Tanis is located in the Nile Delta (among the irrigated farmland) about 103 miles away from Cairo. It has been known by many names in the past, for instance, the ancient Egyptians called it Djane, the Hebrews knew it as Zoan, and today it is called San El-Hagar. It was featured in Steven Speilberg’s 1981 film-’Raiders of the Lost Ark, where Indiana Jones was featured at the site, in a map room in which the entire city is laid out.

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What is particular about Tanis is the numerous fragments of massive megalithic structures including granites scattered all over the ancient site. And what really intrigues visitors are the fact that some remnants have been burnt. There are many speculations about the reason behind it. For instance, many take the reference to the theory of Dr. Robert Schoch on the solar outburst phenomenon while the mainstream archeologists deny it.

Historical Context Of Tanis

It is believed that Tanis has been inherited and repurposed many times. As per the discovered archeological artifacts, Tanis’s earliest dating period is set to be from the 21st Dynasty which lasted from 1069 BC to 945 BC. It was the capital of the 14th nome of Lower Egypt. At the end of the 20th Dynasty in Egypt (after the death of Ramses XI, c.1069 B.C.), Smendes (1069-1043 B.C.), who was a former governor of Delta and a high priest of Amun took over the Lower Egypt making Tanis as the capital. This was the beginning of the 21st Dynasty rules by two royal families (one in the north of Tanis and the other one in Thebes). After the death of Semendes, several pharaohs conquered the throne including Psousennes I whose burial was found in Tanis. At the end of the 21st dynasty, it was the Libyans who took over the power of Ancient Egypt.

The earliest study of Tanis dates to 1798 during the Napoleon Bonaparte’s expedition to Egypt by Pierre Jacobin who drew a map of the ancient site, and it was first excavated in 1825 by Jean-Jacques Rifaud who found two pink granite sphinxes which can be seen at the Musée du Louvre. In the late 1930s Pierre Montet, a French Egyptologist made a breakthrough discovery at Tanis. He and his team found an entire complex of royal tombs (including that of Sheshonq II), which were intact. They found four golden funeral masks, a quartzite sarcophagus of Takelot II, silver coffins, alabaster jars; and pieces of jewelry. These artifacts and the megalithic structures were excavated 10 to 20 feet underground to what we know today as Tanis.

Another fascinating discovery is the presence of a wide number of obelisks on the site compared to other ancient sites in Egypt. It is believed that the obelisks were constructed in pre-dynastic time. Some obelisks were also seen with the same burnt tint. Much of the remnants seemed to be ‘blown off ’. Some believe that the obelisks were not used as monumental objects to glorify the power of the pharaohs but instead were in fact used as a receiver of energy emitted by an ‘energy structure’ like the pyramids.

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Recent Discovery Of Tanis

Thanks to the latest technology, space archaeologist Sarah Parcak used images from remote-sensing satellites orbiting 435 miles above the Earth to uncover the mystery of Tanis in 2010. She collaborated with a French team and was able to map the whole city of Tanis including its ancient streets, buildings, and suburbs by using the infra-red pictures which are able to trace structures buried underneath the sand. Through technology, they were able to locate tombs and ancient settlements.

I thought I was hallucinating: an entire ancient city leaped off the screen. With details of houses, streets, and suburbs, this was a trove indeed: the layout of the largest, most continuously occupied capital city in Ancient Egypt. Sarah Parcak Nature.com

How To Get To Tanis

  • To reach Tanis take a microbus or the East Delta bus from Ulali or in Cairo (Abboud) and get to Faqus (21 miles south of Tanis). From Faqus take a local taxi or bus to the village of San Al Hagar.
  • You can also opt to book a guided tour (at your own expense) from Cairo. The guide will explain the history and significance of the hieroglyphs on the remnants). Note that there is no entrance fee to visit Tanis.
  • The guided tour can cost about $350 for one person
  • Distance from Cairo: 103 miles (2 hours 50 minutes drive)