3000 Year Old City Discovered in Egypt
It has been hailed as, “the second most important archeological discovery since the tomb of Tutankhamun” (Betsy Bryan, Egyptologist, Johns Hopkins University). The lost city known as Aten, is the largest ancient city ever discovered in Egypt. This 3000 year old city dates to the time of Amenhotep III, one of Egypt’s most powerful pharaohs. Amenhotep III was the ninth pharaoh of the 18th Dynasty and reigned from 1391 to 1353 B.C. and is the grandfather of the famous Tutankhamun (King Tut). Aten was the homebase of the Pharaohs during this time until Akhenaten, the son of Amenhotep III, moved the capital to Amarna.
Discovery and Location
Zahi Hawass, the director of the excavation, and former Minister of State for Antiquities Affairs, stated, “Many foreign missions searched for this city and never found it.” The 3000 year old city was discovered accidentally while searching for the Mortuary Temple of Tutankhamun. Excavations began in September 2020 near Luxor (ancient Thebes) and the Valley of the Kings, about 300 miles south of Cairo. The Valley of the Kings is famous as the burial place of many pharaohs and state officials from the 16th to the 11th centuries B.C. King Tut’s tomb was discovered in this location in 1922. While Hawass still believes the Temple of Tutankhamun will be discovered, the uncovering of the 3000 year old city was something no one anticipated.
The Pompeii of Ancient Egypt
When I first read about the discovery of Aten, the first thought that came to me was that this discovery was the equivalent of the discovery of Pompeii. (I have since seen a YouTube video using the same language.) The reason is that the city was found in an amazing state of preservation. According to Hawass the discovery included the, “city’s streets flanked by houses,” with intact walls up to 9-10 feet high (3 meters) and “rooms filled with tools of daily life … left by the ancient residents as if it were yesterday.” This provides an unprecedented ability to learn much about daily Egyptian life during this most prosperous period of Egypt’s history. Among the items found were, jewelry, pottery, amulets and mud bricks bearing seals of Amenhotep III. An inscription dated to the 37th year of Amenhotep III, found on a container filled with boiled or dry meat (anyone hungry for some 3000 year old meat?), gives a secure date for the city.
The City’s Layout
The amazing state of preservation of this 3000 year old city has allowed the excavators to identify 7 different residential neighborhoods. There is also an industrial and administrative center. There is evidence of glassmaking, metal work, and even a bakery. In fact, the bakery is quite large and includes a cooking and preparation area with ovens and storage pottery. Hawass notes, “From its size, we can state the kitchen was catering a very large number of workers and employees.” A cemetery, along with stone tombs similar to those in the Valley of the Kings, has also been located, although they have yet to be explored. It has been stated that, “The mission expects to uncover untouched tombs filled with treasures.” While most of the southern portion of the city has been excavated, the northern region still awaits the excavator’s spade. This, of course, means that we can look forward to more exciting finds.
For some beautiful photos of the site and the various finds see “First Look Inside Egypt’s ‘Lost Golden City.'”
Informative videos can be found at the following links:
Archaeologists Unearth 3000 Year Old Stunningly Preserved Lost Egyptian City (this video has some interviews with Zahi Hawass).