Former Egyptian minister and famed Egyptologist, Zahi Hawass has announced the discovery of the "lost golden city" near Luxor. He said the find was the largest ancient city, known as Aten, ever uncovered in Egypt.
The city dates to the reign of Amenhotep III, one of Egypt's most powerful pharaohs, who ruled from 1391 to 1353 BC.
The city continued to be used by pharaohs Ay and Tutankhamun, whose nearly intact tomb was discovered in the Valley of the Kings by a British archaeologist in 1922.
The discovery of a 3,000-year-old city that was lost to the sands of Egypt has been hailed as one of the most important archaeological finds since the discovery of King Tutankhamun's tomb.
The discovery lies on the banks of the Nile River, 300 miles south of Cairo, sits the city of Luxor. It's adjacent to Egypt's Valley of the Kings, where archaeologists discovered King Tutankhamun's tomb.
Hawass' team began searching an area of Luxor where Tut's successors, Ay and Horemheb, built their mortuary temples. However - instead of uncovering these temples, Hawass' team uncovered an enormous, well-preserved metropolis.
Amenhotep III was King Tut's grandfather, and the wealthiest Pharaoh who ever lived. Hawass' team uncovered mud bricks stamped with Pharaoh Amenhotep III's name. That helped them estimate the city was built 3,400 years ago, since Amenhotep III ruled between 1391 BC and 1353 BC.
Archaeologists knew the Pharaoh had funneled some of his riches into building a city in this area of Egypt but they did not know where this ancient city was until now.
So far, Hawass' team has uncovered remnants of the city in an area that's at least half a square mile.
But the city is likely far larger, according to Hawass, stretching all the way to the Pharaoh's palace at Malkata, which is almost 2 miles south of the Colossi of Memnon.
In addition to the city's size, Hawass said, "the huge amount of artifacts" his team uncovered in the region makes this an unprecedented archaeological find.
The city's streets are flanked with buildings, some of which have walls 9 feet tall.
Scattered throughout those structures, Hawass' team found rooms filled with pottery, glass, metalwork, and weaving tools. Ancient Egyptians once used these objects in their day-to-day lives, but the tools had lain untouched for millennia.
Three thousand four hundred years ago, a contentious ancient Egyptian king abandoned his name, his religion, and his capital in Thebes (modern Luxor). Archaeologists know what happened next: The pharaoh Akhenaten built the short-lived city of Akhetaten, where he ruled alongside his wife, Nefertiti and worshipped the sun.
After his death, his young son Tutankhamun became ruler of Egypt--and turned his back on his father's controversial legacy.
But why did Akhenaten abandon Thebes, which had been the capital of ancient Egypt for more than 150 years? Answers may lie in the discovery of an industrial royal metropolis within Thebes that Akhenaten inherited from his father, Amenhotep III. The find, which has been dubbed the "lost golden city of Luxor", will generate as much enthusiasm, speculation, and controversy as the renegade pharaoh who left it.
Archaeologists have only scratched the surface of the sprawling site, and understanding where this discovery ranks in Egyptological importance is hard to say at this time. The level of preservation found so far, however, has impressed researchers.
"There's no doubt about it; it really is a phenomenal find," says Salima Ikram, an archaeologist who leads the American University in Cairo's Egyptology unit. "It's very much a snapshot in time--an Egyptian version of Pompeii."
The site dates from the era of 18th-dynasty pharaoh Amenhotep III, who ruled between around 1386 and 1353 B.C. and presided over an era of extraordinary wealth, power and luxury. In Amenhotep III's final years, he is thought to have briefly reigned alongside his son, Akhenaten.
But a few years after his father's death, Akhenaten, who ruled from around 1353, broke with everything the late ruler stood for. During his 17-year reign, he upended Egyptian culture, abandoning all of the traditional Egyptian pantheon but one, the sun god Aten. He even changed his name from Amenhotep IV to Akhenaten, which means "devoted to Aten."
Akhenaten moved his royal seat from Thebes north to a completely new city he called Akhetaten (Amarna) and oversaw an artistic revolution that briefly transformed Egyptian art from stiff and uniform to animated and detailed.
But after his death, most traces of the ruler were obliterated. Starting with his son, the boy king Tutankhamun, Akhenaten's capital, his art, his religion, and even his name was dismissed and systematically wiped from history.
Only the rediscovery of Amarna in the 18th century revived the legacy of the renegade leader, which has fueled archaeological speculation for hundreds of years.
Why and how did the pharaoh's controversial transformation take place?
What was everyday life like under the great Amenhotep III? The newly found city could provide clues.
The excavation site straddles old and new in an area renowned for its archaeological riches. To the north is Amenhotep III's 14th-century B.C. mortuary temple, and to the south is Medinet Habu, a mortuary temple built almost two centuries later for Ramses III.
Structures are packed with everyday items, many of which relate to the artistic and industrial production that supported the pharaoh's capital city. There are homes where workers might have lived, a bakery and kitchen, items related to metal and glass production, buildings that appear related to administration, and even a cemetery filled with rock-cut tombs.
The city appears to have been reused by Tutankhamun, who ditched Akhetaten during his reign but established a new capital at Memphis.
Then, it was left to the sands until its recent discovery. It can be speculated that this discovery will lead to some breath-taking discoveries to come, which will help archeologists better understand ancient Egyptian life and the mysteries of this fascinating country.
This fun family adventure tour of Egypt includes the famous Pyramids & Sphinx in Cairo, the spectacular temples & tombs in Luxor, a short camel ride, beach time by the Red Sea, and a traditional felucca cruise along the Nile.
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