As the Dust of Post-Gadhafi Libya Settles, A Lost City is Found

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Photo: Frans Lemmens/Getty Images

The desert has always served as a vast and mysterious stage for many lost and hidden civilizations in pop culture folklore, from the lost city of Tanis in Raiders of the Lost Ark, to the Cave of Wonders in Disney’s Aladdin, to Ubar, the “Atlantis of the Sands” in Uncharted 3. In real life, archaeologists do find real lost cities in the sands — in fact, Tanis isn’t just a fictional find by Indiana Jones — and recently they’ve uncovered one more buried in the sands of the Sahara in the country of Libya: a lost city of the Garamantes civilization, which pre-dates Libya’s Islamic heritage.

Obviously with all the turmoil in Libya earlier this year — and the regime of Muammar Gaddafi for decades — archaeologists couldn’t exactly explore the deserts of Libya for research. However with the Libyan dictator gone and the doors open to build a new society, archaeologists from the University of Leicester in the UK have used satellite imagery to pinpoint the location of 100 towns, farms, villages, and castles fortified in the sand for over 1500 years, according to an article from Fox News.

“These settlements had been unremarked and unrecorded under the Gadhafi regime,” said David Mattingly, Professor of Roman Archaeology, who is leading the project. The finds are suspected to be that of the Garamantes, a lesser-known desert civilization that pioneered desert farming technology and commerce.

“They were highly civilized, living in large-scale fortified settlements, predominantly as oasis farmers,” said Mattingly. “It was an organized state with towns and villages, a written language and state of the art technologies. The Garamantes were pioneers in establishing oases and opening up trans-Saharan trade.”

Further research, and eventually an excavation will be under way, as archaeologists continue to comb the deserts they previously had no access to. And who knows what else they may find? From what I’ve heard in pop culture folklore, I hear there’s a magical lamp somewhere…