December 17, 2017

Desert Road Trips

Desert RoadJohn Coleman Darnell and his wife, Deborah have driving on desolate caravan tracks west of the Nile for over the last two decades. They find pottery and ruins where travelers camped in the time of the pharoahs. They have come across some of the earliest documentation of Egyptian history and discovered inscriptions considered to be one of the finest examples of alphabetic writing.

A project co-directed by the Darnells and Yale University called the Theban Desert Road survey, calls attention to the significance of caravan routes and oasis settlement in Egyptian antiquity. Two weeks ago, they announced a spectacular find: extensive remains of a settlement-an administrative, economic and military center- that flourished 3,500 years ago in the desert 110 miles west of Luxor and 300 miles south of Cairo.

The discovery could rewrite history in Egypt's past. In 2005, on the 218acre site at Kharga Oasis, the Darnells and their team began collecting evidence of remains of mud brick walls, grindstones, baking ovens and heaps of fire ash and broken bread molds. In addition, the team found traces of administrative building, grain silos, storerooms and artisan workshops. There were probably a few thousand inhabitants here from 1650BC to 1550BC nearly a thousand years after the construction of the Great Pyramid at Giza.

The new research explains the rise and importance of Thebes where rulers, most likely Mentuhotep 11, commanded the desert oasis now known as Umm Mawagir.