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FOUND: Evidence of a ‘Mud-Brick Manhattan’ in Ancient Egypt

Made in Naukratis (Photo: Marie-Lan Nguyen/Wikimedia)

More than 2,000 years ago, the city of Naukratis was a major Greek trading port on a branch of the Nile River. Archaeologists had thought that they had found everything there was to find in the ruins of this ancient city. But a new excavation by the British Museum has turned up thousands of new artifacts and revealed an even bigger, bustling city, of “tower houses” that stood three to six stories tall.

Naukratis was “a mud-brick Manhattan” with a population of around 16,000, the project’s leader told the GuardianAmong the new finds were wood from Greek ships—evidence backing up Herodotus’ description of the city as a port served by cargo ships, even though it’s far inland from the Mediterranean Sea. The excavation also turned up construction materials, two temple sites, and revealed the city’s harbor location. To top that off, the team found Egyptian figurines associated with a “festival of drunkenness,” the Guardian says.

Naukratis was first rediscovered more than 130 years ago, by British Egyptologist William Matthew Flinders Petrie. The city was one of the most sought after ancient places, but no one was quite sure where it had been located. Petrie found it essentially by accident. Setting out from Cairo, he happened upon the right spot, where, he wrote:

The whole ground is thick with early Greek pottery, and it seemed almost a sacrilege to walk over the heaps with the fine lustrous black ware crunching under one[’]s boots. Pieces with fret pattern, honeysuckle pattern, heads, arms, legs of figures, horses, & such like lovely things were soon picked up; both in black figures on an orange ground, & red figures on a black ground, mostly with incised outlines. It seemed as if I was wandering in the smashings of the Museum vase-rooms.

After extensive early excavations, it seemed like most of those treasure had been gathered up. But as the new excavation proved, there was plenty more to be discovered.

Bonus finds: Gold coins in a 2,000-year-old Chinese tomb

Every day, we highlight one newly lost or found object, curiosity or wonder. Discover something unusual or amazing? Tell us about it! Send your finds to sarah.laskow@atlasobscura.com.