for National Geographic News
The largest known fortress from ancient Egypt's days of the pharaohs has been unearthed near the Suez Canal, archaeologists announced on Sunday.
The massive fortress, discovered at a site called Tell-Huba, includes the graves of soldiers and horses and once featured a giant water-filled moat, scientists said.
The discovery dates back to ancient Egypt's struggle to reconquer the northern Sinai Peninsula from an occupying force known as the Hyksos (see Egypt map).
The campaign against the Hyksos was depicted in etchings on the ancient walls of the Karnak Temple, 450 miles (720 kilometers) south of Cairo.
Archaeologists said the new find shows those stone-chiseled tales to be surprisingly accurate.
"The bones of humans and horses found in the area attest dramatically to the reality of such battles," said Zahi Hawass, director general of Egypt's Supreme Council for Antiquities (SCA).
"Previously, the area was known only from depictions in temples elsewhere in Egypt. We had no first-hand evidence of what was happening there during the pharaonic period."
The discovery was part of a broader effort called the North Sinai Archaeological Project, which was started in 1991 to identify and protect archaeological sites that were threatened by an industrial agriculture project.
The fort, called Fort Tjaru (or Tharo), was unearthed by a team led by Mohammed Abdul Maqsoud of the SCA. The fort dates from the 18th and 19th Dynasties (from 1560 to 1081 B.C.).
Ancient Empires Clash
Tjaru's mud brick walls were 42 feet (13 meters) thick, enclosing an area 546 yards (500 meters) by 273 yards (250 meters). Twenty-four watchtowers loomed over the parapets. A deep moat ringed the entire complex.
It was the biggest in a chain of 11 fortresses that stretched from Suez to the present-day city of Rafah on Egypt's border with the Palestinian territories.
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