Egypt is a land of ancient wonders, where the pyramids, temples and tombs of the pharaohs still fascinate us today. But sometimes, new discoveries can reveal even more secrets of this ancient civilization. Recently, archaeologists announced the discovery of a 3000-year-old city that was buried under the sand near Luxor, the site of the ancient capital of Thebes. This city, dubbed “the golden city” by the excavators, is one of the most significant finds in Egyptian history, and it sheds light on the life and culture of the people who lived during the reign of Amenhotep III, one of Egypt’s most powerful and prosperous rulers.
What is the golden city?
The golden city, or Aten as it was known in ancient times, was a large urban settlement that served as the administrative and industrial center of Thebes during the 18th dynasty of Egypt. It was built by Amenhotep III, who ruled from 1391 to 1353 BC, and his son Akhenaten, who succeeded him and moved the capital to Amarna. The city was abandoned after Akhenaten’s death, and was eventually covered by sand and forgotten.
The city was discovered by accident in September 2020, when a team of archaeologists led by Dr. Zahi Hawass, a former minister of antiquities and a renowned Egyptologist, was looking for a mortuary temple of Tutankhamun, Akhenaten’s son and successor. Instead of finding the temple, they stumbled upon mud-brick walls that turned out to be part of the ancient city. Since then, they have excavated several areas of the city, uncovering houses, workshops, pottery kilns, bakeries, administrative buildings, a cemetery and even a scarab production site.
Why is the golden city important?
The golden city is important for several reasons. First, it is remarkably well-preserved, with walls up to three meters high and rooms filled with everyday objects such as tools, jewelry, pottery, statues and even food. The city offers a rare glimpse into the daily life of the ancient Egyptians, their social structure, their economy and their religion. Second, it dates back to a pivotal period in Egyptian history, when Amenhotep III and Akhenaten ushered in a cultural and religious revolution that changed the course of Egyptian civilization. The city reveals how Amenhotep III established his power and wealth through diplomacy and trade with other nations, and how Akhenaten challenged the traditional worship of many gods by introducing a monotheistic cult of the sun god Aten. Third, it may hold clues to some of the mysteries that still surround this era, such as the identity and role of Nefertiti, Akhenaten’s wife and co-ruler; the fate of Smenkhkare, Akhenaten’s possible brother or son who briefly ruled after him; and the relationship between Akhenaten and Tutankhamun, who restored the old religion after his father’s death.
What are some of the questions and answers about the golden city?
Some of the questions that people may have about the golden city are:
- How big was the city?
According to Dr. Hawass, the city covers an area of about 500 by 1000 meters (about 0.3 by 0.6 miles), making it larger than most ancient Egyptian cities. It had a rectangular plan with streets and neighborhoods divided by walls. It also had a zigzag wall that surrounded it for protection.
- What kind of buildings were in the city?
The city had a variety of buildings that served different functions. Some were residential houses for different classes of people, from workers to nobles. Some were administrative buildings where officials managed the affairs of the state. Some were industrial buildings where artisans produced goods such as pottery, glassware, jewelry and scarabs (amulets shaped like beetles). Some were religious buildings where priests performed rituals for various gods. Some were storage buildings where food and materials were kept.
- What kind of objects were found in the city?
The excavators found thousands of objects that reflect the richness and diversity of the city’s culture. Some examples are:
- A gold pendant with an image of King Amenhotep III
- A silver ring with an image of King Akhenaten
- A clay seal with an inscription that reads “Aton is pleased with his house”
- A pottery vessel with an inscription that reads “Year 37”, indicating that it was made during Amenhotep III’s last year
- A scarab mold with an image of King Amenhotep III
- A pottery sherd with an image of Queen Nefertiti
- A statue head made of alabaster
- A pottery jar with remains of boiled meat
- A bakery oven with bread loaves
- A pottery kiln with unfinished vessels
- A glass workshop with fragments of colored glass
- A cemetery with human and animal burials
- What are the next steps for the excavation?
The excavation of the golden city is still ongoing, and the archaeologists hope to uncover more areas and artifacts in the future. They also plan to conduct scientific analyses on the objects and the human and animal remains to learn more about their origin, age, function and significance. They also hope to collaborate with other experts and institutions to share their findings and preserve the site for future generations.