CAIRO (Reuters) - Egyptian archaeologists have discovered what they say was the ancient headquarters of the Pharaonic army guarding the northeastern borders of Egypt for more than 1,500 years, the government said on Wednesday.
The fortress and adjoining town, which they identify with the ancient place name Tharu, lies in the Sinai peninsula about 3 km (2 miles) northeast of the modern town of Qantara, Egyptian archaeologist Mohamed Abdel Maksoud told Reuters.
The town sat at the start of a military road joining the Nile Valley to the Levant, parts of which were under Egyptian control for much of the period, the government's Supreme Council for Antiquities said in a statement.
The archaeologists, led by Abdel Maksoud, have been working on forts along the road since 1986 but it was inscriptions found this year which clinched the identification, he said.
The inscriptions mention three Pharaohs -- Tuthmosis II, who ruled from about 1512 BC and who built one of the military installations along the route, Seti I and Ramses II, who between them ruled Egypt from 1318 to 1237 BC, it added.
The site contains the remains of a mud-brick fortress dating from the time of Ramses II and measuring 500 meters (547 yards) by 250 meters, with towers four meters high, it said.
"Initial studies at the site prove that this fort was the headquarters of the Egyptian army from the time of the New Kingdom until the Ptolemaic period," it said. The New Kingdom began in about 1570 BC and the Ptolemaic period ended with the death of Cleopatra in the first century BC.
"The archaeological features of this fort confirm the inscriptions on ancient Egyptian temples showing the shape of the city of Tharu, which lay at the start of the Horus military road," the statement added.
The statement said the site contains the first New Kingdom temple ever found in northern Sinai, and warehouses where the ancient Egyptian army stored grain and weapons, as well as ovens, seals and earthenware vessels.
Writing by Jonathan Wright