Archaeologists have hailed the discovery of what is believed to be the largest ancient city found in Egypt. It was buried under sand for millennia. Experts are praising it as one of the most important archaeological finds of the past century since the unearthing of Tutankhamun’s tomb.
According to the BBC, the famous Egyptologist Zahi Hawass announced the discovery of the “lost golden city” near Luxor. He said the find was the largest ancient city, known as Aten, ever uncovered in Egypt.
“The Egyptian mission under Dr. Zahi Hawass found the city that was lost under the sands,” the archeology team said, reports The Guardian. “The city is 3,000 years old, dates to the reign of Amenhotep III, and continued to be used by Tutankhamun and Ay.” Their nearly intact tomb was discovered in the Valley of the Kings by British archaeologist Howard Carter in 1922.
Many of the Rise of Aten’s walls are well preserved. So far, the research team has identified a bakery, an administrative district, and a residential area. In addition to this, they have also identified scarab beetle amulets, pottery, and other everyday items, as per Smithsonian Magazine.
According to the team’s statement, Betsy Bryan said the find was the “second most important archeological discovery since the tomb of Tutankhamun.” Bryan is a Professor of Egyptian art and archaeology at Johns Hopkins University. Betsy visited the site but was not involved in the excavation.
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She said the city would “give us a rare glimpse into the life of the ancient Egyptians” at the time when the empire was at its wealthiest. It also sheds light on the mystery of why the pharaoh and his queen moved to Amarna.
The city’s walls are well preserved, allowing archaeologists to see where its different districts were located. Egyptian Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities / Image via Smithsonian Magazine
Archaeologists discovered the city in September 2020. They were searching for a mortuary temple at the time. It is located close to a number of important ancient Egyptian monuments. They include the Colossi of Memnon, the Madinat Habu Temple, and the Ramesseum.
Hawass, a former antiquities minister, said: “Many foreign missions searched for this city and never found it.” “Within weeks, to the team’s great surprise, formations of mud bricks began to appear in all directions,” the statement read. “What they unearthed was the site of a large city in a good condition of preservation, with almost complete walls, and with rooms filled with tools of daily life.”
As per Smithsonian Magazine, National Geographic’s Erin Blakemore, the younger Amenhotep dramatically changed the country’s direction following his father’s death and he abandoned all the Egyptian gods except the sun god Aten. He changed his name from Amenhotep IV to Akhenaten which means “devoted to Aten.” Akhenaten “oversaw the rise of a new artistic movement and he and his wife, Nefertiti, also moved Egypt’s royal seat from Thebes to a new city called Akhetaten.” It is now known as Amarna.
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According to CNN, the team found an inscription in So’oud Atun. It dates back to 1337 B.C., just one year before Akhenaten established his capital at Amarna.
The archaeologists found a large number of decorative and ritual items, including scarabs and amulets (Image via BBC)
Amenhotep III inherited an empire that stretched from the Euphrates to Sudan, archaeologists say. They say he died around 1354 BC and ruled for nearly four decades. His reign is known for its opulence and the grandeur of its monuments. These include the Colossi of Memnon – two massive stone statues near Luxor that represent him and his wife, as per The Guardian.
Egypt Today’s reports that “the archaeologists examined hieroglyphic inscriptions on the lids of wine vessels and other containers for clues to the city’s history.” One vase containing dried or boiled meat was inscribed with the names of two people from the city, according to Smithsonian Magazine. In addition to this, the information showing that Amenhotep and Akhenaten ruled the city jointly at the time it was made was engraved on it.
The team also found a production area for mud bricks, which bear Amenhotep’s seal. This was used to build temples and other structures. According to Smithsonian Magazine, the casting molds show that workers in the city produced amulets and decorations for temples and tombs.
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There is evidence of spinning and weaving existing at the site too and a zig-zag wall with just one entry point encloses an administrative and residential area. This suggests that authorities maintained security by limiting movement in and out.
The team made another odd discovery. They found a human burial with the remains of a rope wrapped around the knees.
Egyptologists said they found ‘rooms filled with tools of daily life’. Photograph: Zahi Hawass Center for Egyptolog/Reuters (Image via The Guardian)
“There’s no doubt about it; it really is a phenomenal find,” said Salima Ikram. “It’s very much a snapshot in time—an Egyptian version of Pompeii,” Ikram, an archaeologist at the American University in Cairo, told National Geographic.
“The archaeological layers have laid untouched for thousands of years, left by the ancient residents as if it were yesterday,” the team’s statement said.
According to The Guardian, the team said it was optimistic that further important finds would be revealed. They noted it had discovered groups of tombs it reached through “stairs carved into the rock”, similar construction to those found in the Valley of the Kings. “The mission expects to uncover untouched tombs filled with treasures,” the statement added.
“After years of political instability linked to a popular revolt in 2011, which dealt a severe blow to Egypt’s key tourism sector, the country is seeking to bring back visitors, in particular by promoting its ancient heritage,” reports The Guardian.
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Featured Image adapted via BBC.