Zahi Hawass, former Secretary General of the Egyptian Antiquities Administration and brief minister of antiquities, recently presented a sensational find: On the west bank of Luxor, the ancient Thebes and forecourt of the Valley of the Kings, the archaeologist came across the well-preserved remains of a city from the time of Amenhotep III . (He ruled during the 18th Dynasty from 1390 to 1353 BC). Better known than this Pharaoh is his son Akhenaten, who radically reformed the state religion of the Egyptians and instead of Amun proclaimed the solar disk Aton to be the highest god. According to a press release from the Antiquities Administration, Hawass has now exposed parts of a “Lost Golden City”. It is the largest city in ancient Egyptian history that has been excavated to date, the press report continued. But the fact that the excavators actually discovered a forgotten city with residential buildings is not convincing for all experts. The approximately 3400 year old premises could also be economic areas of the extensive palace complex of Amenhotep III. act.
On the western bank of the Nile at Thebes, at the transition from desert to fertile land, the kings of the 18th to 20th dynasties had their mortuary temples built. In the buildings, priests made offerings for the deceased pharaohs, whose mummified bodies rested in the Valley of the Kings beyond. For some time now, Zahi Hawass has been digging in West Thebes, where he is looking for the mortuary temple of Tutankhamun. In doing so, his team came across streets and three-meter-high walls.
The site is between the mortuary temples of Amenhotep III. and Ramses III. (he ruled from 1188 to 1156 BC in the 20th Dynasty) in Medinet Habu. From Amenhotep’s temple only the Colossi of Memnon, the two gigantic seated statues of the king, which were once erected at the entrance of the approximately 385,000 square meter complex, remain today.
The site was once Pharaoh Amenhotep III.
In addition to painted clay pots, rings and scarabs, Hawass’ team discovered equipment for textile production, handicraft leftovers made of metal and glass, and a clay pot with the remains of around ten kilograms of meat. According to Hawass, there are several functional areas: a bakery and a large kitchen with a stove and storage vessels; In addition, a workshop area and a residential and administrative district, which is surrounded by a curved wall. There was only one door to enter. Apparently they wanted to control who entered or left the area.
Was it a residential city or an economic unit of the palace?
Hawass made an outstanding find, says US Egyptologist Betsy Bryan of John Hopkins University in Baltimore. “The discovery of the forgotten city is the second most important archaeological discovery since the tomb of Tutankhamun,” she quotes the Egyptian antiquities administration. However, not all experts are convinced that the uncovered premises were part of a city with residential buildings. Christian E. Loeben from the August Kestner Museum in Hanover and the University of Göttingen specializes in the period of the 18th dynasty, in particular the phase of Amenhotep III, Akhenaten, Tutankhamun and his successors Eje and Haremhab. “I don’t think it was a city, but that it was an annex to the palace of Amenhotep III. acted, ”suggests the Egyptologist.
The palace, which, like its builder, once also bore the ancient Egyptian name Tjechen-Aton – “Shine of Aton” – extended from Malqata, where remains of the gigantic complex came to light, via Medinet Habu to the mortuary temple with the Colossi of Memnon. According to Loeben, the current site would be right next to the former palace area.
“To operate such a large palace, you need workshops, kitchens, bakeries – that is, economic units,” says Loeben. Hawass would have unearthed just such a unit. “That is why the discovery of a clay pot with ten kilograms of meat is not surprising.” In the rooms, food, utensils and jewelry for the palace business were produced. A monitored access would also make sense here: This way the delivery and distribution of goods could be controlled.
Golden city – Goods for the “shine of Aton”
The Egyptologist would be surprised to find a housing estate at this point in Thebes-West – there were mainly mortuary temples and graves. In addition: The old residential town of Thebes is already documented, on the east bank between the temples of the gods of Karnak and Luxor.
Loeben sees his thesis reinforced by a find: the imprint of a seal in the Nile mud that gives the name of the palace and king, Tjechen-Aton. “The seal suggests that we were in the palace of Amenhotep III. “Even two cattle skeletons, which the excavators described as” unusual burials “in one room, would not come as a surprise in an economic and kitchen area, according to Loeben. Bull mummies, which were buried in spacious catacombs, are known from northern Egypt. The bones from the “Golden City” have apparently not been embalmed. What would be unusual for a funeral could have been typical for a slaughterhouse.
The designation “Golden City” is evidently not mentioned in any of the newly discovered written documents. It is supposed to give the new find a special charm in order to promote Egypt as an attractive destination. For a number of years, Egyptian archaeologists have been reporting new discoveries on a regular basis, and new museums are being built across the country – the largest, the gigantic Grand Egyptian Museum, is about to open near Gise. And it wasn’t until April 2021 that the royal mummies of the 17th to 20th dynasties were transferred to a new museum in Cairo – in a pompous procession at night.
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