Archaeologists have discovered what may be the largest ancient city ever found in Egypt, buried beneath the sand for millennia.
The famous Egyptologist and former Minister of Antiquities of Egypt Zahi Hawass announced the discovery of the "lost city of gold", saying that the site was discovered near Luxor, where the Valley of the Kings is located.
"The Egyptian mission under Dr. Zahi Hawass found the city that was lost under the sand," the team of archaeologists said. "The city is 3,000 years old, dates back to the reign of Amenhotep III and continued to be used by Tutankhamen and Ay."
He called the discovery the largest ancient city, known as Aton, ever discovered in Egypt.
Betsy Bryan, professor of Egyptian art and archaeology at Johns Hopkins University, said the discovery was "the second most important archaeological find since Tutankhamen's tomb," according to the team's statement.
Items of jewelry, such as rings, were unearthed, along with colorful ceramic vases, scarab amulets, and mud bricks bearing the seals of Amenhotep III.
Hawass said, "Many foreign missions have searched for this city and never found it.
The team began excavations in September 2020 between the temples of Ramses III and Amenhotep III near Luxor, 500 km (300 miles) south of the capital, Cairo.
"Within a few weeks, to the team's great surprise, clay brick formations began to appear in all directions," the statement said. "What they unearthed was the site of a large city in good condition, with walls almost complete and rooms filled with everyday utensils."
After seven months of excavations, several neighborhoods were uncovered, including a bakery complete with kilns and pottery storage, as well as administrative and residential districts.
Amenhotep III inherited an empire that stretched from the Euphrates to the Sudan, archaeologists say, and died around 1354 BC.
The city is believed to have been founded by Amenhotep III, one of ancient Egypt's most powerful rulers. (Zahi Hawass Center for Egyptolog/Reuters)
He ruled for nearly four decades, a reign known for its opulence and the grandeur of its monuments, including the Colossi of Memnon - two massive stone statues near Luxor that represent him and his wife.
"The archaeological layers have remained untouched for thousands of years, left by the ancient residents as if they were yesterday," the team said.
Bryan said the city "will give us a rare glimpse into the life of the ancient Egyptians at the time when the empire was wealthiest."
The team said it was optimistic that other important discoveries would be revealed, noting that groups of tombs were discovered that reached through "staircases carved into the rock," a construction similar to those found in the Valley of the Kings.
"The mission hopes to uncover untouched tombs filled with treasures," the statement added.
The newly discovered 'lost city of gold' near Luxor, Egypt. (Zahi Hawass Center for Egyptolog/Reuters)
After years of political instability linked to a popular uprising in 2011 that dealt a severe blow to Egypt's main tourism sector, the country is trying to bring back visitors, in particular by promoting its ancient heritage.
Last week, Egypt transported the mummified remains of 18 former kings and four queens across Cairo from the Egyptian Museum to the new National Museum of Egyptian Civilization, a procession dubbed the 'Golden Parade of the Pharaohs.' Among the 22 bodies were those of Amenhotep III and his wife, Queen Tiye.
With information from AFP.