2,500 years ago, there was a massive labyrinth in Egypt that, in the words of one who saw it, “surpass[ed] even the pyramids.”
It was a massive building, two stories tall. Inside, there were an unbelievable 3,000 different rooms, all connected through a winding maze of passages so complex that nobody could find their way out without a guide. At the bottom, there was underground level that served as a tomb for kings, and at the top was a massive roof made out of a single gigantic stone.
Countless ancient writers described having seen it firsthand, but 2,500 years later, we still aren’t sure where it is. The closest thing we’ve found to it is a massive 300-meter-wide (1,000 ft) stone plateau that some believe was once the foundation of the labyrinth. If it is, though, the top stories have been completely lost to time.
In 2008, a team of geo-radar specialists scanned the plateau and found that underneath, there appears to an underground labyrinth just like the one ancient writers described.
As of yet, though, nobody has ever excavated it or stepped inside. Until somebody makes it into the labyrinth, we won’t know for sure whether we’ve really found Egypt’s greatest archaeological wonder.
The secret revealed
Herodotus wrote of the Labyrinth in the fifth century B.C. (History, 2.148-49): ‘It has twelve covered courts – six in a row facing north, six south – the gates of the one range exactly fronting the gates of the other.
Inside, the building is of two storeys and contains three thousand rooms, of which half are underground, and the other half directly above them.
I was taken through the rooms in the upper storey, so what I shall say of them is from my own observation, but the underground ones I can speak of only from report, because the Egyptians in charge refused to let me see them, as they contain the tombs of the kings who built the labyrinth, and also the tombs of the sacred crocodiles.
The upper rooms, on the contrary, I did actually see, and it is hard to believe that they are the work of men; the baffling and intricate passages from room to room and from court to court were an endless wonder to me, as we passed from a courtyard into rooms, from rooms into galleries, from galleries into more rooms and thence into yet more courtyards.
The roof of every chamber, courtyard, and gallery is, like the walls, of stone.
The walls are covered with carved figures, and each court is exquisitely built of white marble and surrounded by a colonnade’.
For a long time, the true location of the Labyrinth remained unknown.
Since Herodotus visited the legendary labyrinth of Egypt 2500 years ago, the building disappeared in the mist of time.
In 1888, Professor Flinders Petrie located the actual site of the Egyptian Labyrinth. Sufficient of the original foundations remained to enable the size and orientation of the building to be roughly determined. The Labyrinth was about 304 meters [997 feet] long and 244 meters [800 feet] wide. On other words, it was large enough to hold the great temples of Karnak and Luxor!
When the Mataha Expedition scanned parts of the base area at Hawara in 2008 they found strong suggestion of complex chambers and walls several metres thick beneath the surface to considerable depth.
The findings of the research team confirmed that there were archeological features to the south of the Hawara pyramid of Amenemhat III. The scannings showed vertical walls of an average thickness of several meters, which were connected to form quite a number of closed rooms.