Archaeologists have unearthed a 3000-year-old “lost golden city” in the southern city of Luxor, a discovery that could be the most significant find in Egypt since the tomb of the boy king Tutankhamen.
Renowned Egyptologist Zahi Hawass announced the discovery of the “lost golden city”, saying the site was uncovered near Luxor, home of the Valley of the Kings.
“The Egyptian mission under Dr Zahi Hawass found the city that was lost under the sands,” the archeology team said. “The city is 3,000 years old, dates to the reign of Amenhotep III, and continued to be used by Tutankhamun and Ay.”
It called the find the largest ancient city, known as Aten, ever uncovered in Egypt.
Amenhotep III was the ninth king of ancient Egypt’s 18th dynasty who ruled the country from 1391 to 1353 BC, the mission’s statement said. It is believed to be the era’s largest administrative and industrial settlement in that era, nestled on the western bank of Luxor.
“The discovery of this lost city is the second most important archaeological discovery since the tomb of Tutankhamen,” Betsy Bryan, an Egyptology professor at Johns Hopkins University and member of the mission, said in the statement. Its discovery “will give us a rare glimpse into the life of the ancient Egyptians” when the empire was at its wealthiest.
The lost city is the latest in a series of archaeological discoveries unearthed in recent months across the country that are bringing fresh understanding of the dynasties that ruled ancient Egypt.
Egypt’s government hopes that such findings will bolster the nation’s all-important tourism industry, battered in recent years by the coronavirus pandemic, Islamist militant attacks and political instability.
Items of jewellery such as rings have been unearthed, along with coloured pottery vessels, scarab beetle amulets and mud bricks bearing the seals of Amenhotep III.
Hawass, a former antiquities minister, said: “Many foreign missions searched for this city and never found it.”
“The excavation started in September 2020 and within weeks, to the team’s great surprise, formations of mud bricks began to appear in all directions,” Egypt’s antiquities ministry said in a statement.
“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.”
The southern part of the city includes a bakery, ovens and storage pottery while the northern part, most of which remain under the sands, comprises administrative and residential districts, the ministry added.
“It was the largest administrative and industrial settlement in the era of the Egyptian empire on the western bank of Luxor,” Hawass said.
The archaeological team dated the settlement through hieroglyphic inscriptions found on wine vessels, rings, scarabs, pottery and mud bricks bearing the seals of King Amenhotep III’s cartouche, the statement said.
They also found an administrative and residential district fenced in by a zigzag wall with only one entrance, suggesting it was to provide security, said the statement.
In a third area was a workshop. The team found casting moulds to produce amulets and ornaments, apparently for temples and tombs, according to the statement.
“All over the excavated areas, the mission has found many tools used in some sort of industrial activity like spinning and weaving,” the statement said, adding that metal and glassmaking slag has also been found.
In other parts of the city, the graves of two cows or bulls were found in a room. And in another area were the remains of a person, found with arms outstretched to his side and a rope wrapped around his knees. The team is investigating both cases to glean more information about social practices during that era, the statement said.
A large cemetery was found to the north of the city, as well as a group of tombs cut from rock.
“Work is underway and the mission expects to uncover untouched tombs filled with treasures,” the statement read.
Last week, Egypt ferried the mummies of 18 ancient kings and four queens across Cairo from the Egyptian Museum to the new National Museum of Egyptian Civilisation, a procession dubbed the “Pharaohs’ Golden Parade”.
Pharaoh Amenhotep III and his wife Queen Tiye were among the 22 bodies transported in the procession.
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