Unique 13th-century-BC Water Wells Discovered Near Fortress in North Sinai
The Sinai Peninsula, the only part of Egypt located in Asia, sandwiched between the Mediterranean Sea and the Red Sea, is a land bridge between Asia and Africa. This peninsula has been the subject of intense archaeological scrutiny and excavations over the past few decades, as Egypt seeks to re-establish its prominence as a cultural, historical, and tourism hub, under the aegis of the Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities. Now, an archaeological mission working in the Tell El Kedwa region in the North Sinai Governate, close to the Mediterranean Sea coast, has discovered five water wells dated to the 13th century BC, reports The National News .
As per a press release by the Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities headed by Secretary General Doctor Mostafa Waziry, these wells were part of the ancient Egyptian Way of Horus or Horus military road, leading east out of Egypt into Canaan (i.e., Palestine and Israel). These ancient water wells were built before the reign of Seti I (1292-1190 BC).
The current mission, part of the Sinai Development Project 2021-22, chaired by Ramadan Helmi, has stated that the Horus route dates back to the Pharaonic times. Several other prominent pharaonic sites will be open to tourists soon in the North Sinai region.
“It is the first time that such wells have been found, as they were earlier only known from scientific documents and engravings on the Karnak Temples in Luxor from the reign of king Seti I,” Waziri said to Ahram Online .
The outlines of the ancient Tell el Kedwa military fortress where the five 13th-century-BC water wells were recently discovered. ( Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities )
The North Sinai Water Wells Used by Horus Military Fortress
The North Sinai water wells discovered along the Horus military route were part of the Tell el Kedwa fortress, which was only discovered in 2019 (see also read link below). It is considered to be “one of the oldest fortresses ever discovered in Egypt.” The recently uncovered water wells were located just outside the walls of the fortress, which was used as a military fortress to protect Egypt’s northeast border.
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Interestingly, Mr. Helmi has added that four out of the five wells were completely filled with sand. This was done on purpose to prevent the invading Persian army (who took control of Egypt in 525 BC) from obtaining water as they proceeded from the north to the eastern edge of Egypt. “Evidence also indicates that it was destroyed and destroyed on purpose, only one well, so the invaders wouldn't use it during the Persian invasion,” according to the press release.
The remaining well, which was unfilled, was a little over 3 meters (9.2 feet) deep, and was built rather incongruously, unlike the style of the other wells. This water well contained 13 pottery rings and several clay pots dating back to the 26th dynasty of ancient Egypt (664-525 BC), known as the Saite period. The Saite period marked the beginning of the Late Period of ancient Egypt. The Tell el Kedwa fortress is dated to the reign of King Psamtik I, who managed to kick the Assyrians out of Egypt.
According to Dr. Ayman Ashmawi, who heads Egypt’s archaeology sector, “It was the only well that was built in an unconventional way, where it was dug in the yellow sand, and rings of pottery were placed on top of each other inside it. The diameter of one is approximately one meter, with three side holes that help to get down and climb out of the well. The mission dug and descended a little more than three meters [3 yards], finding 13 luxury rings, and many of the luxury pots date back to the 26th family era, the Saite era.”
These copper shards were found at the site and are evidence of a large copper-smelting workshop within the military fortress of Tell el Kedwa. ( Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities )
Horus Military Route and Additional Discoveries
The ancient Horus military route connected Egypt to Palestine (Canaan) in ancient times. It was approximately 220 kilometers (137 miles) long, and used during the old, middle, and new kingdoms of ancient Egypt. The route is mentioned in inscriptions at some of Egypt’s other prominent archaeological sites, including Luxor’s famous Karnak Temple.
In fact, an inscription by King Seti I at the Karnak Temple in Luxor, indicates that a series of fortifications existed along the Horus military road, with a ring bearing the name of King Seti I in front of each fortress. The Tell el Kedwa fortress was one of these fortresses.
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Additionally, within the fort, a warehouse about 12 meters (39 feet) long, and 4 meters (13 feet) wide was discovered by another archaeological team under the aegis of Dr. Nadia Khidr. They speculate that it was a storage site of some sort from the Saite period. This structure also housed kilns, part of a larger copper smelting workshop evidently, as copper shards were found near the site (both inside and outside the fortress).
Top image: One of the 13th-century-BC Tell el Kedwa fortress water wells recently found in the North Sinai Governate of Egypt, along the ancient Horus military road to Canaan. Source: Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities
By Sadir Pandey
El-Aref, N. 2022. Three new discoveries . Available at: https://english.ahram.org.eg/News/462061.aspx.
Tabikha, K. 2022. Egypt announces discovery of five ancient water wells in North Sinai . Available at: https://www.thenationalnews.com/mena/egypt/2022/03/01/egypt-announces-discovery-of-five-ancient-water-wells-in-north-sinai/.