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"However, about a year after the pharaoh had returned to Egypt, the city of Tanis was consumed by the desert in a sand storm which lasted a whole year. Wiped clean by the wrath of God."
Marcus Brody[src]

Tanis was an ancient Egyptian city, ruled by the Pharaoh Shishak, who placed the Ark of the Covenant within a secret chamber called the Well of the Souls.

The city contained a palace, a pyramid, a court building, colossal statues and obelisks. Not long after this, Tanis was consumed by a sandstorm which lasted for an entire year and buried the city completely. Though never proven it was speculated that this was the divine power of God's wrath brought upon Shishak for daring to take the Ark.


In the nineteenth century, early excavations of the site were made by both William Flinders Petrie and Auguste Mariette.[3]

Abner Ravenwood was determined to uncover Tanis' true location in the 1920s when he discovered the Headpiece to the Staff of Ra but funding ran out before he could begin an extensive investigation.[4]

In the mid-1930s, the Nazis discovered Tanis and began a major excavation of the site in 1936, hoping to find the Ark of the Covenant. Because the Ark was highly sought after, German soldiers oversaw the dig site, led by Herman Dietrich, with the archaeology work led by René Belloq. Many of the best archaeological diggers were hired from the local Egyptian population, including Sallah. Besides the tents, outdoor eating areas, and rail cart system for hauling away dirt, the dig site also included a small airstrip, where the Flying Wing was parked.[1]


Nazi excavation of Tanis

American intelligence intercepted a Nazi message about Tanis and Abner Ravenwood, and enlisted the help of Ravenwood's former student, Indiana Jones to help find Ravenwood and keep the Headpiece to the Staff of Ra out of Nazi possession. Jones eventually made his way to Tanis, snuck into the Map Room and located the precise burial spot of the Well of the Souls. Digging with his own team, led by Sallah, he recovered the Ark, only to be discovered by Belloq and the Nazis, who took the Ark, and sealed Jones and Marion Ravenwood in the Well of the Souls. The two escaped from the underground chamber, destroyed the Flying Wing, and eventually stole the Ark back from the Nazi convoy headed toward Cairo.[1]

Locations within Tanis[]

Behind the scenes[]

Tanis is a real city in Egypt, in the Nile delta, serving as the ancient capital, after Thebes. In actuality, it was never a lost city as portrayed in the film, although it has been speculated that the Ark of the Covenant may really be buried there.



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