Archaeology in the Western Desert

27 Aug 2010

At http://yalealumnimagazine.com/issue/2010_09/egypt3841.html ... Yale University press release. Egyptologists have barely explored the western desert, an expanse the size of Texas, but recently some intrepid archaeologists with links to Yale have been tracking back along old roads crossing the desert, fanning out from Thebes. They have found a lost pharaonic complex with administrative buildings, garrison quarters, and small industries and workshops. Umm Mawagir flourished between 1650-1550 (conventional dates) during the period when native Egyptians ruled at Thebes but the Hyksos dominated the Delta. It seems the Theban kingdom, squeezed between the Nubians in the south and the Hyksos in the north, were far from weak and ineffective. Umm Mawagir is 100 miles into the desert and was built to control a vital trade route.

The research involved hiking a number of tracks and roads from Luxor in the general direction of west and along the way large amounts of ceramics from different periods was found. However, it was the route to Kharga Oasis that was most profitable. At what is known in Arabic as Gulch of Terror two 3800 years old inscriptions were found featuring an early phonetic alphabet. The road to Kharga however was used throughout antiquity - and infra structure for travellers occurs at regular intervals, outposts that served food ands supplied water - especially during the Middle Kingdom period. Until now Egyptian settlement at Kharga was supposed to have not existed until after 1200BC (the end of the Late Bronze Age). Montuhotep II, in a text, actually boasted of adding the western desert into his realm (or sphere of influence) but this was doubted. The search started for evidence of a MK city at Kharga and this has now been found. It is Umm Mawagir. A massive bakery was found with facilities to feed a large garrison (as well as the settlement itself). This was confirmed by the discovery of many broken cooking pots typical of the Medjoy, the highly valued Nubian mercenary troops used by the Egyptians. It is now thought Kharga was mainly a strategic military centre. The question now is - how was this military muscle applied against the Hyksos?