The ancient Egyptian civilisation reached the pinnacle of its power in the New Kingdom, ruling much of Nubia and most of the Near East between 1570BC and 1544BC. The Eighteenth Dynasty included some of Egypt’s most famous pharaohs, including Ahmose I, Hatshepsut, Amenhotep III, Akhenaten, and Tutankhamun, who controlled capital cities well documented today such as Thebes and Memphis. But the exact location of major hubs of the earlier dynastic period are still unknown, including the capital of the first dynasty – Thinis – and Itjtawy – the royal city founded by Amenemhat I – who ruled from 1991BC to 1962BC.
Dr Naunton, the author behind ‘Searching for the Lost Tombs of Egypt,’ is hoping that will soon change, as archaeologists look to move away from traditional methods of excavating.
He told Express.co.uk: “The direction that a lot of archaeology is going in is away from excavation and digging things up – it doesn’t allow you to cover much ground.
“Imagine you excavate a two-by-two square and that turns out to be full of stuff – it might not be very interesting stuff, but you’ve still got to bag up every object and register them.
“If it’s got lots of stuff in – whether important or not – it might take you two years to go six inches down only to discover that there isn’t really much there.
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“But you might have just given yourself five years worth of writing up.”
Dr Naunton revealed how Ground Penetrating Radar (GPR) scans and satellite imagery is allowing archaeologists to search larger areas.
He added: “We can now cover much more ground with non-invasive techniques – things like radar, magnetometry, Electrical Resistivity Tomography (ERT) – which allows us to see things like the outlines of houses, buildings or temples.
“Excavations might yield interesting things, but it’s just not as quick.
“You can get the outlines of a city of 1,000 square metres in a matter of days with these techniques.
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Dr Chris Naunton spoke with Express.co.uk
“And, even more than that, as people are starting to look at things like environmental change – like the move of the River Nile – that obviously had a big bearing on the development of building.
“If you’ve got a town which springs up on the banks of the river and develops over centuries, only for the river to dry up, then that town has got to move – you don’t see that if you’re excavating.”
Dr Naunton, who is also the Director of the Egypt Exploration Society, says understanding the changing landscape could help archaeologists find out more about these ancient cities.
He added: “We’re beginning to see that the Egyptians had citywide plans for certain big spaces and they were able to build on a huge scale, on a level we weren’t really seeing until we looked at satellite images.
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“If we continue doing that, we might be able to see ancient missing cities which we know existed from text, but we’ve never found on the ground.
“The early dynastic city of Thinis, or the 12th Dynasty capital of Itjtawy – we know they existed and we know approximately where they must have been.
“But it might not be until we know how the environment has changed that we can understand where they are and where they might have gone.
“So I think that is where things are heading.”
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Itjtawy remains undiscovered, but archaeologists believe it is located in the Faiyum region, with the area being chosen due to its proximity to the source of Asiatic incursions into Egypt to help prevent further attacks.
Thinis is also yet to be found, but is well attested by ancient writers, including the classical historian Manetho, who cites it as the centre of Upper and Lower Egypt, founded by Narmer, who united the nation and was its first pharaoh.
The city began a steep decline from the Third Dynasty and the capital was relocated to Memphis.
Although the precise location of Thinis is unknown, consensus places it in the vicinity of ancient Abydos and modern Girga.