Largest ancient garrison found in Egypt’s eastern Delta


In Egypt, an ancient fortified garrison town from the time of King Psmatik I was discovered at Tell Dafna in the Ismailia governorate.

A Supreme Council of Antiquities (SCA) archaeological mission in Ismailia revealed the remains of a military town dating back to the 26th Dynasty (ca. 664-625 B.C.), at the site of Tell Dafna, between the El-Manzala Lake and the Suez Canal, 15km northeast of the city of western Qantara.

The northeast Delta held a special role in ancient Egypt. The area was a major hub for trade with the east. It was also the location of an ancient military and trade route known as the Ways of Horus connecting Egypt with the East. The area was used as a strategic position by the Late Period kings (ca. 747-525 B.C), especially those of the 26th Dynasty in order to defend the eastern borders of Egypt from invaders.

Dr. Zahi Hawass, secretary general of the SCA, said King Ramesses II of the 19th Dynasty (ca. 1279-1212 BC) chose the site of Tell Dafna to put up a fortress town on Egypt’s eastern border in order to repulse Egypt’s enemies. The newly discovered fortress indicates that King Psmatik I (ca. 664-610 BC) also built additional fortifications here.

Dr. Mohamed Abdel Maksoud, head of the Central Department of the Lower Egyptian Antiquities and the director of the mission, said that the newly discovered fortress covers an area of about 380×625m, while the enclosure wall is about 13m in width. It is considered to be the largest fortress ever discovered in the eastern Delta.

The team also revealed a large mud brick temple consisting of three halls, a group of storage magazines at the eastern and western sides of the temple and a small mud brick palace, with eight rooms, located at the northeast end of the temple.

Further, the mission found a group of drainage networks for rain water inside the ancient structures. The drains consist of pottery tunnels capped with a group of pottery vessels buried vertically in the sand up to a depth of about three meters.

A huge number of pottery, as well as local and imported pottery lids, were found, said Maksoud. These pieces are representative of the large scale trading activity between Egypt, the near East and Greece at this time. A white plate inscribed with Demotic text, some red and black decorated Amphora, a group of stones used for grinding seeds, an amulet in the form of Wadjet-eye and parts of alabaster kohl pots were also among the finds. Bronze arrow heads were also dug out, revealing the army posturing of the site.

Ancient military activities had been detected across Qantara by Egyptologists. On Qantara East, north of Sinai, Maksoud’s mission previously discovered an 18th Dynasty military fort with four rectangular towers built of mud brick. With 4-meter-thick walls, the fortress is believed to have been the oldest military defense found on Horus military road, which once connected Egypt to Palestine. Egypt’s military force during the New Kingdom indicates Egypt’s strategies with protecting its eastern gate – shown on a relief dated to the reign of King Seti I found on a wall of Karnak Temple in Luxor. The location also yielded ancient administrative edifices and granaries, about 187 tons in capacity, used to store grains for feeding soldiers who were stationed in Qantara East. These men protected Egypt’s eastern gate from enemy invaders.

Today’s SCA team who unearthed Tell Dafna’s garrison consists of six archeologists, an architectural draftsman, an architectural surveyor and a topographer. The work at the site will continue until 2010.