When the archaeologist’s team of Dr. Zahi Hawass’ begins excavations on the west bank of the Nile, near the Valley of the Kings, he expects to discover a temple from the era of Tutankhamun.
In the autumn of 2020, weeks after the beginning of the excavations, the intact remains of a town more than 3,400 years old began to show up from the sands on the outskirts of Thebes, today’s Luxor. It turned out to be the largest city ever discovered in Egypt, and the archaeological discovery has been pointed out as the most significant for decades.
The Beginning Before One of the Greatest Pharaohs
Zahi Hawass and his team believe they discovered a city called Dazzling Aton. According to specialists, the city was founded during the reign of one of the most influential pharaohs – Amenhotep III.
Amenhotep III ruled together with his wife Tiye between 1391 and 1353 BC. He is a representative of the 18th dynasty of Ancient Egypt, together with his son Amenhotep IV (Akhenaten) and grandchild – Tutankhamun.
Amenhotep III inherited from his father Thutmose IV a country in a stable and developed state. He ruled it peacefully, which allowed him to remain in power for 38 years. At that time, Ancient Egypt reached an economic and cultural peak. According to some scholars, at the end of his life, he ruled together with his son Amenhotep IV.
The Innovator Pharaoh
After the death of his father, Amenhotep IV began to rule together with his wife Nefertiti. He tried to introduce a monotheistic religion – worshiping one god, Aton, or the god of the solar circle. He changed his name to Akhenaton (“devoted to Aton”), left the old capital, and founded a new one.
However, the discovery of Dazzling Aton suggests that the worship of Aton and the attempt of a religious reform might date back to the time of Amenhotep III. This is where the name of the city might come from. According to scholars, such a discovery can rewrite the history of the 18th dynasty.
In National Geographic is written that according to some scholars, Dazzling Aton was reused by Tutankhamun, the successor of Akhenaten.
The New Kingdom of Egypt
Pharaohs of the 18th dynasty ruled Ancient Egypt between the 16th and 13th centuries BC. This was a part of the so-called New Kingdom, which united the 18th, 19th, and 20th dynasties. It coincides with the Late Bronze Age in the territory of Egypt.
Then in Ancient Egypt, there was already a developed writing system. One of the typical symbols found in the temples of the pharaohs is the cartouche. This was an oval, enclosing the pharaoh’s name in order to protect him from spells.
The cartouche of Amenhotep III is a common symbol among the excavations of Dazzling Aton and archaeologists suggest that it is based on it.
During the Discovery Process
It is said that the scarab beetles push their soil balls, just as the ancient Egyptian god Khepri moves the sun through the sky every morning. This is not the only symbolism that the sacred scarab beetle carries in Ancient Egypt. Amulets formed like scarab beetles are often found in the excavations of Dazzling Aton and carry important information about the era in which they were created.
Numerous similar amulets, tools, painted clay vessels, as well as cob bricks with imprints of hieroglyphs are found between the well-preserved walls. Some of them reach 3 meters in height.
On the town streets, there are many well-preserved houses, and inside are found appliances for baking, making glass and faience, as well as pieces of thousands of statues.
There are preserved palaces of Amenhotep III, an administrative center, bakery, and residential area in the city.
Dr. Zahi Hawass is a former longtime minister of antiquity in Egypt, has led excavations in Giza and the Valley of the Kings, and is one of the world’s most respected Egyptologists.
He says that the “missing golden city of Luxor” is a kind of Egyptian Pompeii.
“The Pharaoh’s Golden Parade”
At the beginning of April, the remains of 22 mummies were transferred to the new National Museum of Egyptian Civilization. The relics of Amenhotep III were among them. The event turned into an extraordinary spectacle.
The discovery of the “lost golden city of Luxor” and the transfer of the mummies is an attempt of the country to reawaken tourism after the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic.