May 28, 2008

Egyptian Scientists Discover Ancient Army Headquarters

The Egyptian government announced Wednesday that archaeologists have found what they believe to be the ancient ruins of the headquarters of the Pharaonic army, which guarded Egypt's northeastern border for more than 1,500 years.

The finding, which includes a fortress and adjoining town, is identified with the ancient place name Tharu, and is located about 2 miles (3 km) northeast of Qantara in the Sinai peninsula, said Egyptian archaeologist Mohamed Abdel Maksoud during an interview with Reuters.

A statement by the government's Supreme Council for Antiquities said the town sat at the start of a military road connecting the Nile Valley to the Levant, which Egypt controlled in part for much of the time period.

Since 1986, the archaeologists, led by Maksoud, have been working on forts along the road. But Maksoud said it was only this year, after the team discovered inscriptions, that the identification was confirmed.

The inscriptions mention three Pharaohs -- Tuthmosis II, who ruled from about 1512 BC and built one of the military facilities along the route, Seti I and Ramses II, who between them ruled Egypt from 1318 to 1237 BC. The site contains the remains of a mud-brick fortress measuring 500 meters by 250 meters, with four- meter-high towers, and dates from the time of Ramses II.

"Initial studies at the site prove that this fort was the headquarters of the Egyptian army from the time of the New Kingdom until the Ptolemaic period," the statement said. The New Kingdom began in about 1570 BC and the Ptolemaic period ended with Cleopatra's death during the first century BC.

"The archaeological features of this fort confirm the inscriptions on ancient Egyptian temples showing the shape of the city of Tharu, which lay at the start of the Horus military road," the statement explained.

"The site contains the first New Kingdom temple ever found in northern Sinai," the statement said, and consisted of "warehouses where the ancient Egyptian army stored grain and weapons, as well as ovens, seals and earthenware vessels."


Image Caption: An ancient Egyptian inscription which was found in what archaeologists believe is the fortress town of Tharu in northern Sinai, is seen in this undated handout photo made available May 28, 2008. Credit: Supreme Council of Antiquities