May 10, 2021
Middle East

Archaeologists find 3,400-year-old city in Egypt complete with in tact 9ft walls Archaeologists have announced the discovery of an ancient royal city buried under sand for centuries near Luxor, in Egypt, calling it one of the most significant finds since Tutankhamun’s tomb nearly a century ago.

The city, known as the “Rise of Aten”, was built 3,400 years ago during the reign of one of Egypt’s most powerful pharaohs, Amenhotep III.

Archaeologists rediscovered the site within Thebes, the ancient Egyptian capital, last September, while searching for a mortuary temple of King Tut, whose tomb was discovered in Luxor’s Valley of the Kings in 1922.

But the team soon uncovered much more extensive mud-brick structures, according to Zahi Hawass, the Egyptian archaeologist overseeing the dig. Though much of the lost industrial royal metropolis is yet to be uncovered, digging has revealed a distinctive wavy zigzag wall encircling the city, which contains near-complete structures, including a bakery, a kitchen, storage rooms and a cemetery.

The team uncovered scarabs, rings, pottery vessels, glass-blowing kilns and manufacturing tools.

The site has been dated by mud bricks bearing the pharaoh’s seal, or cartouche, and hieroglyphs imprinted on items such as the clay caps of wine jugs and a vessel holding two gallons of boiled meat.

Researchers were impressed by its preservation, with some walls still standing 9ft tall. But Mr Hawass, who is also Egypt’s former antiquities chief, said much more remained to be discovered under the sands, including administrative and residential districts.

“It was the largest administrative and industrial settlement in the era of the Egyptian empire on the western bank of Luxor,” he said on Thursday.

Archaeologists hope the site will reveal more about the opulent reign of Amenhotep III and perhaps offer clues to resolving an ancient pharaonic family feud.

Amenhotep III ruled Egypt from 1391 BC to 1353 BC, but his royal city was later abandoned by his son.

After his father’s death, Amenhotep IV changed his name to Akhenaten, which means “devoted to Aten”, the sun god. Akhenaten abandoned the other gods in the Egyptian pantheon and founded a new capital, called Amerna, some 250 miles north of Thebes.

The heretic pharaoh ruled alongside his wife, Nefertiti, for 17 years, overseeing a revolution in Egyptian art that saw a shift from stiff iconic representations to more lifelike and dynamic forms.

After Akhenaten’s death, Tutankhamun, his son, moved his father’s remains to the Valley of the Kings, and the royal capital back to Thebes. But after that, Akhenaten’s name and legacy were almost entirely erased from the historical record.

“The discovery of this lost city is the second most important archaeological discovery since the tomb of Tutankhamun,” said Betsy Bryan, professor of Egyptian art and archaeology at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland, in a statement by the team announcing the find. She said it offered “a rare glimpse into the life of the ancient Egyptians at the time where the empire was at its wealthiest”. Egypt has hailed the discovery of a series of pharaonic-era wonders in recent years, including golden-tongued mummies and the world’s oldest-known beer factory, hosting major events to highlight its finds as it seeks to revive its tourism industry in the wake of the Arab Spring unrest.

Earlier this month, 22 mummies were transported through Cairo in a televised spectacle from a museum where they had been for more than a century to their new home at the National Museum of Egyptian Civilisation.

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