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Lost lands can be continents, islands or other regions supposedly 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.
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.
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.
Although the existence of lost continents in the above sense is mythical, there are some places on earth that were once dry land but are now submerged under the sea. Approximately listed by size, these are:
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.
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.
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 to Third Reich sponsored attempts 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. None have returned positive results.
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, Tyche and Vulcan arose to explain irregularities in planetary phenomena.
The following individuals are known for having written on the subject of lost lands: