A team of Egyptian archaeologists have discovered what some describe as a royal industrial metropolis just north of modern Luxor, which incorporates what was once the ancient Egyptian city of Thebes (aka Waset). the archaeologists nicknamed the site “the lost golden city of Luxor”, and they believe it may have been devoted to making decorative items, furniture and pottery, among others.
Hieroglyphic inscriptions found on the clay stoppers of wine containers at the site date the city to the reign of Pharaoh Amenhotep III of the 18th Dynasty (1386-1353 BCE), whose generally peaceful regime was marked by an era particularly prosperous, with Egypt at the height of its international power. (The mud bricks at the site were also marked with the cartouche of Amenhotep III.) There are more statues of Amenhotep III than of any other pharaoh. He was buried in the Valley of the Kings, and his mummy was discovered in 1889. Analysis revealed that Amenhotep III died between the ages of 40 and 50, and he probably suffered from various illnesses in his later years (notably arthritis, obesity, and painful abscesses in his teeth).
Pharaoh’s eldest son and heir, Thutmose, died young, so the throne passed to his second son, Amenhotep IV, who quickly changed his name to Akhenaton. (His queen was Nefertiti, and his son, who would eventually assume the throne, was the famous boy-king, Tutankhamun.) Akhenaton rejected the traditional polytheistic religion, dominated by the cult of Amun, and decided to create his own. religion. He worshiped Aten instead (hence the name change) and would eventually try to suppress the cult of Amun altogether.
Akhenaton also moved the capital away from the city of Thebes, creating a new capital on the site of the present-day city of Amarna, midway between Thebes and Memphis. Was he a visionary revolutionary or a heretical and mad fanatic? Maybe neither – some historians have argued that the relocation of the capital was perhaps more of a political strategy on the part of the new pharaoh to break the hold of the priests of Amun on Egyptian culture and society. In any case, Tutankhamun brought the capital to Memphis and ordered the construction of even more temples and shrines in Thebes once he ascended to the throne, ending Akhenaten’s rebellion.
The discovery of this new site may or may not shed further light on Akhenaten’s decision to abandon Thebes – and this newly discovered manufacturing center nearby – but it is hailed as an extraordinary find nonetheless. “There is no doubt about it; it is truly a phenomenal find”, Salima Ikram, archaeologist who heads the Egyptology unit at the American University in Cairo, told National Geographic. “It’s really a snapshot in time – an Egyptian version of Pompeii. I don’t think you can sell it. It’s mind-blowing.”
Betsy Bryan, an Egyptologist at Johns Hopkins University, called that “the second most important archaeological find since Tutankhamun’s tomb.”
Archaeologist Zahi Hawass, who led the Egyptian team, shared the official announcement in a Facebook post. The team began to search for Tutankhamun’s Mortuary Temple, as the temples of the last two pharaohs of the 18th Dynasty, Horemheb and Ay, had been found in the same general area. Archaeologists have chosen an excavation area sandwiched between a temple of Ramses III in Medinet Habu and the temple of Amenhotep III in Memnon. Weeks after excavation began last September, Hawass and his team were delighted to unearth mud brick formations: zigzag walls up to nine feet high, apparently a rare feature in ancient Egyptian architecture.
The team found numerous artefacts: rings, scarabs, pottery vessels, debris from thousands of statues, and a large number of tools, possibly used for spinning or weaving and casting molds. There was a bakery and food preparation area (with ovens and pottery for storage) in the southern part of the site which was large enough to serve a sizable workforce. There was also a mud brick production area and what appears to be an administrative area. One excavated area contained the skeleton of a cow or bull, while a human skeleton was found in a strange position: arms stretching against its side, with the remains of a rope around its knees .