Four Lost Cities: A Secret History of the Urban Age (Hardcover)
One of Apple's Most Anticipated Books of Winter 2021
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.
About the Author
Annalee Newitz, a contributing opinion writer for the New York Times, is a founder of io9 and former editor-in-chief of Gizmodo. They are the author of Scatter, Adapt, and Remember and the novels Autonomous and The Future of Another Timeline. They live in San Francisco.
Newitz always sees to the heart of complex systems and breaks them down with poetic ferocity.
— N. K. Jemisin, author of the Broken Earth trilogy and The City We Became
In their fascinating book Four Lost Cities, Annalee Newitz journeys to a quartet of ancient ghost cities, asking not only why they once thrived but why they ultimately vanished. The result is a deeply insightful look at human culture everywhere: inventive, social, resilient, and hauntingly fragile.
— Deborah Blum, Pulitzer Prize–winning author of The Poison Squad
Annalee Newitz is a brilliant writer with the heart of an archaeologist and the soul of a visionary. Four Lost Cities should open our eyes to all that may happen to our cities in the future. Vibrant and adventurous, this is a necessary book for turbulent times.
— Sarah Parcak, archaeologist and author of Archaeology from Space
Cheerful, curious, amused, and amusing, Annalee Newitz is a fabulous tour guide through the latest archaeological perspectives on four of humankind’s most remarkable urban experiments. Along the way, Newitz dispels myths, evokes fascinating stories—and makes us think hard about our own urban future.
— Charles Mann, author of 1491 and 1493
Drawing on four examples from the ancient world, Annalee Newitz gives us clear-eyed insight into how cities never are truly lost; they just change with their times. Newitz takes readers on a journey that reveals as much about the future of cities as it does about our urban past. Beautifully written, Four Lost Cities tells a fascinating tale of disaster and resilience that is welcome in our uncertain era.
— Andrew Lawler, author of The Secret Token