PHOTOS: Archaeologists unearth ‘ancient Egyptian Pompeii’ near Luxor

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CAIRO (NewsNation Now) — Archaeologists say they’ve unearthed an ancient lost city from pharaonic times complete with mud brick houses, artifacts, and tools that had lain unseen for centuries near some of Egypt’s best-known monuments.

Noted archeologist Zahi Hawass said Thursday an Egyptian mission discovered the mortuary city in the southern province of Luxor. It dates back more than 3,400 years to what is considered a golden era of ancient Egypt during the opulent reign of King Amenhotep III of the 18th dynasty, one of Egypt’s most powerful pharaohs.

“Many foreign missions searched for this city and never found it,” Hawass said in a statement Thursday. The city, built on the western bank of the Nile River, was once the largest administrative and industrial settlement of the pharaonic empire, he added.

The team began searching for a mortuary temple near Luxor in September, but within weeks found mud brick formations in every direction, Hawass said in a statement.

They unearthed the well-preserved city that had almost complete walls and rooms filled with tools of daily life along with rings, scarabs, coloured pottery vessels and mud bricks bearing seals of Amenhotep’s cartouche.

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

The excavations lie on the West Bank of Luxor near the Colossi of Memnon, Medinet Habu and the Ramesseum, or mortuary temple of King Ramses II, not far from the Valley of the Kings.

“This is a very important discovery,” Peter Lacovara, director of the US-based Ancient Egyptian Heritage and Archaeology Fund, told Reuters.

The state of preservation and the amount of items from everyday life brought to mind another famous excavation, he added.

“It is a sort of ancient Egyptian Pompeii and shows the critical need to preserve this area as an archaeological park,” said Lacovara, who has worked at the Malqata palace area for more than 20 years but was not involved in the excavations.

The site contains a large number of ovens and kilns for making glass and faience, along with the debris of thousands of statues, said Betsy Bryan, a specialist of Amenhotep III’s reign.

“Just to locate the manufacturing centres opens up the detail of how the Egyptians under a great and wealthy ruler such as Amenhotep III did what they did. This will furnish knowledge for many years to come,” she added.

The city extends west to the ancient workmen’s village of Deir el-Medina, Hawass said.

According to historical references it included three of Amenhotep III’s palaces and the empire’s administrative and industrial centre, Hawass’s statement added.

Betsy Brian, Professor of Egyptology at John Hopkins University, said the discovery of the lost city was the most important archeological find since the tomb of Tutankhamun.

King Tut became a household name and helped renew interest in ancient Egypt when his tomb in the Valley of the Kings was discovered nearly fully intact in 1922.

The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.

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