Archaeologists Discover ‘Lost Golden City’ in Egypt

An international team of archaeologists has uncovered a 3,300-year-old city in the southern province of Luxor in Egypt.

The 3,300-year-old ruins of Aten in Egypt. Image credit: Zahi Hawass Center for Egyptology.

The 3,300-year-old ruins of Aten in Egypt. Image credit: Zahi Hawass Center for Egyptology.

The first remnants of the ancient city, known as Aten, were uncovered in September 2020 by a team led by Egyptian archaeologist Dr. Zahi Hawass.

The city was founded over 3,300 years ago during the reign of 18th-dynasty pharaoh Amenhotep III (ruled 1386-1353 BCE).

It was also active during the king’s co-regency with his son, the famous Amenhotep IV/Akhenaton.

“Many foreign missions searched for this city and never found it,” Dr. Hawass said.

“We began our work searching for the mortuary temple of Tutankhamun because the temples of both Horemheb and Ay were found in this area.”

“The discovery of this lost city is the second most important archaeological discovery since the tomb of Tutankhamun,” said Professor Betsy Brian, an archaeologist at John Hopkins University.

“The discovery 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.”

“The city’s streets are flanked by houses, which some of their walls are up to 3 m high. We can reveal that the city extends to the west, all the way to the famous Deir el-Medina,” Dr. Hawass said.

“Ay’s temple may formerly have belonged to Tutankhamun as two colossal statues of the young king were found there. The northern part of the temple is still under the sands.”

‘The first goal of the mission was to date this settlement,” the archaeologists said.

“Historical references tell us the settlement consisted of three royal palaces of Amenhotep III, as well as the Empire’s administrative and industrial center.”

“A large number of archaeological finds, such as rings, scarabs, colored pottery vessels, and mud bricks bearing seals of Amenhotep III’s cartouche, confirmed the dating of the city.”

The city of Aten was founded by Amenhotep III. Image credit: Zahi Hawass.

The city of Aten was founded by Amenhotep III. Image credit: Zahi Hawass.

In the southern part of the city, the researchers unearthed a bakery, a cooking and food preparation area, complete with ovens and storage pottery.

“From its size, we can state the kitchen was catering a very large number of workers and employees,” they said.

The scientists also partly uncovered an administrative and residential district of the city.

“This area is fenced in by a zigzag wall, with only one access point leading to internal corridors and residential areas,” they said.

“The single entrance makes us think it was some sort of security, with the ability to control entry and exit to enclosed areas.”

“Zigzag walls are one of the rare architectural elements in ancient Egyptian architecture, mainly used towards the end of the 18th dynasty.”

The team also found a workshop with bricks bearing the cartouche of Amenhotep III and a large number of casting molds for the production of amulets and delicate decorative elements.

“One of the most recent finds — a vessel containing 10 kg of dried or boiled meat — has a valuable inscription: ‘Year 37, dressed meat for the third Heb Sed festival from the slaughterhouse of the stockyard of Kha made by the butcher luwy’,” the archaeologists said.

“This valuable information, not only gives us the names of two people that lived and worked in the city but confirmed that the city was active and the time of Amenhotep III’s co-regency with his son Akhenaten.”

“The excavation also reveals a mud seal with inscriptions that can be read: ‘gm pa Aton’ that can be translated as the ‘domain of the dazzling Aten,’ this is the name of a temple built by Akhenaten at Karnak.”

“As history goes, one year after this pot was made, the city was abandoned and the capital relocated to Amarna.”


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