Slovak Egyptologists made an unexpected discovery
In September 2021, Egyptologists from the Institute of Oriental Studies SAS and specialists supported by the Gedíd Aigyptos Foundation completed the eleventh research season at the Tell el-Retábí archaeological site. This time, experts focused on the little-known north-western edge of the fortress of Pharaoh Ramesses III. from the first half of the 12th century BC. During the research, they unexpectedly managed to uncover two other fortress walls, which partially overlap each other. This discovery fundamentally changed the idea of the form of the investigated fortress.
“Until now, we assumed that on the north side of the fortress was only one wall during the reign of Ramesses III, which in ancient times was enough to defend itself from the side protected by a lake or wetland. However, we discovered two more. One of them was 5 metres thick, the other - higher and younger was up to 9 metres thick,” Jozef Hudec from the Institute of Oriental Studies SAS describes the finding and adds that both discovered walls are significantly damaged by earthworks of the owner of the neighbouring present-day market.
Inside the fortress, archaeologists discovered a massive structure of adobe bricks, the outer wall of which has been preserved to a height of almost half a meter. The purpose of the construction remains unknown. What is also interesting is another discovered building - two pedestals of columns have been found inside it so far. The research also revealed several bowls, a fish skeleton, beads and an amphora from the Third Intermediate Period (11th - 7th century BC).
Interpretation and dating of the walls give room for several hypotheses.
"One of the possibilities we are considering is that the lower masonry was not even a wall. It could also serve as a backing or foundation wall of the higher wall, based on its stabilisation in the wet or muddy bank of a nearby water surface in ancient times. These and other questions related to the shape of the fortress or several fortresses in Tell el-Retábí will be able to provide us with answers until the next research season,” observes the Egyptologist.
The archaeological site of Tell el-Retábí is located in the old Nile valley of Wádí Tumilát, between the present-day cities of Zagazig and Ismailía. In ancient times, this valley was an important communication line between the Nile Delta, the Red Sea and the Sinai Peninsula. It provided the ancient Egyptians with relatively secure access to mineral resources in Sinai and was also an important gateway to Asia. However, the importance of Tell el-Retábí in the time of the pharaohs was also due to the fact that there were water sources near the tell.
The September research season confirmed that Tell el-Retábí was not only a fortress, but also a trading and manufacturing site. This is demonstrated by discoveries of pottery from Greece and the Eastern Mediterranean and thick burnt layers, uncovered between a 9-meter wall and a massive structure.