In what is being hailed as a major archaeological discovery, a lost city that dates back more than 3,000 years has been discovered in the southern province of Luxor, Egypt.
The settlement, known as Aten, is “the largest city ever found” from that time period in Egypt, according to archaeologist Zahi Hawass, who led the excavation and announced the incredible news in a Facebook post on Thursday. In his post, Hawass called Aten a “Lost Golden City.”
“The discovery of this Lost City is the second most important archeological discovery since the tomb of Tutankhamun,” said Betsy Brian, a professor of Egyptology at John Hopkins University and member of Hawass’ team, in the same statement. The discovery provides “a rare glimpse into the life of the Ancient Egyptians at the time where the Empire was at his wealthiest,” she added.
Experts think that Aten was founded by Amenhotep III, a pharaoh who ruled the Egyptian empire from 1391 to 1353 BCE. Artifacts excavated by Hawass’ team corroborate this origin, as rings, decorative scarabs, pots, and mud bricks bear Amenhotep III’s seal.
Historical sources suggest that Aten was abandoned during the reign of Amenhotep III’s son, Akhenaten, who moved the empire’s capital city to Amarna, hundreds of miles to the north. The discovery of Aten now provides researchers with a vast archaeological record that will help to fill in the gaps of the city’s history and shed light on the timeline of its rise and fall.
Hawass and his team began excavating the site in September 2020. Initially, they were looking for the mortuary temple of Tutankhamun, famously known as King Tut, who was the son of Akhenaten. The 1922 discovery of Tut’s mummified body and opulent tomb is considered one of the most important finds in archaeological history.
Hawass and his colleagues suspected that Tutankhamun’s mortuary temple might be located at a site between the temple of Rameses III at Medinet Habu and the temple of Amenhotep III at Memnon. When they began excavating the area, they were surprised to find the enormous expanse of the lost city, primarily built from mud bricks. Aten was subsumed by sands millennia ago, leaving its residential and commercial structures in extremely good condition, according to Hawass’ statement.
So far, the excavation has unearthed several residential neighborhoods and districts that contain a tantalizing trove of artifacts, as well as the remains of at least one of the city’s ancient residents. The researchers have identified a bakery, a cemetery, and an administrative center, while also recovering tools, ornaments, pottery vessels, and other items from the bygone city.
“The city’s streets are flanked by houses, which some of their walls are up to 3-meters high,” Hawass said. “We can reveal that the city extends to the west, all the way to the famous Deir el-Medina,” referring to an ancient village that was contemporary with Aten.
The news of this major discovery is exciting, but the excavations are ongoing. There are still many mysteries about this “Lost Golden City,” as Hawass called it in his Facebook announcement, and the people who lived and died there, that may be unraveled in the coming months and years.