Washington, July 2 : Archaeologists have unearthed a large administration building and silos at Tell Edfu in southern Egypt, which provide fresh clues about the emergence of urban life in the country.
The discovery provides new information about a little understood aspect of ancient Egypt - the development of cities in a culture that is largely famous for its monumental architecture.
Excavations late last year revealed details of seven silos, the largest grain bins found in ancient Egypt, as well as an older columned hall that was an administration center.
Long fascinated with temples and monuments such as pyramids, scholars have traditionally spent little time exploring the residential communities of ancient Egypt.
Due to intense farming and heavy settlement over the years, much of the record of urban civilization has been lost.
So little archaeological evidence remains that some scholars believe Egypt did not have a highly developed urban culture, giving Mesopotamia the distinction of teaching people how to live in cities.
According to Gil Stein, Director of the Oriental Institute, the traditional view of ancient Egypt has been biased by the fact that most excavation work so far has focused on temples and tombs.
The mounds, which comprise the remains of Egyptian cities, were either ignored, buried under modern towns, or else destroyed by modern agricultural activities, he added.
"Edfu is one of the very few remaining city mounds that are accessible for scientific study," said Stein.
"The work at Edfu is important and innovative in that it finally allows us to examine ancient Egypt as an urban society, whose cities and towns housed bureaucrats, craft specialists, priests, and farmers," he added.
"Nadine Moeller's discovery of silos and local administrative buildings shows us how these cities actually functioned as places where the agricultural wealth of the Nile valley was mobilized for the state," according to Stein.
At Tell Edfu, archaeologists have uncovered what amounts to a downtown area.
The community, halfway between the modern cities of Aswan and Luxor, was a provincial capital an important regional center. The administrative building and silos were at the heart of the ancient community.
Because grain was a form of currency, the silos functioned as a bank and a food source. The silos' size indicates the community was apparently a prosperous urban center.
The grain bins are in a large silo courtyard of the 17th Dynasty (1630-1520 B.C.) and consist of at least seven round, mud-brick silos.
With a diameter between 5.5 and 6.5 meters, they are the largest examples discovered within a town center.