CAIRO, Aug 25 -- Archaeologists have uncovered the remains of a 3,500-year-old settlement in one of Egypt's desert oases that predates earlier cities by a millennium, the Ministry of Culture said on Wednesday.

The Yale University mission excavating in Umm El-Kharga Oasis, one of Egypt's five western deserts, located some 200 km south of Cairo, stumbled upon the find while working to map ancient routes in the Western Desert.

The settlement lies along what used to be bustling caravan routes connecting the Nile Valley of Egypt with the western oasis and stretching to Darfur in Sudan, the statement said. The site reached its peak in the late Middle Kingdom (1786-1665 BC).

Remnants of an ancient bakery such as two ovens and a potters wheel used to make ceramic bread moulds in which bread was baked were also found, suggesting the site was a major food centre, said mission head John Darnell.