Inside Egypt's 3,000-year-old 'lost golden city'

A “lost golden city” in Egypt that is 3,400 years old was unveiled in what has been called the country’s most important discovery since Tutankhamun’s tomb in 1922.

Buried under sand for three millennia near what is now Luxor, the city was discovered in September 2020 by a team led by Egyptian archaeologist Zahi Hawass and unveiled to the world on Thursday.

“This is amazing because we actually know a lot about graves and the afterlife,” said Hawass while giving NBC News a tour of the site. “But now we are discovering a great city that tells us for the first time about the life of the people during the Golden Age.”

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“Every piece of sand can tell us about people’s lives, how people lived in the time, how people lived in the time of the golden age when Egypt ruled the world,” he said.

A new archaeological discovery in Luxor, Egypt could change our understanding of the ancient Kimgdoms.Zahi Hawass Center for Egyptology / via Reuters

“We spent a lot of time talking about mummies and how they died, the ritual of their death. And that is the ritual of their life.”

The city is the largest exposed from ancient Egypt and is only partially excavated. Artifacts such as rings, scarabs and colored pottery confirmed the dating of the reign of Amenhotep III, who lived from 1391 to 1353 BC. BC Egypt ruled.

Hawass’ team looked for Tutankhamun’s mortuary temple and were surprised to find instead a series of mud walls protruding from the sand, about ten feet high and built in a zigzag design characteristic of the time. Other archaeologists had previously searched for the city and could not find it.

With its warehouses, grindstones, ovens, and meat production areas, and everyday tools still intact, the location offers a rare glimpse into a functioning Egyptian city.

A number of finds from the newly uncovered “lost golden city” near Luxor, Egypt were revealed Thursday.Zahi Hawass Center for Egyptology / via Reuters

“The discovery of this lost city is the second most important archaeological discovery since the tomb of Tutankhamun,” said Betsy Brian, professor of Egyptology at Johns Hopkins University, in a press release from the Egyptian Ministry of Antiquities.

Strangely enough, the team discovered a buried skeleton, with arms outstretched and the remains of a rope around his knees. The ministry’s statement described this as “strange” and said it would be investigated.

A jar containing about 22 pounds of cooked or dried meat was inscribed. “That year 37 meat for the third Heb Sed festival was made from the slaughterhouse of the Kha camp by butcher Luwy.”

An archaeological discovery in the “lost golden city” of Luxor.Zahi Hawass Center for Egyptology / via Reuters

The Egyptian team said that this statement, which mentions two people who lived and worked in the city, also confirms that the city was open during the reign of Amenhotep III. Beside his son Akhenaten was active, whose successor was Tutankhamun.

Future excavations at a cemetery and unopened graves on the site can help answer even more questions about this time.

Hannah Pethen, a British archaeologist and honorary member of Liverpool University who worked on excavations in Egypt but was not involved in the Luxor excavation, said the discovery was a milestone in understanding the region.

“Everyone loves the thought of an exciting, pristine tomb, but in fact it is probably more meaningful and important than if it were a pharaohs tomb,” she said.

“We have many graves and we know a lot about them, but we don’t have much evidence of how Egyptians lived and worked in their cities.”

The remains of an alleged resident of the “lost golden city” Luxor, revealed on Thursday.Zahi Hawass Center for Egyptology / via Reuters

The newly discovered city is now one of three sites from the same period – the Temple of Rameses III at Medinet Habu and the Temple of Amenhotep III at Memnon – and the key role of the newly discovered city could be to confirm that those found there Things were common throughout the empire.

“This is really the most important settlement on the west bank of the Nile from this period, so it is directly associated with the tombs and cemeteries there, so we can broaden our understanding of this landscape. We have tombs, temples, and now we have a pretty big city “said Pethen.

One of the greatest mysteries of the time is why Akhenaten and his Queen Nefertiti gave up their religion and kingdom in Thebes (now Luxor) to build a new city where they worshiped the sun. Some hope the lost city will provide clues, but not everyone is optimistic.

“I wouldn’t invest any money in it. Ahkenaten has a habit of keeping its secrets – we’ve had several opportunities to learn more over the past 150 years, but somehow we never quite succeeded,” said Pethen.

But as Hawass put it, our understanding of antiquity is constantly changing: “You never know what the sands of Egypt might be hiding.”

Charlene Gubash and Molly Hunter reported from Luxor, Egypt.

Charlene Gubash and Molly Hunter contributed.

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