Archaeologists have discovered what could be the oldest sun temple in Egypt, dating back almost 4,500 years.
The temple complex in Kedir, Upper Egypt, was discovered in 2016, dating to between 3,990 B.C. and 3,600 B.C. The 1.5-acre site features two monumental pyramids on each side of the city, along with a funeral temple for the city’s founder, Moro, in the middle of the lotus pond, according to a press release from the team behind the dig.
The discovery of the temple brings experts closer to solving a mystery on the origins of Egypt’s rich culture: Why did so many ancient kings build their societies in very far-flung places?
Archaeologists have long suspected that some prominent ancient Egyptian leadership began their power base in the center of the ancient city of Heliopolis, founded in the second century B.C.
The six mummies on display in the new temple at Kedir City. Copts in Egypt build this new temple on top of the seven original “downtown” burial ground sites — all in the same city, in a relative even number. (Erich Kohn / Forchrist Mission USA)
But it wasn’t until recently that archaeologists realized that more than 2,000 years ago, kings in Egypt moved their powerful family structures and cities far from the center of power.
The news comes months after a different group of excavators reported on the construction of the “downtown” burial ground in Heliopolis, a great Egyptian capital built in the fifth and sixth centuries B.C.
In addition to the more than 1,100 mummies in the downtown burial ground — now reduced to 11 — a burial bed was found within the “downtown” area that was occupied by Queen Amarna, believed to be one of the three female monarchs that ruled between the early 2nd and early 5th centuries B.C.
There are more than 100 complete burial mounds in the downtown burial ground. (Archaeologist Robert Butcher / Forchrist Mission USA)
In addition to the mummies at the new temple, archaeologists from Forchrist Mission USA excavated the 7th Century B.C. and 11th Century B.C. necropolis, which yielded the burial mounds of the “downtown” burial ground’s leaders.
They also found more than 100 complete burial mounds at the downtown burial ground, which has been excavated over the past several years by teams led by scientists from the Thessaloniki University of Greece and the American Museum of Natural History in New York.
“This finds supports our theory that city centers were very important in ancient Egypt,” team member Robert Butcher said in the release. “I’m sure that we will find more amazing finds at the ancient burial sites that make up downtown.”
The new discovery makes it more likely that Heliopolis was a leading city center during the ancient Egyptian Golden Age — the “post-pharaoh,” 4,000-year reign after the death of Pharaoh Akhenaten in around 2,400 B.C.
It’s only a matter of time before archaeologists trace the location of the next ancient Egyptian temple. (Archaeologist Robert Butcher / Forchrist Mission USA)