Lost Cities Ancient Tombs | Book Review

What The Book Is About

Lost Cities Ancient Tombs is a narrative nonfiction book cataloging 100 archaeological discoveries and the evolutions and innovations that have made understanding the findings possible and what they explain about humanity’s past and forecasts for our future.  The explorations cover sites on six continents and span three millions years of history with diversity like King Tut’s tomb in Egypt to the Terra-cotta Chinese army to the colonists who came to the Americas.

What I Thought

Lost Cities Ancient Tombs is riveting from the opening chapter to the final photograph. In the introduction,  Douglas Preston brings the reader along an expedition to Honduras in 2015 where a pre-Columbian city was being discovered and we see the moment of discovery of dozens of stones sculptures after days of his team winding their way through thick jungle. Preston points out however, that that on-the-ground trek and discovery was made possible by new technology called lidar which involves mapping surface features from space, using the Google Earth platform. Preston talks about how new innovations and collaboration between archaeologists and scientists of other disciplines is reducing the amount of trial-and-error that characterized how excavations were conducted in the past. It is also making possible more in-depth studies and new explanations for older finds, possible; DNA studies can now clarify genetic makeup shedding light on the human remains that have been discovered and allowing explanations that have only been theorized thus far. 

Lost Cities is narrative nonfiction at its finest. The sparkling language with which editor, Ann R. Williams presents these descriptions of archaeological digs and scientific studies and links them to popular culture, makes this an artistic treasure trove. Within the pages, one can find references that run the gamut from Homer’s Iliad to Downton Abbey. Each entry averages between 4 and 5 pages, and includes at least one color photograph depicting artifacts representative of the discovery – artwork or bones or landscapes. There is a quite a range of diversity in the explorations presented in this book – both underwater and underground expeditions, those that were the result of entire lifetimes dedicated to hypothesizing and finding proof; as in the case of Louis Leakey and his wife, Mary, working in Tanzania; rediscoveries like the one of the Shang people in China; to re-categorizing artifacts that had been commonplace until their value was established as was the case with the terra cotta sculptures of the Nok people that farmers had long been finding in their fields in Nigeria.

As the book is arranged chronologically to follow the age of the civilization, the narrative moves around the globe and if you are like me, you will probably feel like each departure comes too soon. Lost Cities definitely piques the interest and whets the appetite to do a deeper study of at least some of these archaeological excavations mentioned here, along with their findings.

The writing style of Lost Cities Ancient Tombs makes it the kind of book that would turn even the most dedicated novel reader, into a nonfiction convert. The research presentations and the references mentioned here will also appeal to anyone with even a passing interest in history and anthropology. 

Note: I received a complimentary copy of Lost Cities Ancient Tombs from TLC Book Tours representing National Geographic. I was not otherwise compensated and the above review reflects my honest opinion and genuine enthusiasm for this book.  

Publisher Synopsis

Blending high adventure with history, this chronicle of 100 astonishing discoveries from the Dead Sea Scrolls to the fabulous “Lost City of the Monkey God” tells incredible stories of how explorers and archaeologists have uncovered the clues that illuminate our past.

Archaeology is the key that unlocks our deepest history. Ruined cities, golden treasures, cryptic inscriptions, and ornate tombs have been found across the world, and yet these artifacts of ages past often raised more questions than answers. But with the emergence of archaeology as a scientific discipline in the 19th century, everything changed.

Illustrated with dazzling photographs, this enlightening narrative tells the story of human civilization through 100 key expeditions, spanning six continents and more than three million years of history. Each account relies on firsthand reports from explorers, antiquarians, and scientists as they crack secret codes, evade looters and political suppression, fall in love, commit a litany of blunders, and uncover ancient curses.
Pivotal discoveries include:

  • King Tut’s tomb of treasure
  • Terracotta warriors escorting China’s first emperor into the afterlife
  • The glorious Anglo-Saxon treasure of Sutton-Hoo
  • Graves of the Scythians, the real Amazon warrior women
  • New findings on the grim fate of the colonists of Jamestown


With a foreword from bestselling author Douglas Preston, Lost Cities, Ancient Tombs is an expertly curated and breath-taking panorama of the human journey.

Book Details
  • Title: Lost Cities Ancient Tombs: 100 Discoveries That Changed The World
  • Editor: Ann R. Williams
  • Publisher: National Geographic
  • Publication Date: November, 2021
  • Format: Hardcover with Dust Jacket, Color Photographs
  • Page Count: 512
More Information Here 

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Purchase Links:IndieBound | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

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