Egyptian archaeologists have excavated parts of what they believe to be a 7,000-year-old city along the River Nile. Preliminary evidence suggests that the city could have been part of the first capital of one of the earliest Egyptian empires.
Found to be just 400 meters (0.25 miles) from the Temple of Seti I in the sacred city of Abydos, the team has so far unearthed fragments and remnants of houses, tools, utensils and at least 15 graves. Judging by the size and craftsmanship evident in the burial sites, the dead were likely to be have had a prominent social status.
Abydos was once the capital of a truly ancient Egyptian kingdom. It contains a royal necropolis where early pharaohs were entombed. The new site found nearby was likely home to high-ranking officials and tomb builders who were set to work in Abydos at the whim of their rulers.
“This appears to be the town, the capital at the very beginning of Egyptian history,” Chris Eyre, a professor of Egyptology at the University of Liverpool, told BBC News.
“About a mile behind where this material is said to be we have the necropolis with royal tombs going from before history to the period where we start getting royal names, we start getting identifiable kings.”
The Egyptian Ministry of Antiquities, who led the dig, suggests the "lost city" dates back to 5,316 BCE, around 7,000 years ago. Sadly, there are no detailed images of the new lost city available just yet, meaning it is still more “lost” than “found.” A few shots have been provided by the Ministry on Facebook, which appear to depict at least one of the grave sites with its original occupant still inside.
Abydos itself was initially occupied by the peoples of the so-called Predynastic period, which began around 8,000 years ago. By the sixth dynasty, the Great Temple of Osiris was built here in order to placate the god of the underworld. Cults focusing on Osiris and the dead began to spring up, and the city quickly became a nexus for this particular deity.
With such a long history, Egyptologists are always discovering new things about Abydos and its surroundings. One notable “controversy” involves some mysterious hieroglyphs in the Temple of Seti I.
Some of the carvings there appear to depict helicopters, tanks, warplanes, submarines and – according to some – UFOs. These interpretations have been politely and dryly referred to by experts as “pseudoarchaeology.”
The so-called helicopter hieroglyphs. Olek95/Wikimedia Commons; Public Domain
The discovery conveniently comes at a time when the country is hoping to boost its flagging tourism industry, which has been heavily damaged by the recent spate of regional political instability, acts of terrorism, and sectarian violence.