Lost lands

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"Lost continent" redirects here. For other uses, see The Lost Continent.
Not to be confused with Welsh Lost Lands.

Lost lands can be continents, islands or other regions existing during prehistory, having since disappeared as a result of catastrophic geological phenomena or slowly rising sea levels since the end of the last Ice Age. Lost lands, where they existed, are supposed to have subsided into the sea, leaving behind only a few traces or legends. The term can also be extended to mythological lands generally, to underground civilizations, or even to whole planets.

The classification of lost lands as continents, islands, or other regions is in some cases subjective; for example, Atlantis is variously described as either a "lost island" or a "lost continent". Lost land theories may originate in mythology or philosophy, or in scholarly or scientific theories, such as catastrophic theories of geology.

Lost continents[edit]

As the study "Lost Continents" by L. Sprague de Camp seeks to show, many modern writers speculate about ancient civilizations that dwelled on continents now deluged under sea level. According to de Camp, there is no real scientific evidence for any lost continents whatsoever.

  • The most famous lost continent is Atlantis. Atlantis, like Hyperborea and Thule, is ultimately derived from ancient Greek geographic speculation.
  • The name of hypothetical vanished continent Mu originated from the first attempted translation of the Madrid Codex, one of only four remaining Maya codices.
  • Something similar seems to have happened upon the discovery of the Sanskrit literature by Europeans. Louis Jacolliot claimed to have learned from this literature about a sunken continent called Rutas. This in turn seems to have influenced Madame Blavatsky and her speculations about Lemuria. Speculations about Kumari Kandam also seem to be linked to this field. The name Lemuria originated from the hypothesis about a land bridge between India and South Africa.

Other lost lands[edit]

In addition to these myths about lost continents there also are various regional legends about lost lands; see e.g. Lyonesse, Cantref Gwaelod (also known as Lowland Hundred), or the legend about Lomea, located at the Goodwin Sands. Unlike the lost continents mentioned above, whose location has been a matter of speculation, these lost lands are associated with specified places.

It is likely that until relatively recent times the Isles of Scilly, with which Lyonesse is often associated, were much larger, many of them being joined into a single island named Ennor. Rising sea levels flooded the central plain around 400–500 AD, forming the current islands.

Submerged lands[edit]

The Sahul Shelf and the Sunda Shelf during the ice ages and today. The area in between is called "Wallacea".

Although the existence of lost continents in the above sense is mythical, there were many places on earth that were once dry land but submerged after the ice age around 10,000BCE due to rising sea levels, and possibly have been the basis for neolithic and bronze age flood myths. Approximately listed by size, these are:

  • Sundaland, the now submerged Sunda Shelf.
  • Zealandia, a continent that is now 94% submerged under the Pacific Ocean.
  • Kerguelen Plateau, a submerged micro-continent which is now 1–2 km below sea level.
  • Beringia, connecting Asia and North America.
  • Doggerland, the bed of the North Sea, inundated by rising sea level during the Holocene.
  • The bed of the Persian Gulf—claimed by some to contain Dilmun or the Garden of Eden
  • A large island in the Mediterranean Sea, of which the Maltese Islands are the only parts not now submerged.
  • Maui Nui, once a large island of the Hawaii archipelago; several major islands represent residual high ground of Maui Nui.
  • New Moore Island, an island in the Bay of Bengal submerged in 2010 by rising sea levels.
  • Verdronken Land van Reimerswaal, most of this region in The Netherlands vanished in a storm in 1532; the town of Reimerswaal survived as an island into the 17th century; the last bits of land vanished in the early 19th century.
  • Strand, an island off the German coast with the town Rungholt, eroded away by storm surges before being washed away by a final flood in 1634.
  • Jordsand, once an island off the Danish coast, eroded away by storm surges before being washed away by a final flood between 1998 and 1999.
  • Ferdinandea, submerged volcanic island which has appeared at least four times in the past.
  • Sarah Ann Island, now submerged guano island, located just north of the equator. Vanished between 1917 and 1932.
  • Ravenser Odd, a large 13th-century town on the old sandbank promontory in East Yorkshire, which became an island and then vanished in January 1392.
  • Dunwich, the traditional capital of the Kingdom of the East Angles that was lost to the sea in a storm surge hit the coastline in 1286.

Mythological lands[edit]

Plato's Atlantis described in Timaeus and Critias

Phantom islands[edit]

Main article: Phantom island

Phantom islands, as opposed to lost lands, are land masses formerly believed by cartographers to exist in the historical age, but to have been discredited as a result of expanding geographic knowledge. Terra Australis is a phantom continent. While a few phantom islands originated from literary works (an example is Ogygia from Homer's Odyssey), most phantom islands are the result of navigational errors.

Hollow Earth theory[edit]

Main article: Hollow Earth

Also related to the theme of Lost lands is that of Hollow Earth, as some proponents of Hollow Earth theory have claimed that the inner earth would be inhabited. Furthermore, using the concept of vast underground caves or even a completely Hollow Earth, some authors try to explain how an ancient civilization could continue to exist, even if its former continent became deluged.

The most prominent lost land mentioned in Hollow Earth theory would be Agartha.

Accounts of a Hollow Earth[edit]

Some of these authors, such as H.P. Blavatsky and theosophist followers, believed in the existence of a number of lost lands within the Hollow Earth and held many "fictional" accounts of these places and their peoples to be true. Such accounts include:

Diverse expeditions at diverse epochs and lands, have tried to find proof of the existence of a subterranean world, from the Col. Fawcett notorious expeditions[1] to Third Reich sponsored attempts[2] and many private expeditions in modern times, some sponsored by cultural foundations and even magazines as the 1978 Roncador Expedition to the Roncador mountains in Matto Grosso, Brazil, sponsored by the magazine Noticias from Uruguay and led by pilot and writer A. de Souza.[3] None have returned positive results.

Lost planets[edit]

Similar to the theme of lost continents is the theme of lost planets, planets thought to have existed during prehistory only to be later destroyed by a global cataclysm. The disruption theory of the formation of the asteroid belt from a hypothetical fifth planet has given birth to a number of these, including the doomed Phaeton, Tiamat, and the apocalypse bringer Nibiru. Others such as Planet V, Theia, Planet X, Planet Nine, Tyche and Vulcan arose to explain irregularities in orbital resonance of solar system objects.

In literature and philosophy[edit]

Main article: Lost World (genre)

The following individuals are known for having written on the subject of lost lands (either as fiction, hypothesis, or supposed fact):

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Maclellan, Allan (1982). The Lost World of Agharti. Guernsey CI, U.K.: Souvenir Press. pp. 141–143. ISBN 0-285-63314-7. 
  2. ^ Maclellan, Allan (1982). The Lost World of Agharti. Guernsey CI, U.K.: Souvenir Press. pp. 111–115. ISBN 0-285-63314-7. 
  3. ^ "Expediciôn al centro de la Tierra". Noticias. Año/Year II (36). Montevideo, Uruguay. Sep 1978. pp. 14–27. 

Further reading[edit]

  • L. Sprague de Camp and Willy Ley, Lands Beyond, Rinehart & Co., New York, 1952.
  • L. Sprague de Camp, Lost Continents: The Atlantis Theme in History, Science, and Literature, Dover Publications, 1970.
  • Raymond H. Ramsay, No Longer on the Map: Discovering Places that Never Were, Ballantine, 1972.