Al-Ahram Weekly Online   11 - 17 August 2005
Issue No. 755
Published in Cairo by AL-AHRAM established in 1875

King of the wild frontier

Remains of a Hyksos treasure found early last week in a cachet within the foundation of the fortified city of Tharo in North Sinai will shed more light on Ahmose I's strategy during his famous war of liberation. Nevine El-Aref reports

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From left: the foundation of the fortified wall where the cachet was found; the newly-discovered limestone relief

A team of archaeologists digging at Tel-Habuwa, near the town of Qantara East and three kilometres east of the Suez Canal, has made a significant discovery. The find comes as part of the search for more of the ancient forts that played a major role in protecting Egypt's eastern gateway to the Delta from foreign invasion.

Within the foundation structure of the Tharo fort, the starting point of Horus military road, Egyptian excavators this week chanced upon a cachet of limestone reliefs bearing names of two royal personalities and two seated statues of differing sizes. The larger statue is made of limestone and belongs to a yet unidentified personage, but from its size and features archaeologists believe that it could be a statue of Horus, the god of the city. In 2001 archaeologists unearthed remains of a mud-brick temple dedicated to this deity. The second is a headless limestone statue inscribed on the back with the name and title of its holder. This statue belongs to the person responsible for the Tharo gate during the Hyksos era.

"The discoveries have created great excitement among archaeologists," says Mohamed Abdel-Maqsoud, the leader of the excavation team and head of antiquities in Lower Egypt. Abdel-Maqsoud points out that this is a very important discovery, providing us with a better understanding of the Rind papyrus -- now on display in the British Museum -- and the military strategy used by the Pharaoh Ahmose I to liberate Egypt from the Hyksos. The Rind papyrus mentions that Ahmose attacked Tharo and imposed his authority on the town in order to lay siege to the Hyksos in their capital Avaris -- near the Delta town of Sharqiya -- and block any contact with their allies in the east.

Until 2003, when the fortified city of Tharo was found, nothing was known about this military town. At that time several objects were found denoting that Tharo dated from the New Kingdom, so Egyptologists believed that it was built by Ahmose I's successors in an attempt to protect Egypt's eastern gate from any further invaders. This latest discovery, however, proves that Tharo was built long before that, since the Hyksos took over it as a military base on Egypt's eastern border. The town expanded after the war of liberation, and forts were built throughout the period of the New Kingdom.

Zahi Hawass, secretary-general of the Supreme Council of Antiquities, says this discovery is concrete evidence of the events depicted on reliefs of Seti I engraved on the northern wall of the Hypostyle Hall in Karnak Temple. These relate to the military campaign led by Seti I in the first year of his rule to smash rebels. Hawass pointed out that the discovery also showed how ancient artists drew accurate topographical maps of the Horus Road, which stretched from Egypt to Palestine.

According to Seti I's relief, 11 forts were originally built on this section of the road, although excavations have so far unveiled only four.

Hawass believes that after the liberation from the Hyksos, the Pharaohs of the New Kingdom intentionally buried all the Hyksos structures within the structures of other buildings in order to obliterate the era of occupation.

The newly unearthed limestone relief shows for the first time ever a princess named Tani, whose nationality and lineage is unknown. This princess, along with a prince named Nahsy, stand before the god Baneb-Jed. "This relief is very perplexing because of this unknown princess," Abdel-Maqsoud says. However he believes that further study and excavation could lead to the unravelling of the enigma.

Beside the town of Habuwa are remains of dwellings, storehouses and administrative buildings dating back to the Hyksos and the New Kingdom periods, as well as a great many ovens for baking bread to feed a large number of soldiers.

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