Unearthing Tanis: The Excavation Works in Tanis

Tanis is the home to many treasures the archeological world holds so dear. The discovered artifacts, tombs of pharaohs, great temples of Egyptian deities, and the urban districts of the ancient city have contributed so much to Egyptology and unveiled the mystery of the forgotten past of the lost city.

Over centuries in the north-eastern Nile Delta of Egypt, the site of Sân el-Hagar, the modern name of Tanis, has been a place where many scientists have found relics of the past civilization of Egypt. Its grounds have yielded many statues and important artifacts now in museum collections across Europe. And up until today, the lost city of Tanis continues to host archaeological expeditions in search of more finds. But when did they start digging and what did they really discovered? Here are what Tanis HQ found out:

Father Claude Sicard (1722)

Father Claude Sicard is a French priest and scholar who first discovered and identified the site in 1722.

Napoleon Bonaparte (1798)

During Napoleon’s expedition in Egypt, he had the site surveyed. And one of the scholars who accompanied him, P. Jacotin draw the first topographical plan of its location.

Jean-Jacques Rifaud (1825)

This French sculptor carried out the first dig work in the site in 1825 to search for Egyptian artifacts for the collection of the French Consul, Bernardino Drovetti. He unearthed four large sphinxes statues and other treasured pieces that were all taken to European museums such as the Louvre and to Saint Petersburg. Drovetti and Henry Salt found eleven more statues and they were also sent to the Louvre, Berlin, and Alexandria. But even with these antiquities, not one of them knew that the site was the lost city of Tanis.

François Auguste Mariette (1860-1864)

The official massive excavation of Tanis was carried out by Auguste Mariette, a French Egyptologist between 1860 to 1864. He concentrated on the temple of Amun and was able to dig up the Four Hundred Year Stella, royal statues which dated to the Middle Kingdom, and items of pottery and small artifacts. However, he believed that the site might have been the Hyksos capital, Avaris or even the city Pi-Ramesses, the capital of Ramses II of the 19th Dynasty.

Karl Richard Lepsius (1866)

In the year 1866, the Prussian Egyptologist and linguist Karl Richard Lepsius found the Decree of Canopus in Tanis. It is an ancient bilingual, trigraphic Egyptian decree, which dates from the Ptolemaic period. It was written in Hieroglyphic, Demotic, and Greek and its discovery provided a key for deciphering hieroglyphic and demotic scripts.

William Flinders Petrie (1883-1886)

From 1883 to 1886, the English archeologist William Flinders Petrie worked in Tanis. He discovered the Roman era 150 carbonized papyri which are now in the British Museum. He also configured the whole design of the historical site of Tanis and its temples.

Jean Pierre Marie Montet (1922-1950s)

Pierre Montet, the famous French Egyptologist worked for decades in the site of Tanis (1922-1950s). He was able to scientifically prove that the site was indeed the legendary city of Tanis and that it was not Pi-Ramesses or Avaris as previous scientists had claimed. His biggest discovery was in the year 1939 when he found the royal necropolis of the 21st and the 22nd dynasties in Egypt. The tombs were all subterranean and built from mud-brick and reused stone blocks. Four of the tombs belonged to Psusennes I (1039-991 BC), Amenemope (993-984 BC), Osorkon II (874-850 BC) and Sheshonq III (825-733 BC). It contained a wealth of artifacts and jewelry that rivaled that of Tutankhamun's tomb in the Valley of the Kings. The artifacts from the Tanis necropolis include golden masks, silver coffins, wooden sarcophagi covered with gold sheet, gold tableware, many bracelets, necklaces, pendants, amulets, and pectorals.

Recent Discoveries

A sacred lake in the temple to the goddess Mut had been discovered in 2009. The lake had been 15 meters long and 12 meters wide and made from limestone. This was actually the second sacred lake found in the site as the first one had been identified in 1928.

Also, in 2011, through analysis of high-resolution satellite imagery, archaeologist Sarah Parcak found numerous related mud-brick walls, streets, and large residences, amounting to an entire city plan, in an area that appears blank under normal images.

The antiquities found in Tanis and the remaining ruins are only a shadow of the once great city of Tanis. It had been forgotten in the pages of history, but dedicated archeologists brought to light not only its buried treasures but also immeasurable knowledge from the past.

1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tanis
2. https://www.nationalgeographic.com/archaeology-and-history/archaeology/tanis-egypt/
3. https://www.britannica.com/place/Tanis
4. https://www.atlasobscura.com/places/tanis
5. https://www.ancient-origins.net/ancient-places-africa/three-famous-sites-one-story-legendary-city-tanis-006933
6. http://www.jcs-group.com/enigma/treasure/tanis.html
7. http://www.touregypt.net/featurestories/tanis.htm
8. http://www.academia.edu/18230402/Tanis_Its_history_and_excavations