“You walk through its streets and it is as if you were in a city. It is impressive ”, explains the Spanish Egyptologist José Manuel Galán 20 minutes away when asked about the archaeological find announced with great fanfare this Thursday by Egypt and that he was able to visit three weeks ago. In the African country they announce that it is the greatest discovery after the tomb of Tutankhamun, in 1922.
“ It’s like a kind of Pompeii: it offers a snapshot of life at that moment. They have only excavated part of it, but what can be discovered in the next few years is going to be impressive. ”
Galán, director of the Djehuty Project and research professor at the Center for Human and Social Sciences of the CSIC, answers the call of this newspaper in Egypt, on the way to Luxor, and explains his impressions of that ‘lost city’ located about 500 kilometers to the south from Cairo. ”
It is an area of production workshops linked to the city of Amenhotep III : there are meat workshops with an oven, a bakery, smelters, sculptors … It is phenomenally preserved, it has high walls …”.
For his part, the also Egyptologist José Miguel Parra, also a member of the Djehuty project in previous campaigns, explains that, although it is not “exactly a discovery, because that area had already been partially excavated in 1936 and it was known that it was there”, no remove to make it a “spectacular find.”
And why, in a country so linked to archaeological heritage like Egitpo, is this such a spectacular find? ” In Egypt we are used to excavating tombs and temples, and little is known about cities, ” says Galán. “These were built in fertile areas that have ended up flooded or that have continued to be inhabited later and have been lost,” he says.
In the same way, the settlement is separated by neighborhoods by “sinuous, zigzag walls”, which are surprising because according to Galán, the Egyptians worked more with straight lines.
Front view of the colored bust of Nefertiti, queen of the 18th Egyptian dynastyThe greatest discoveries of Ancient Egypt
The comparison with Pompeii is clear because the city was quickly abandoned for reasons that are currently unknown. But as in the Roman city buried by Vesuvius, among the buildings are small great treasures: ” Ceramics typical of the activity, some with content, others with dated labels , which will allow dating the abandonment,” says Galán.
“Perhaps there was a health reason, not too far from the times we are living today”
Why was the city abandoned, why did Amenhotep III’s successor, Akhenaten, go to Amarna? “Amenhotep III changed his palace, perhaps fleeing the plague,” explains Galán, “Akhenaten, his successor, changes the capital to Amarna, perhaps also fleeing the plague, although he disguised it for religious reasons. Perhaps there was a health reason, not too far removed from the times we are living today ”, this Egyptologist ventures.
The curse of the pharaoh. Zahi Hawass, head of the Egyptian Council of Antiquities, at the entrance to a recently discovered tomb built 4,200 ago in the pyramid complex of Saqarra. At the entrance to the tomb there was an inscription warning potential thieves of a curse, who would be attacked by snakes and snakes if they dared to enter.
Zahi Hawass, the 74-year-old Egyptian archaeologist who has discovered the ‘Lost City’ and who was accused of corruption
The truth is that the reason for the abandonment is not known. “Amenhotep changed his palace and this settlement was surely built by artisans attracted by the activity of the court,” explains Parra, “surely, when the pharaoh moved again, the inhabitants of the settlement followed him , but the reasons are not known” .
Study and conserve
How will this find change what we know about Ancient Egypt? “We have no certainties of almost nothing, and not now,” says Galán, who believes that there will be discoveries on the subject of urban life. “The important thing is to excavate it and document it well,” he says.
“At the moment there are only nice news and photos , ” says Parra, who reflects on what his colleague said, “now it’s time to dig well and with patience, and analyze. And perhaps, in years we will have new discoveries ”.
In any case, Galán warns of a risk: “Everything is built in adobe, the next problem will be to preserve it once it is unearthed.”