“So’oud Atun,” or the "Rise of Aten," is the largest ancient city unearthed in Egypt to date (Credit: Zahi Hawass Center for Egyptology and High Council of Antiquities)

When famed archeologist and former minister of antiquities, Zahi Hawass, and his team set out to excavate an area near the Egyptian city of Luxor in September 2020, all they were hoping to find was King Tutankhamun's mortuary temple. Instead, the archeologists stumbled upon the largest ancient city ever found in Egypt. Hawass, who revealed the discovery on April 8, 2021, believes the enormous, well-preserved metropolis is the “So’oud Atun,” or the "Rise of Aten," whose location has eluded scientists for decades.

"The discovery of this lost city is the second most important archaeological discovery since the tomb of Tutankhamun," Betsy Bryan, an Egyptology professor at Johns Hopkins University and member of the mission, said in the statement.

This scarab beetle amulet was among the artifacts found (Credit: Zahi Hawass Center for Egyptology and High Council of Antiquities via Facebook)

The city dates back 3,400 years to the reign of Amenhotep III, one of Egypt's most powerful pharaohs, who reigned from 1391 to 1353 BC. Often referred to as Amenhotep the Magnificent, the ninth pharaoh of the 18th Dynasty ruled during a time of unprecedented peace, allowing him to accumulate large amounts of wealth. While archeologists suspected the pharaoh had used some of his riches to build what Hawass refers to as "the golden city," they had never been able to find it.

The researchers believe that his son, King Akhenaten, briefly lived in So’oud Atun before founding the city of Amarna about 250 miles away. Historians think the pharaoh and his followers left to escape the priests who were unhappy about his decision to forgo all other deities in favor of the sun god Aten. Following Akhenaten's death, his son, Tutankhamun, relocated to Thebes, which also served as Ancient Egypt's capital. The scientists are not sure if So’oud Atun was ever occupied again.

A human skeleton with remains of a rope around the knees was found in one of the rooms (Credit: Zahi Hawass Center for Egyptology and High Council of Antiquities via Facebook)

Though it has been just about six months since the discovery, Hawass and his team have been able to unearth thousands of stunning artifacts. Among them are rings, amulets, and pottery vessels. They also found a pristinely-preserved bakery, cooking, and food preparation area, complete with ovens and storage vessels. Due to its size, the researchers believe it may have been a commercial operation, which catered to a large number of people.

A second, still partly-covered region comprising larger, well-planned structures appeared to be the city's administrative and residential district, while a third area seemed to be reserved as an industrial zone. Here the archeologists found mud bricks bearing Amenhotep's seal, used to build temples, as well as casting molds for amulets and other elements used to decorate temples and tombs. They also unearthed the remains of a cow or a bull, and a human skeleton with rope remnants around the knees.

"Each piece of sand can tell us the lives of the people, how the people lived at the time, how the people lived in the time of the golden age when Egypt ruled the world," Hawass says.

The day-to-day objects found are giving researchers insights into the daily lives of the ancient Egyptians (Credit: Zahi Hawass Center for Egyptology and High Council of Antiquities via Facebook)

Hawass, who says the team has only explored about a third of the lost city thus far, believes there are a lot more surprises to be found. The expert is particularly excited to uncover the tombs, which he speculates will be filled with treasures. We, for one, cannot wait to hear more about this amazing ancient city.

Resources: Zahi Hawass/Facebook, Business Insider.com