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!
Four Lost Cities is on sale February 1, 2021!
I received a galley copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. Thank you to Edelweiss and W. W. Norton for the opportunity to read this title!