Almost all of us are fascinated by stories about ancient Egypt. Many of us dream of visiting the great pyramids one day and some of us are lucky enough to have been already.
There’s something compelling and inspiring about the enormous, impossibly sophisticated civilisation that lived there thousands of years ago, long before the time of Christ, and built an empire that inspired both the Greeks and the Romans.That’s why we’ve always got an ear to the ground for news about the latest archaeological discoveries in the Land of the Nile – and we’re rarely disappointed by the ones we hear.
The obsessive level of interest that westerners have with Egypt is visible everywhere, from movie screens to computer games. Those of you in your late 30s or early 40s now might have fond recollections of watching “The Mummy” and its sequels during the 1990s. Now you’re old enough to do so, you might even play one or more of the hundreds of Egyptian-themed online slots games that appear at so many online casinos.
The genre is so popular that entire casino websites have been devoted to nothing but Egyptian-themed slots and games. Sister Site, which writes casino reviews and compares them against each other, notes that Egyptian-themed casinos are among the most popular in the UK.
If you’re reading all of this and nodding your head because you’re one of the many thousands of people fascinated by all things ancient Egyptian, you’ll enjoy the story we have for you today.
Egypt’s Lost Golden City
Even though so much of Egypt has been dug up and combed through by archaeologists during the past century, there’s still much more to find. Nothing illustrates that fact better than the recent discovery of a three-thousand-year-old city close to Luxor.
The Smithsonian, perhaps with a touch of hyperbole, heralded the discovery as Egypt’s “Lost Golden City.” Whether the city was ever “golden” or not is a matter for historians and archaeologists to debate, but what can’t be debated is the city’s sheer size. It’s the largest ancient city ever found in Egypt, yet that’s not even the most remarkable thing about it.
Archaeological evidence at the scene suggests that the city is Aten, founded during the reign of the great pharaoh Amenhotep the Third somewhere between 1391 and 1353 BCE.
Time has not been kind to the city’s ruins, but the many feet of sand it was buried beneath have at least afforded it some protection. Excavation and research work at the site is ongoing, but thus far, the experts have been able to identify the city’s walls, a large-scale bakery, a residential area and what may have been the city’s administrative district. Among the ruins of the former homes of the city’s occupants, volunteer workers have found pottery, amulets shaped like scarab beetles, and other small personal effects that have survived the passing of so many centuries.
The Biggest Discovery Of The Past Century?
The biggest and most significant archaeological discovery ever made in Egypt is that of Tutankhamun’s unspoiled tomb, which Howard Carter famously opened in 1922. Special events to mark the 100th anniversary of that discovery will be held in Egypt later this year.
Since then, there have been countless fabulous finds in Egypt, but several experts and analysts are calling the discovery of Aten the most significant of the past one hundred years. It’s impossible to say whether that’s true or not because it’s an opinion that can’t be based on objective facts, but it’s definitely a discovery of which the importance cannot be understated.
One of the most surprising things about the finding of Aten is that it happened almost by accident. There were archaeologists in the area at the time of the discovery, but they were looking for a mortuary temple linked to nearby monuments, including the Ramesseum and the Colossi of Memnon. Instead, they found what must surely have been one of the largest cities in the ancient world. Information gathering is still at an early stage, but historians have already found a few things that have allowed them to shed new light on this period of Egyptian history.
One of them is a single vase, probably used for the storage of boiled meat, upon which there’s a short inscription that suggests that Aten was ruled jointly by Amenhotep and Akhenaten, indicating that this might be a time of great transition in Egyptian politics.
There are other examples of pharaohs sharing their power with family members, but only ever in exceptional circumstances and never for very long.
Elsewhere in Aten, archaeologists have found a room beneath which two bulls were buried together. It’s a curious find and one for which experts don’t currently have an explanation.
Close to the bulls were the remains of a human who was buried with ropes wrapped around their knees. We can’t yet say whether this indicates they were buried bound as a punishment or whether the ropes were an attempt to pose the body in a certain position deemed fit for the afterlife.
As with all things ancient Egyptian, it’s likely that we’ll still have unanswered questions long after scientists have completed their analysis of all the relics and artefacts that will eventually be obtained. Salima Ikram, the head archaeologist at Cairo’s American University, says there’s so much information to process here that it’s not unreasonable to compare the site to Pompeii in Italy.
It’s unthinkable that a city of this size wouldn’t have a necropolis, so it’s inevitable that large tombs will eventually be found in Aten. It’s possible that some of the people buried within those tombs will be of royal blood, and if we’re very lucky, we might be able to find one or two that haven’t already been looted by grave robbers in the distant past. There’s nothing as rich as the tomb of Tutankhamun in Aten yet, but that doesn’t mean the isn’t something there buried in the sand, waiting to be found. Hopefully, we’ll hear lots more about this exciting site in the near future.