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Ancient Egyptian Fortress Discovered In The Sinai

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CAIRO, Egypt — Archaeologists exploring an old military road in the Sinai have unearthed 3,000-year-old remains from an ancient fortified city, the largest yet found in Egypt, antiquities authorities announced Wednesday.

Among the discoveries at the site was a relief of King Thutmose II (1516-1504 B.C.), thought to be the first such royal monument discovered in Sinai, said Zahi Hawass, chief of Egypt's Supreme Council of Antiquities. It indicates that Thutmose II may have built a fort near the ancient city, located about two miles northeast of present day Qantara and known historically as Tharu.

A 550-by-275-yard mud brick fort with several 13-foot-high towers dating to King Ramses II (1304-1237 B.C.) was unearthed in the same area, he said.

Hawass said early studies suggested the fort had been Egypt's military headquarters from the New Kingdom (1569-1081 B.C.) until the Ptolemaic era, a period of about 1500 years.

The ancient military road, known as "Way of Horus," once connected Egypt to Palestine and is close to present-day Rafah, which borders the Palestinian territory of Gaza.

Archaeologist Mohammed Abdel-Maqsoud, chief of the excavation team, said the discovery was part of a joint project with the Culture Ministry that started in 1986 to find fortresses along that military road.

Abdel-Maqsoud said the mission also located the first ever New Kingdom temple to be found in northern Sinai, which earlier studies indicated was built on top of an 18th Dynasty fort (1569-1315 B.C.).

A collection of reliefs belonging to King Ramses II and King Seti I (1314-1304 B.C.) were also unearthed with rows of warehouses used by the ancient Egyptian army during the New Kingdom era to store wheat and weapons, he said.

Abdel-Maqsoud said the new discoveries corresponded to the inscriptions of the Way of Horus found on the walls of the Karnak Temple in Luxor which illustrated the features of 11 military fortresses that protected Egypt's eastern borders. Only five of them have been discovered to date.

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Associated Press reporter Pakinam Amer contributed to this report from Cairo.