to thoroughly explore it, describing what we know of how it was, how it grew, and how it evaporated (or, in the case of Pompeii, vaporized), and then moves on. The pacing feels pretty good. I can picture in my mind what they might have been like. You know the near-future post-apocalyptic scenes we create in media where cities are abandoned shells of their former selves, partial buildings and broken freeways and everything? Newitz tries to say at the end that this is a likely reality in the not-too-distant future. As cool as that might be, the time scales mentioned in the book just don’t support that. Yes, some cities may be mostly aquatic environments in 500 years, but… that’s not near-future. Not the way the media envisions it. She also thinks we’re not too far from a massive turn in demographics where people de-urbanize and re-collect into numerous small communities. I’ve wondered myself if we were close to that, but we’ll just have to wait and see.

  20. 4 out of 5

    KP

    This book got my roughly-annual nonfiction book out of the way early, and on the whole, I very much enjoyed it. The book is an examination of four "lost" cities - cities which were built thousands of years ago, and have mostly or completely been buried. As the book itself points out, calling them "lost" is a bit of a misnomer - in all cases, the locals knew about the former city, and in at least one case, still lived there when it was "discovered" by explorers, but the city itself had mostly fall This book got my roughly-annual nonfiction book out of the way early, and on the whole, I very much enjoyed it. The book is an examination of four "lost" cities - cities which were built thousands of years ago, and have mostly or completely been buried. As the book itself points out, calling them "lost" is a bit of a misnomer - in all cases, the locals knew about the former city, and in at least one case, still lived there when it was "discovered" by explorers, but the city itself had mostly fallen apart. The book makes the case that cities go through many different evolutions and changes in response to the social and environmental changes happening around them, and in each case, the reasons for the city being abandoned are complex, and generally long-term. Overall, the experience of this book is like watching a documentary, and I mean that in a good way. Newitz anchors her discussions with archeologists in place, talking about interviewing them in a coffee shop, or a bar while hiding out from a midwestern thunderstorm. She pauses at moments of storytelling to not just describe the world as it exists now, but an imaginary reconstruction of the city as it might have been - with people, shops, and ceremony. I can't speak to the quality of the archeology or the research, but the book itself is quite well done, and doesn't attach itself too close to any of it's theses. Newitz takes the time to explore several different versions of "how this city may have existed", working through a set of hypotheticals supported by conversations with the archeologists working each site. It is clear that she has done her research on this subject, and it certainly reads as a piece of quality journalism. I want to give a special shoutout for this book to people who enjoy worldbuilding - authors, game designers, or people who create secondary worlds for the fun of it. I have dozens of highlights in this book for the ways it explores how these civilizations are different - and how they are the same, from ones we're familiar with now. There's ample room to mine this book for ideas, and its a far more interesting way of getting the information than reading a history textbook.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Dan Trefethen

    You may think you know what comprises a city, but Newitz shows us that the definition of 'city' can be fluid. After all, people have figured out innumerable ways to band together over time. Also, despite the title, she argues that these places were never truly 'lost' because it was commonly known in the area that they were there. It's a blindered version of discovery that a 'lost city' only becomes found when European explorers 'rediscover' it. She focuses on four very different urban places: Cat You may think you know what comprises a city, but Newitz shows us that the definition of 'city' can be fluid. After all, people have figured out innumerable ways to band together over time. Also, despite the title, she argues that these places were never truly 'lost' because it was commonly known in the area that they were there. It's a blindered version of discovery that a 'lost city' only becomes found when European explorers 'rediscover' it. She focuses on four very different urban places: Catalhoyuk in Turkey, Pompeii in Italy, Angkor in Cambodia, and Cahokia in America. Each one was adapted to its environment, each one addressed the problems of dense living differently, each one had a somewhat different purpose, and each is revealing new information all the time. If there's one you've never heard of, it's probably Catalhoyuk. This site pre-dates the first 'acknowledged first city' of Uruk in Mesopotamia by a few thousand years. Built as a multi-level series of equal-sized rooms, it resembles a large village as much as a city, which maybe why it doesn't get the attention of Uruk, although much older. It's also the first example of one of Newitz' premises: when the original site failed to work out, the people simply moved. And except for the famous example of Pompeii, these places emptied out over long periods of time. Newitz deftly mixes historical and archeological background with her site visits and direct interviews with the experts examining these sites. It's a nice blend of known facts with up-to-the-minute speculation. The reader gets a sense of how little we know about some of these places, but gains an appreciation for what we can learn from clever detective work. The book ends on a rather dour note about our situation today, which was superfluous because we pretty much know what climate change is doing to our cities.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Srijoni Nandy

    In this book, journalist Annalee Newitz takes us through the history of how these four great urban cities came into being and eventually turned into ruins that we see today. Here I'll share one point that I found most intriguing about each city. 🌇Catalhoyuk. This can be found near modern day Turkey. The most astonishing thing about the residents of Catalhoyuk was that they buried their dead under their beds. 😆 🌇Pompeii. This was one of the most glamorous Roman cities which was eventually abandoned In this book, journalist Annalee Newitz takes us through the history of how these four great urban cities came into being and eventually turned into ruins that we see today. Here I'll share one point that I found most intriguing about each city. 🌇Catalhoyuk. This can be found near modern day Turkey. The most astonishing thing about the residents of Catalhoyuk was that they buried their dead under their beds. 😆 🌇Pompeii. This was one of the most glamorous Roman cities which was eventually abandoned after the eruption of Mount Vesuvius (though the eruption wasn't the only reason). The astonishing thing about them was their sexual habits, which was apparently displayed on posters around the city. 🙈 🌇Angkor. Angkor Wat in Cambodia is another renowned tourist destination. My favorite thing about this place was their grand festivals and processions. Also, their barter system was pretty elaborate, where there was wealth, but no money.🤓 🌇Cahokia. This is located near Illinois. Not really astonishing or favorite, but the most gruesome thing about the Cahokians were definitely their human sacrifices.🤕 The book is not just about these four lost cities, but it also warns us that we might be headed the same way, if we're not careful. Give this book a read if you enjoy history of commoners (and not just kings). P.S. If you're in the habit of skipping introduction, don't skip this one. The author shares a beautiful message for everyone who has lost someone close and how she dealt with it.❤

  23. 5 out of 5

    Abigail Pankau

    Looking at four ancient cities, Newitz explores the history and social organization that lead to these cities being created, and then the various influences that lead to their decline. She looks at what we know from the stratigraphy of found objects and how spaces were arranged, to who was living there and where they came from, and how different cultures and climates can affect how one city layout can look very different from another. She explores how these cities are not "lost" but simply left Looking at four ancient cities, Newitz explores the history and social organization that lead to these cities being created, and then the various influences that lead to their decline. She looks at what we know from the stratigraphy of found objects and how spaces were arranged, to who was living there and where they came from, and how different cultures and climates can affect how one city layout can look very different from another. She explores how these cities are not "lost" but simply left behind when people wanted something different from them. She also touches on how the views on these cities have changed from the original White European explorers' views and false assumptions of what a civilization needed to be. This was a good overarching look at how cities are created, the various reasons that compel people to come together to create them, and the various influences (environmental, political, etc) that lead to people then leaving them. She does a good job of doing a brief discussion of each of these sites and the most recent theories on them. She also does a good job of calling out many of the false assumptions that were made about them by explorers wanting to force Eurocentric definitions on these cultures. It's a good overview for anyone not familiar with ancient cultures, but still interesting for anyone with a background in archaeology. "It was archaeology as the white man's burden." (p. 183) --> best quote that sums up so much of early archaeology.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Shannon Clark

    A book about cities some as old as 9000 years ago would seem unlikely to also be about the present moment (2021) but it is. In this magnificent book Annalee Newitz has captured the sights and smells of archaeology and shows how our evolving study of the past is still so deeply resonate and important to our understanding of our present and future. I’ve been a volunteer on an archaeological dig for a summer (nearly 30 years ago) and I was a historian in college. And this book is one of the few I h A book about cities some as old as 9000 years ago would seem unlikely to also be about the present moment (2021) but it is. In this magnificent book Annalee Newitz has captured the sights and smells of archaeology and shows how our evolving study of the past is still so deeply resonate and important to our understanding of our present and future. I’ve been a volunteer on an archaeological dig for a summer (nearly 30 years ago) and I was a historian in college. And this book is one of the few I have read that captured the essence of actual archaeology and history as I prefer it. Not Indiana Jones chasing lost treasures and not pop history about generalizations about people disconnected from the actual study of what we can learn about the past through what has survived to this day. Not just in written texts in languages we know but knowledge we can glean from data analysis, from artifacts, from trash, from patterns, from the continuations of past cultures into the present day and yes from past accounts and studies that may have been flawed but still also may contain details lost to the present day. In short this is a work about four “lost” cities that is also very much a story about Detroit, New Orleans, San Francisco and cities around the world. A book that I recommend highly as it is well told, deeply researched, personal and thoughtful and one of the best things I’ve read in many many years.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Jack Repenning

    Four ancient cities long thought to be "lost" turn out to have survived their famous demises, and lived on (perhaps in much reduced circumstances) to today: while these cities are no longer great, their collapse molded the legends they left and the societies that have continued their legacies down to today. Newitz has travelled to each city, meeting current residents living lifestyles descended from the ancient ways, and archaeologists piecing together the jig-saw puzzle linking the ancient to t Four ancient cities long thought to be "lost" turn out to have survived their famous demises, and lived on (perhaps in much reduced circumstances) to today: while these cities are no longer great, their collapse molded the legends they left and the societies that have continued their legacies down to today. Newitz has travelled to each city, meeting current residents living lifestyles descended from the ancient ways, and archaeologists piecing together the jig-saw puzzle linking the ancient to the modern. Newitz also projects the picture onto modern society, showing how classic errors that led to these ancient collapses may be recognized all around us today, risking similar collapses we would do well to forestall. This book strikes an excellent balance between popular readability and academic detail. It should be accessible and intriguing to readers readers from around age 15 and up. This rating deserves one caution, however: one of the cities discussed is the famous Pompeii, buried in an eruption of Vesuvius, in 79 CE. Pompeii, it turns out, was quite a rowdy town, famous at the time (and notorious today) for libertine lifestyles and lewd artwork (formal and graffiti). Parents might want to review the Pompeii chapter before handing it over to younger children (say, under 18). Or, read it with your tykes.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Patrick

    The author must have done a lot of work for this book. She goes on multiple digs and cites many academic papers and conversations with archaeologists. I like that she uses footnotes. I wish more popular nonfiction authors would. Even though she did a lot of work, the book reads very easily. She wears her learning lightly. The details are what make a book like this. A few gems: - People in Pompei drove on the right side of the street. Read the book to learn how we know this. - In Catalhoyuk, people The author must have done a lot of work for this book. She goes on multiple digs and cites many academic papers and conversations with archaeologists. I like that she uses footnotes. I wish more popular nonfiction authors would. Even though she did a lot of work, the book reads very easily. She wears her learning lightly. The details are what make a book like this. A few gems: - People in Pompei drove on the right side of the street. Read the book to learn how we know this. - In Catalhoyuk, people buried their dead under their beds. In other words, everyone slept on top of multiple generations of dead ancestors. - Archaeologists will sometimes lick a rock to see if it is actually a piece of bone. She touches on what sound like important paradigm debates in archaeology. She explains how, with the exception of Pompeii, these cities didn't really "collapse" all at once but went through phases of growth and decline before slowly shrinking over many generations. So "lost" isn't quite the right word, but of course "lost city" still sounds cool and sells books! Similarly, she hints at theories about why a people would slowly abandon a city that I can't do justice to here. That's why it's great that she has footnotes. Read the book and follow the notes if you really want to get into it.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Chris

    In Four Lost Cities, Annalee Newitz writes about four cities which were never really lost. If you can get past this conundrum, which shouldn’t be too hard given her up-to-date research and easily accessible style of writing, then the book serves as a good introduction for any armchair historian or archaeologist to Catalhoyuk, Pompeii, Angkor, and Cahokia. Newitz focuses on how these cities expanded, contracted, and redefined themselves over time. She explores why each of these centers of culture, In Four Lost Cities, Annalee Newitz writes about four cities which were never really lost. If you can get past this conundrum, which shouldn’t be too hard given her up-to-date research and easily accessible style of writing, then the book serves as a good introduction for any armchair historian or archaeologist to Catalhoyuk, Pompeii, Angkor, and Cahokia. Newitz focuses on how these cities expanded, contracted, and redefined themselves over time. She explores why each of these centers of culture, which indelibly influenced surrounding peoples, disappeared. And she explains how they were never really lost; not only their existence remained known to local peoples and instead it was the arrogance of 19th and 20th century historians who deemed them “lost,” but also their cultural heritage took root elsewhere as people abandoned these urban centers. My only negative comment would come from the limited scope presented for each of the cities, although I admit that this is but a personal point. Focusing on four cities in a book of roughly 260 pages means 40 pages per city, and which is simply not enough. Cahokia existed for several hundred years. Angkor existed twice that long. And Catalhoyuk existed for more than a millennium.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Paul Mcguire

    Four Lost Cities is a wonderful combination of history, archaeology, philosophy, and psychology; Newitz makes history into a magical window to the past that feels relevant. She compares climate catastrophes that impacted these cities with the challenges modern cities face with ever stronger storms. This message comes together clearly in the epilogue. "The combination of climate change and political instability we face in many modern cities suggest that we are heading for a period of global Urban Four Lost Cities is a wonderful combination of history, archaeology, philosophy, and psychology; Newitz makes history into a magical window to the past that feels relevant. She compares climate catastrophes that impacted these cities with the challenges modern cities face with ever stronger storms. This message comes together clearly in the epilogue. "The combination of climate change and political instability we face in many modern cities suggest that we are heading for a period of global Urban abandonment." Despite its name, Four Lost Cities attempts to debunk the idea of civilization collapse. Instead Newitz argues that most cities lived on as the people transitioned from larger cities to dispersed smaller groups. The people who lived in Angkor live on in modern Cambodia just as the people of Cahokia live on in indigenous tribes. "Perhaps a better way to look at cities is as ecosystems whose components are always transforming, and whose boundaries expand and contract naturally." If you enjoy Four Lost Cities as much as I did, you might also enjoy the Fall of Civilizations Podcast.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Elaine

    Learning about Çatalhöyük, Pompeii, Angkor, and Cahokia was absolutely fascinating. Obviously from the title these are all 'Lost' cities, however Newitz takes a critical look at what really lost truly means. The book is divided into four segments (one for each city) and it was amazing to see how these vastly different cities and urban populations shared so much in common. The main take away is that if a city has political unrest, climate issues/natural disaster, and local dissent a city can end Learning about Çatalhöyük, Pompeii, Angkor, and Cahokia was absolutely fascinating. Obviously from the title these are all 'Lost' cities, however Newitz takes a critical look at what really lost truly means. The book is divided into four segments (one for each city) and it was amazing to see how these vastly different cities and urban populations shared so much in common. The main take away is that if a city has political unrest, climate issues/natural disaster, and local dissent a city can end up being abandoned and then ultimately abandoned or "Lost". The worst part about this book was blowing up the fantasy that we actually ever lost these cities at all, we always knew they were there, the factor was when we decided they were important enough to study and learn from. Reflecting back on the past and the form/function of these cities and the people that used them provides some interesting insight to modern urbanization. I loved Newitz musings throughout the entire book. Their gathering and sharing of information felt so genuine and informational, I absolutely loved it. If you love urban planning and the history of cities this is an absolute must read.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Chris

    This book was a 3.5 stars. I really grooved on the archaeology and the history. I kept imagining fiction set in these spaces that would fill in the tantalizing gaps revealed by continuing research in these "lost" cities. In particular, I'm thinking about an RPG adventure taking place in Cahokia (North American city that was extant ~10th-13th century CE) for the upcoming Coyote & Crow game. At the same time, I found myself wanting to get to the end of this book. I ended up skipping Angkor Wat secti This book was a 3.5 stars. I really grooved on the archaeology and the history. I kept imagining fiction set in these spaces that would fill in the tantalizing gaps revealed by continuing research in these "lost" cities. In particular, I'm thinking about an RPG adventure taking place in Cahokia (North American city that was extant ~10th-13th century CE) for the upcoming Coyote & Crow game. At the same time, I found myself wanting to get to the end of this book. I ended up skipping Angkor Wat section entirely. I think Newitz's conclusion at the end was solid - it's not really environmental factors (sorry about that Jared Diamond) nor war that results in the end of a city; but internal political shifts and societal change are what do a city in. Pompeii of course being the exception. In other words, people change; and their needs change - and eventually a city may not deliver everything they need. Her other point is that cities don't suddenly die, even Pompeii - they dissolve into the local area, with the people who formerly lived in the cities bringing many of the ideals, customs, and mindset out to wherever those folks move to next. I found that conclusion fascinating.

Add a review

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Loading...
We use cookies to give you the best online experience. By using our website you agree to our use of cookies in accordance with our cookie policy.