Thousands of years ago a fabulous settlement was buried under the sands. Now, an Egyptian mission led by Zahi Hawass has discovered the ruins of the so-called “Lost Golden City” that has been linked to such big names in ancient Egyptian history as Amenhotep III, Tutankhamun, Ay, and Akhenaton.
A post by the Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities on the discovery says that the “Lost Golden City,” as it’s been dubbed, was the ancient Egyptian civilization’s “largest administrative and industrial settlement” on the western bank of Luxor (Thebes).
In the ancient past the city was an industrial and royal metropolis, however its exact location has been something of a mystery, until now. According to Hawass, “Many foreign missions searched for this city and never found it. We began our work searching for the mortuary temple of Tutankhamun because the temples of both Horemheb and Ay were found in this area.”
Why is this Discovery So Important?
Their search was effective and the Egyptian mission teams announced they have discovered “the largest city ever found in Egypt.” The city was founded by Pharaoh Amenhotep III (who reigned circa 1386/1391 – 1353 BC).
Betsy Bryan, a professor of Egyptology at John Hopkins University in the USA, who did not participate in the dig, but has seen the site firsthand, has even declared, “the discovery of this lost city is the second most important archeological discovery since the tomb of Tutankhamun. ”
Bryan also believes that the find will provide “a rare glimpse into the life of the Ancient Egyptians at the time when the empire was at its wealthiest” and “shed light on one of history’s greatest mysteries: why did Akhenaten & Nefertiti decide to move to Amarna?”
Archaeologist Salima Ikram, the leader of the American University in Cairo’s Egyptology unit, has also wandered through the site with its nine foot (2.7 meter) tall zigzagging mudbrick walls, and concurs on the immensity of this discovery, saying,
“It’s very much a snapshot in time—an Egyptian version of Pompeii […] It’s extraordinarily beautiful. I don’t think you can oversell it. It is mind-blowing.”
Getting the Rare Glimpse into Ancient Egyptian Life
Finding the Lost Golden City was a surprise – originally the team was searching the area for Tutankhamun’s Mortuary Temple.
The excavations, which have been ongoing since September 2020, are underway at a site located between Rameses III’s temple at Medinet Habu and Amenhotep III’s temple at Memnon. Hawass says “the city extends to the west, all the way to the famous Deir El-Medina.”
Soon after excavations began, the team were surprised to find mudbrick walls all around them. The rooms they found still contained ovens, tools for daily activities and crafts such as spinning and weaving, molds to produce amulets, clay seals, pottery, rings, and scarabs.
Several of these artifacts bear hieroglyphic inscriptions which have enabled the archaeologists to date the site.
One of the more unique finds is a vessel that contained two gallons of dried or boiled meat with an inscription saying it was made for the third Heb Sed festival in Year 37 by the butcher luwy and from the slaughterhouse of the stockyard of Kha.
From an archaeological point of view, this a real treasure – it names two people who worked in the Lost Golden City and confirms that the city was active during the time of King Amenhotep III and Amenhotep IV/Akhenaten’s co-regency.
The team has also unearthed some strange burials – two contain cows or bulls and were made outside one of the rooms and another is the grave of a person with their arms at their sides and a rope wrapped around their knees. More analysis is underway to try to explain these graves.
Overall, the Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities says the archaeological site is in such a good condition and contains so many remarkable finds that even though it’s been “untouched for thousands of years,” it was “left by the ancient residents as if it were yesterday.”
What’s Next at the Lost Golden City? Maybe Solving a Mystery and Finding Rich Tombs
The excavations have been underway for seven months and the team has uncovered several neighborhoods of the Lost Golden City. But it seems their work is far from done at the site. They’ve barely touched what they believe will be a large cemetery to the north of the city. According to the team, the rock cut tombs are likely “untouched tombs filled with treasures.”
Plus, they still have a mystery that may be waiting to be solved within the Lost Golden City – the relocation of the capital to Amarna. They want to know if the stories are true, the reasons why, and if the settlement was inhabited again when Tutankhamun returned to Thebes.
These are big questions, which may or may not be answered at the site. Only time and the continued excavations will tell what secrets remain under the sands at the Lost Golden City now that it’s been found.