Newly discovered fortress on Way of Horus in Egypt stood sentinel against its enemies
Ancient Egypt was one of the most powerful civilizations of the ancient world, but it was under attack by other peoples at various times throughout its history. Consequently, it had a powerful military and many fortifications. The largest fortress of the New Kingdom has been unearthed recently near the Suez Canal on the Horus Military Route, an ancient series of defensive forts and walls.
The ruins date back more than 3,000 years, to the time of the New Kingdom, 1580 to 1080 B.C. The Horus Military Route extended 217 miles (350 km), from Tharu near present-day Qantara to Egypt’s border city of Rafah. This fort, which had been known but not excavated, was near the ancient fortified city of Tell Habua.
This Google Map shows the present-day route of the ancient Horus Military Route from Qantara to Rafah. The body of water to the north is the Mediterranean Sea.
Archaeologists found a relief of King Thutmose II, who ruled from 1516-1504 B.C., at the fort. It may be the first royal monument found in Sinai, according to Zahi Hawass, chief of Egypt's Supreme Council of Antiquities. They also discovered the first New Kingdom temple in Sinai, dating from the 18 th Dynasty, 1569 to 1315 B.C.
“The discovery is significant as it reflects the details of the ancient Egyptian military history. It is a model example of Ancient Egypt’s military architecture, as well as the Egyptian war strategies through different ages, for the protection of the entirety of Egypt,” archaeologist Mohammed Abdel-Maqsoud, head of the excavation team, told The Cairo Post Saturday.
This if the fifth excavated fort of 11 fortresses described in the Way of Horus inscriptions on the walls of the Temple of Karnak at Luxor. The others forts have not been found yet. The fortresses and the Horus Military Route protected ancient Egypt’s eastern borders.
Egyptians fortified the route, also called the Way of Horus, with two parallel walls. The 11 fortresses acted as sentinel lookouts and early alert points before any hostile army could reach the fortified city at Tharu and Egypt proper. There may have been a bustling economy with a commercial and customs zone where taxes may have been collected before people reached the delta, Abdel-Maqsoud said.
"The Ways of Horus was a high road secured by a network of fortresses and provided with water reservoirs, as well as supply and custom stations that were established along the route between the Eastern Delta and South Palestine. It was a vital artery through which the military and commercial traffic between Egypt and Asia flowed,” wrote Abdul Ahman al-Rayedi in his book The Inscriptions of the Way of Horus.
The fort at Qantara was 550 by 275 yards (502 by 251 meters) of mud brick that had several towers standing 13 feet. The towers date from the time of Ramses II, who lived from 1304 to 1237 B.C. AncientMilitary.com says New Kingdom Egypt attained its most military power under Pharaohs Seti I and Ramses II.
A bas-relief carving of Seti I and Ramses II at Abydos. A collection of reliefs of these two men was found during the recent digs around Tharu. (Wikimedia Commons photo by Kurohito)
Earlier, under Ramses III, Egypt was under attack by the ferocious Sea Peoeple, a confederacy of seafaring warriors and raiders, who conquered many cities on the eastern Mediterranean from Gaza, which was not far from Egypt and at times was under Egypt’s sway, to Troy. Some have theorized that the Sea Peoples brought down the Hittite, Mycenaean and Mitanni kingdom, which fell about 1175 B.C.
An ancient Egyptian inscription says, “No land could stand before their arms, from Hatti, Kode, Carchemish, Arzawa, Alashiya on being cut down.” AncientMilitary.com says Carchemish survived the Sea People's onslaught, despite the Egyptian report.
The Sea Peoples attacked Egypt. Ramses III’s army met them on Egypt’s eastern frontier in the 1178 Battle of Djahy and defeated them. Ramses said his chariots saved the day, but the Sea People’s raids continued for years, including at the Battle of the Delta.
Egypt was also at war with Libyans, Hittites, Numidians and others during the New Kingdom, but not all of these peoples were east of the Route of Horus. Also, Egypt was attacking many of these peoples, rather than defending itself against them.
Featured image: The ruins of the fortress near the ancient fortified city of Tell Habua after recent excavations (Egypt Antiquities Ministry photo)
By Mark Miller