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Inside Egypt's 3,000-year-old 'lost golden city'

April 12, 2021 07:58 IST
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A "lost golden city" in Egypt dating back 3,400 years has been revealed in what is being called the most important discovery in the country since the tomb of Tutankhamen in 1922.

IMAGE: A view of the site of the 'Lost Golden City', which was recently discovered by archaeologists, in the West Bank of Luxor, Upper Egypt. Photograph: Amr Abdallah Dalsh/Reuters

The city, buried under sands near the modern-day city of Luxor for three millennia, was uncovered in September 2020 by a team led by Egyptian archaeologist Zahi Hawass and has now been revealed to the world.

“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.

IMAGE: Workers at Aten or "the lost golden city" which is believed to be the largest ancient city ever discovered in Egypt and one of the most important finds since the discovery of Tutankhamun's tomb. Photograph: Mahmoud Khaled/Getty Images

Excavations uncovered bakeries, workshops and burials of animals and humans, along with jewellery, pots and mud bricks bearing seals of Amenhotep III.

The team initially set out to discover Tutankhamun's Mortuary Temple, where the young king was mummified and received status rites, but they stumbled upon something far greater.

IMAGE: Unearthed vases are seen at the site of the 'Lost Golden City', which was recently discovered by archaeologists, in the West Bank of Luxor, Upper Egypt. Photograph: Amr Abdallah Dalsh/Reuters

Within just weeks of digging, they uncovered 'mud brick formations in every direction,' Egyptian mission directed Zahi Hawass said in a statement.

'Many foreign missions searched for this city and never found it,' Hawass continued.

IMAGE: An archeological discovery at the the "lost golden city" of Luxor. Photograph: Zahi Hawass Center for Egyptology/via Reuters

Archaeologists unearthed the well-preserved city that had nearly complete walls and rooms filled with tools used in daily life along with rings, scarabs, coloured pottery vessels and mud bricks bearing seals of Amenhotep's cartouche, Luxor Times shared on Facebook.

'The city's streets are flanked by houses ... some of their walls are up to three metres high,' Hawass said.

IMAGE: Most of the ancient pottery is still intact after being hidden under the sand for thousands of years. Photograph: Amr Abdallah Dalsh/Reuters

Betsy Brian, Professor of Egyptology at John Hopkins University in Baltimore USA, was quoted as saying, "The discovery of this lost city is the second most important archeological discovery since the tomb of Tutankhamun.

"The discovery of the Lost City, not only will give us a rare glimpse into the life of the Ancient Egyptians at the time where the Empire was at his wealthiest but will help us shed light on one of history's greatest mystery: why did Akhenaten & Nefertiti decide to move to Amarna."

IMAGE: Animal skeletal remains are seen the site of the 'Lost Golden City'. Photograph: Amr Abdallah Dalsh/Reuters

The city sits between Rameses III's temple at Medinet Habu and Amenhotep III's temple at Memnon.

Excavations began September 2020 and within weeks, archaeologists uncovered formations made of mud bricks.

IMAGE: Along with structural elements, there were burials found inside the city's walls. Photograph: Amr Abdallah Dalsh/Reuters

After more digging, archaeologists unearthed the site of the large, well-preserved city with almost complete walls, and rooms filled with tools once used by the city's inhabitants.
Hannah Pethen, a British archaeologist and honorary fellow of the University of Liverpool, who has worked on excavations in Egypt but wasn't involved in the Luxor dig, said the discovery was a landmark in the understanding of the region.

The newly discovered city is now one of three sites from around the same period — Rameses III's temple at Medinet Habu and Amenhotep III's temple at Memnon — and the newly discovered city's key role may be in confirming that things found there were common across the empire.

IMAGE: People look at unearthed archeological findings at the site of the 'Lost Golden City'. Photograph: Amr Abdallah Dalsh/Reuters

One of the biggest mysteries of the period is why Akhenaten and his queen, Nefertiti, abandoned their religion and kingdom in Thebes (modern-day Luxor) to build a new city, where they worshipped the sun. Some hope the lost city will provide clues, but not everyone is optimistic.

IMAGE: The 3000 year-old city which dates back to the reign of Amenhotep III was discovered near Luxor. After seven months of excavations the team unearthed several neighbourhoods which included, a bakery and administrative and residential districts. Jewelelry, pottery vessels, scarab beetle amulets, and rooms filled with tools of daily life were also found giving archaeologists a rare glimpse into ancient Egyptian life. Photograph: Mahmoud Khaled/Getty Images

"I wouldn't put any money on it. Ahkenaten has a habit of keeping his secrets — we've had several opportunities over the last 150 years to learn more, but somehow it's never quite come off, " Pethen said.

But as Hawass put it, our understanding of the ancient world is changing all the time: "You never know what the sand of Egypt might hide." 

IMAGE: View of Colossi of Memnon, the ruins of two stone statues that guarded the mortuary temple built for Pharaoh Amenhotep III in the West Bank of Luxor, Egypt. Photograph: Amr Abdallah Dalsh

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