Lost Civilizations: 10 Societies that Vanished Without a Trace by Michael Rank
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Don’t judge a book by its (back) cover
Was there ever a real Atlantis? Whatever happened to the Anasazi? Were the pyramids really built by Egyptian slaves (with or without help from aliens), or were the pyramid builders respected members of that society? Was Columbus really the first to discover the “New World”? What about the Roanoke colonists – what happened to them, and what does the cryptic message “Croatoan” mean?
I was interested in reading and reviewing this book because I have a fascination with lost civilizations dating back to the first time I heard the story of Atlantis. I was probably four or five years old when I read the comic book “Uncle Scrooge Adventures: The Secret of Atlantis.” I read that comic multiple times, loving the story of how the people of Atlantis had over time evolved into “Fish People” who wanted to protect their privacy from the land dwellers, and it was just scary enough to really hold my interest (I loved scary stories even as a little girl). It’s unlikely that if there actually was an Atlantis that the residents are now Fish People; however, “Lost Civilizations” delves into more reasonable theories about Atlantis and whether or not it truly existed and what might have happened to it if it did.
And don’t let the back cover (or blurb provided on the Amazon page) fool you – I was a little scared when I read the back cover, as it was absolutely loaded with grammatical errors and improper punctuation. However, the style on the back is NOT the style in which the book is written. The book itself is actually very well written. The writing style is more academic than conversational (which makes the reading itself a little dry – if you’re looking for a fast-paced thriller, this is not the book for you), but the topics are thoroughly researched and discussed.
Author Michael Rank provides background information– both verified and theoretical – on these different civilizations, and then goes on to explain various theories of what may have happened to cause the decline/disappearance of that civilization. He includes both current theories and past theories that have now been debunked and explains why they’re no longer considered feasible. Included were civilizations I was familiar with (the Egyptian pyramid builders, Mycena, the Roanoke colony) as well as several that were new to me (such as the Cucuteni-Trypillian culture and the Indus Valley Civilization). Even for the cultures I already had some knowledge of, though, I learned plenty of new information from this book.
While the answers I desperately want are not provided in this book (what does Croatoan mean, darn it?!? ), the thorough discussions of the ten societies that vanished are extremely interesting. I enjoyed learning more background information about what these cultures might have been like during the height of their existence, and the theories of why they might have disappeared. The debunked theories (and why these beliefs are no longer held) were also very interesting to me, as I like learning more about knowledge in general, and how people’s beliefs change based on new information.
In conclusion: Given the academic nature of the writing, it may be a little “heavy” for the younger crowd or casual reader (although that’s not to say those folks should avoid it; quite the opposite!) I can also see this book being useful to parents and educators as a starting point for research projects about any of these historical civilizations. Well worth reading if you have any interest in history and/or lost civilizations.
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