Whether it was the result of war, famine, disaster or the fall of an empire, hundreds of ancient and medieval cities around the world became deserted. Many of them remain abandoned today ghost town frozen in time as real museums which testify to their rich and often dramatic history.
Abandoned mountain village in Gamsutl, Russia. Source: Oleg Znamensky / Adobe Stock. Gamsutl is an ancient settlement that lies on the Gamsutlmeer mountain in Dagestan. At its peak, the village consisted of 300 houses. In the 20th century, there were shops, a post office and a hospital in the village. People started leaving the village in the 1950s. The last resident left in 2015.
Village Fabbriche di Careggine at its inception in 1994. Public domain . Fabbriche di Careggine was 13 Thursday century village in Tuscany, Italy that was destroyed by the construction of the Lago di Vagli reservoir in 1946. The village is now submerged but can occasionally be seen when the lake is drained for maintenance.
Chinguetti, Mauritania. Source: robnaw / Adobe Stock. Chinguetti is an abandoned medieval trading center in northern Mauritania. It was established in the 13th century as the center of several trans-Saharan trade routes. It is famous for its architecture, scenery and ancient libraries. The city is threatened by the encroaching desert.
Suakin, Sudan. Source: Marc LOBJOY / Adobe Stock. Suakin is a port city on a circular island in northeastern Sudan, on the west coast of the Red Sea. It was once considered the height of medieval luxury on the Red Sea, but the abandoned old city built of coral is now in ruins.
The ruins of Ani in the city of Kars, Turkey, near the Turkish-Armenian border. Source: berna_namoglu / Adobe Stock. First mentioned in the 5th century by Armenian chroniclers, “city of ghosts”. Neither it was described as a strong fortress on a hill that was the property of the Armenian Kamsarakan dynasty. From this moment and throughout its occupation, the place had a turbulent history: it changed hands several times, endured sieges, massacres, earthquakes and looting – which led to its eventual abandonment.
Aerial view of Spinalonga on the Greek island of Crete. Source: whitcomberd / Adobe Stock. Spinalonga was fortified from the earliest years to protect the entrance to the port of ancient Olous. Olous was depopulated in the 7th century due to raids by Arab pirates in the Mediterranean. During the Venetian rule, in the 15 Thursday century, salt was harvested from the salt pans around the island. The island was subsequently used as a leper colony between 1903 and 1957. The last resident, a priest, left the island in 1962.
Abandoned village of Pentedattilo, Italy. Source: It flashed / Adobe Stock. Pentedattilo was founded as a colony of the Greek city of Chalcis in 640 BC. It fell during Byzantine rule, when it was plundered. It was conquered by the Normans in the 12th century. The city was badly damaged by an earthquake in 1783, which caused most of the inhabitants to leave. The town remained completely uninhabited from the mid-1960s to the 1980s, when it was partially restored and repopulated by volunteers from all over Europe.
Kuldhara village in Jaisalmer, India. Source: anujakjaimook / Adobe Stock. Kuldhara was founded around the 13th century and was inhabited by Paliwal Brahmins. It was abandoned in the early 19th century for unknown reasons, possibly due to dwindling water supplies or an earthquake.
Abandoned city of Panam Nagar, Bangladesh. Source: Matyáš Řehák / Adobe Stock. Panam City (also called Panam Nagar in Bengali) is one of the oldest cities in Bangladesh still standing. As the capital of the 15 Thursday century by the Bengal ruler Isa Khan, the city was once an important commercial and political center. Historical buildings are increasingly dilapidated with age and do not show signs of significant restoration attempts to preserve the site.
Al-‘Ula Old City, Saudi Arabia ( CC by SA 3.0 ). Al-‘Ula Ghost Town contains ancient historical buildings, mosques, markets and more than 800 residential houses. In the 12th century, the Old Town became the main settlement along the pilgrimage route from Damascus to Mecca. The houses were designed to be attached to each other and provide fortifications, suggesting that defense was a priority for the early inhabitants of the city.
Kayaköy Abandoned Ghost Town, Southwest Turkey. Source: James_Kerwin / Adobe Stock. In late antiquity, the inhabitants of Kayaköy were Greek Orthodox Christians. They lived in relative harmony with their Muslim Ottoman rulers from the end of the turbulent Ottoman conquest of the region in the 14th century until the early 20th century. After the Greco-Turkish War of 1919–1922 and the subsequent Treaty of Lausanne in 1923, the Greek Orthodox inhabitants of the city were deported. The ghost town, now preserved as a museum village, consists of hundreds of dilapidated but still mostly standing Greek-style houses and churches.
Craco, Italy. Source: Ragemax / Adobe Stock. Almost 50 years of the city Cracow in southern Italy it stood uninhabited. Craco was once a monastic center, a feudal town and a center of learning with a university, castle, church and squares. Craco’s oldest building, the Norman Tower, was built in 1040, and many of Craco’s buildings date back to the Middle Ages. However, in 1656, Craco was hit by a plague that killed hundreds of people and greatly reduced the population. A severe famine caused a mass migration of Craco residents to North America between 1892 and 1922.
Plymouth, Monteserrat ( CC from SA 4.0 ). Plymouth is a ghost town on the island of Montserrat, an overseas territory of the United Kingdom located in the Leeward Island chain of the West Indies. Built on historic lava deposits near the then long-dormant Soufrière Hills volcano, the city was evacuated in 1995 when the volcano began erupting again. Plymouth was finally permanently abandoned in 1997 after being substantially buried by a series of pyroclastic flows and lahars.
Balestrino, Italy. Source: McBra89 / Adobe Stock. Balestrino consists of the old historic town on the hill and the new town below. The old center was abandoned in 1953 due to hydrogeological instability and is a ghost town.
Top image: The abandoned city of Craco, Italy. Source: Tupungato / Adobe Stock
Author: Joanna Gillan