Egypt: Archaeologists display findings from 3,000 year-old city
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A series of recent discoveries in Egypt could rewrite ancient history books. The preserved body of a high-ranking nobleman, first discovered two years ago, has been found to be much older than originally believed. At some 4,000 years old, it is one of the oldest Egyptian mummies discovered to date.
It dates back to the Old Kingdom, yet the sophistication of the body’s mummification process, and the materials used, was previously thought to have not been achieved until 1,000 years later.
Professor Salima Ikram, head of Egyptology at the American University of Cairo, told the Observer last month: “If this is indeed an Old Kingdom mummy, all books about mummification and the history of the Old Kingdom will need to be revised.”
Each day a new discovery is made in the northeast African region that confirms just how advanced ancient Egyptian populations were.
One such find, made in April this year, was dubbed the “second most important archaeology discovery since the tomb of Tutankhamun” by Betsy Bryan, Professor of Egyptian art and archaeology at Johns Hopkins University.
The discovery is believed to be the largest ancient city found in Egypt, and had been buried under sand for millennia.
Famed Egyptologist Zahi Hawass confirmed the discovery of the “lost golden city”, uncovered near Luxor, which was the home of the Valley of the Kings. Archaeologists said of the city, known as Aten: “The Egyptian mission under Dr Zahi Hawass found the city that was lost under the sands.
“The city is 3,000 years old, dates to the reign of Amenhotep III, and continued to be used by Tutankhamun and Ay.”
Named after the Egyptian sun god Aten, it appears to have remained remarkably well preserved, leading to comparisons with Pompeii.
Excavations at the site first began in September 2020, under Dr Hawass’ direction.
The team began excavations between the temples of Ramses III and Amenhotep III near Luxor, around 500 km (300 miles) south of Cairo.
They stumbled upon the city when searching for the remains of the funerary temple of Tutankhamum, commonly referred to as King Tut.
Dr Hawass said in a statement: “It was the largest administrative and industrial settlement in the era of the Egyptian empire.”
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Walls up to 10 feet (three metres) high were found intact, as well as “rooms filled with tools of daily life… left by the ancient residents as if it were yesterday”.
After several months of excavations, numerous neighbourhoods have been uncovered, as well as a bakery “complete with ovens and storage pottery”, which suggest it once had a “very large number of workers and employees”.
Ms Bryan said the discovery “will give us a rare glimpse into the life of the Ancient Egyptians at the time where the empire was at its wealthiest”.
She added that it “will help us shed light on one of history’s greatest mystery: why did Akhenaten and Nefertiti decide to move to Amerna?”
An inscription found at the site dates back to 1337 BCE, which confirms that it was active during the reign of Amenhotep III’s son, Akhenaten.
Akhenaten is believed to have been Tutankhamun’s father.
Historians believe that Aten was abandoned shortly after this inscription, and the Egyptian capital was moved 402 km (250 miles) north, but the reasons for doing so remain unclear.
The BBC reported that, after Akhenaten’s death, King Tut’s government reversed that decision and continued to use Aten.
Among the other finds in the lost city include an unusual skeleton. The skeleton was found with its arms outstretched and with rope tied around its knees. The team continues to investigate why and how this person would have died.
An entire cemetery has also been located, alongside stone tombs much like those found in the Valley of the Kings.
Given the sheer size of the site, excavations are expected to continue for months and years to come.
Professor Ikram told National Geographic: “There’s no doubt about it, it really is a phenomenal find.
“It’s very much a snapshot in time — an Egyptian version of Pompeii.”
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