Lonely Planet Writer

Archaeologists uncover one of the great mysteries of the Age of the Pharaohs: a funeral garden in Luxor

For years, archaeologists have been trying to unravel the secrets of mysterious funeral gardens built in the Time of the Pharaohs.

Tomb artwork depicting the mysterious gardens.
Tomb artwork depicting the mysterious gardens. Image by Spanish National Research Council (NSIC)

The existence of the peaceful gardens was known about from artworks along the walls of tombs in the ancient cities of Egypt. However, nobody had never proved their actual existence until a major discovery by Spanish archaeologists on a dig in Thebes, now known as Luxor.

The funerary gardens from above.
The funerary gardens unearthed by Spanish archaologists.

The well-preserved garden – measuring just three metres by two – is thought to be around 4000 years old. “We knew of the possible existence of these gardens since they appear in illustrations both at the entrances to tombs as well as on tomb walls,” explained Dr Jose Galán, who led the archaeological team. “The garden itself consisted of a small rectangular area, raised half a metre off the ground and divided in 30cm-square beds … next to the garden, two trees were planted. This is the first time that a physical garden has ever been found, and is therefore the first time that archaeology can confirm what had already been deduced from iconography.” Dr Galán said the plants grown there would have had symbolic meaning for the ancient Egyptians and played a role in funerals.

They will be analysing seeds found there for hints at what was planted in the garden. At that time, palm, sycamore, and Persea trees were linked to resurrection, and plants like lettuce signified fertility and the return to life.
During the dig, they also uncovered a small mud-brick chapel with three stone tombstones, which they believe dates from around 1800 BCE.

An image of the unearthed garden.
Until recently, no-one was even sure these gardens existed. Image by Spanish National Research Council (NSIC)

The Spanish National Research Council have put together a video detailing the find.
The dig took place in the Valley of the Kings, one of the world’s most important archaeological sites and best known for the discovery of the tomb of Tutankhanum.