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Discovery of Golden City of Aten May Shed Light on Pharaoh Akhenaten

The Newly-Discovered Egyptian City of Aten May Shed Light on Lives of Pharaoh Akhenaten and Queen Nefertiti

The discovery of the lost “Golden City” of Aten, or “The Rise of Aten,” was announced days after the “Pharaohs’ Golden Parade” in Egypt. Amazingly, Aten may be over 3,000 years old but remains well preserved. Archaeologists began excavations in September 2020 in the southern part of the city. However, the northern region remains buried in the sand.

“The archaeological layers have laid untouched for thousands of years, left by the ancient residents as if it were yesterday,” the press release said.

Incredibly, according to Betsy Bryan, Professor of Egyptian art and archaeology at Johns Hopkins University, the find may be the “second most important archeological discovery since the tomb of Tutankhamun.”

It’s fitting we learn about the largest ancient city ever found in Egypt shortly after the parade. Last week, eighteen ancient kings and four queen mummies traveled to their new home at the National Museum of Egyptian Civilization. Notably, among the mummies was Amenhotep III, who ruled Egypt between 1391 and 1353 BCE. 

Egyptologist Zahi Hawass announced the discovery found near the Valley of the Kings on the Nile’s west bank near Luxor.

“The Egyptian mission under Dr. Zahi Hawass found the city that was lost under the sands,” the archeology team said. “The city is 3,000 years old, dates to the reign of Amenhotep III, and continued to be used by Tutankhamun and Ay.”

In the past, there were many tombs found in the Valley of Kings. Now, they have found similar tombs in Aten that remain unearthed.

Amenhotep III and Queen Tiye

Archaeologists found mud bricks with Amenhotep III’s cartouche (symbol) from the 18th dynasty. The Pharaoh’s mummified remains were among those in the Golden Parade last week, along with his wife, Queen Tiye.

Amenhotep III was the father of Akhenaten, and grandfather of Tutankhamun and Ankhsenamun. After he died in 1353 BCE, he was succeeded by Amenhotep IV, later known as Akhenaten.

Now, an inscription from 1337 BCE found by the archaeologists confirmed the newly-discovered Rise of Aten was active through Akhenaten’s reign.

During his life, Amenhotep III reigned for 38 years during one of the wealthiest and most prosperous times for the Egyptian empire. Thus, he was able to devote himself to the arts and building projects. Consequently, it’s probable that archaeologists will find many incredible artifacts. 

Already, other artifacts announced include:

See some of the discoveries via Ancient Architects below:

Also, archaeologists have unearthed a skeleton found with arms stretched out to the side and rope wrapped around the knees, per CNN. A statement noted the find was a “remarkable burial” currently under investigation.

The Colossi of Memnon

Today, the Colossi of Memnon on the west bank of the Nile is all that remains of Amenhotep III’s mortuary temple. Notably, archaeologists found Aten between the temple of King Rameses III and the Colossi.

Once, the historian Durant marveled at the statues, each seventy feet high and carved out of a single rock.

Related: 4,000-year-old Egyptian tomb of a woman named Ankh is unearthed

Colossi of Memnon in 2015, by MusikAnimal, via Wikimedia Commons,(CC BY-SA 4.0)

The Sun God and the Aten Disk

At the time of Amenhotep III’s reign, the Priests of Amun had grown powerful, owning almost as much land as the king. As their wealth grew, the Cult of Amun became a threat to the royal family’s authority.

At the time, the traditional religion was polytheistic, with multiple gods, including Aten, the Sun God. Amenhotep III chose the god as his personal deity and elevated the status.

According to archaeologist Hawass, Egyptians associated the Sun God with the Aten disk:

“…according to texts dating back at least to the Middle Kingdom, this was the disk of the sun, with which the king merged at death. This divine aspect, unusual in that it was not anthropomorphic, was chosen by Amenhotep III as a primary focus of his incarnation. 

By choosing the Aten, the Pharaoh associated himself with a symbol seen across the entire planet.

See more from Smarthistory:

Pharaoh Akhenaten and Queen Nefertiti

After Amenhotep III’s reign, the alien-looking Akhenaten and Queen Nefertiti led a religious revolution. 

At once, Akhenaten declared himself the living embodiment of the Sun God. Then, he built a new city called Akhetaten, “the horizon of Aten,” also known as Amarna, 250 miles north of Aten.

Thereafter, Atenism became the first state-mandated monotheistic system in the world. Those who favored the traditional ways considered Akhenaten a heretic. Remarkably, even his son, King Tut, may have attempted to remove his father from historical records.

Later, Horemheb destroyed the city, attempting to erase the controversial period in history.

Today, Betsy Bryan suggests the discovery of the Rise of Aten will “help us shed light on one of history’s greatest mysteries: why did Akhenaten and Nefertiti decide to move to Amarna?”

Recently, researchers reconstructed what they believe is Akhenaten’s face from a mummy known as KV55. However, the true identity is mysterious, and scholars suggest the mummy belongs to Akhenaten’s younger brother.

“Scholars originally posited that the mummy belonged to Queen Tiye, mother of Akhenaten and grandmother of Tutankhamun. Later research, however, identified the skeleton as a male, according to the American Research Center in Egypt. Archaeologists then suggested that the bones belonged to Smenkhkare, Akhenaten’s enigmatic younger brother,” reported Smithsonian.

Related: Intact Ancient Petrified Tree Found Near ‘Father of Botany’s’ Hometown

More about Akhenaten, the first Monotheist from History Explained:

Featured image: Aten by AtonX via WikipediaCC BY 2.5 with screenshots via YouTube

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