Tanis: The Lost City

Unlike Atlantis, the Lost City of Tanis is as real as it could get. For a long time, many thought of the existence of the city was just a legend. Modern Egypt calls the place Sân el-Hagar; But to the ancient Egyptians, this city was known as Djanet, the capital of Egypt of the 21st and 22nd dynasties during the Third Intermediate Period (1069-525 BCE). It was a wealthy commercial center along the Nile Delta northeast of Cairo. And the name Tanis was actually its Greek name. But what made Tanis great and how did this great city become “lost”?

Here at Tanis HQ, we have researched the two reasons why Tanis was abandoned and forgotten, and neither of these reasons involves a sandstorm. First, would be the shifting of the water flow of the river and the second is the change in political power.

Before Tanis was “found”, the site was a silted plain that no one gave any interest to. Experts looking for the lost city were looking at the wrong places and none knew its real name. Early archeologists who have excavated many artifacts from the site have mistakenly identified Tanis as the ancient city of Hyksos and some claimed that it might have been Pi-Ramesses. However, it was only in 1939 that the French archaeologist Pierre Montet conclusively proved that the site was actually the lost city of Tanis. His discoveries continue to be recognized as some of the most precious findings in Egyptology.

Long before Tanis was buried in time, it was the seat of power and royal residence of the pharaohs during Egypt’s era of disunity and divided rule, the Third Intermediate Period (1069-525 BCE). In the past, Pi-Ramesses was the royal residence, but after its branch of the Nile silted up and its harbor became unusable, the place was abandoned, and Tanis emerged as the new royal residence.

Aside from Tanis in Lower Egypt, the city of ancient Thebes in Upper Egypt held power almost equally with Tanis. The relations between the two halves of the country were amicable and cooperative. And during the period of the 22nd Dynasty, the rulers of Tanis were of Libyan descent and was founded by Shoshenq I, not scions of traditional Egyptian families. This may have contributed to the city's disappearance after their rule.

Between Tanis and Thebes, Tanis geared towards a more secular rule and Thebes, the theocratic style where there is no separation between state and religion. Tanis rulers, nevertheless, still consulted the gods but made their decisions based on circumstances and accepted the responsibility of their actions. The city was also a home of several temples and the chief gods worshiped there were Amun, his consort, Mut and their child Khonsu, forming the Tanite Triad.

The later years of the 22nd Dynasty (945-715 BCE) brought a civil war and this further divided Egypt. The cities of Herakleopolis, Tanis, Hermopolis, Thebes, Memphis, and Sais had their own proclaimed kings. And because of this, the even more divided Egypt was easily invaded by the Nubians from the South.

The status of royal residence was taken from Tanis after serving 17 pharaohs in the course of 360 years. Although this happened, the city remained populated for many years. But by the time of the Roman period, the port of Tanis had silted up, and the once glorious city became a fairly minor village. It was totally abandoned during the Islamic times and buried underneath the sands for centuries.

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