Archaeologists have unearthed two tombs, containing the mummified remains of a man and woman who died about 2,500 years ago, in the ruins of the ancient Egyptian city of Oxyrhynchus, in what is now El Bahnasa.
During the excavation, the team stumbled upon a unique find: three gold-foil tongues. Adding to the surprise, one of the tombs had never been opened.
“This is very important, because it’s rare to find a tomb that is totally sealed,” Esther Pons Mellado, co-director of the archaeological mission from the University of Barcelona, tells Nada El Sawy of The National.
The sealed tomb, a male sarcophagus made of limestone, held mummified remains and an array of items, including a scarab amulet, four canopic jars that were used in the mummification process, and more than 400 pieces of faience, in the form of small funerary figures made of glazed earthenware. The mummy’s face was also well preserved with a golden tongue still inside his mouth, reports Sebastian Kettley of the Daily Express.
“We are still studying the inscriptions on the vessels that, we assume, will reveal the identity of the buried person,” Maite Mascort, mission co-director with Mellado, tells Sílvia Colomé of La Vanguardia.
Earlier this year, archaeologists working in Alexandria discovered a mummy with a similar gold tongue dating to around 2,000 years ago, as reported by Isis Davis-Marks for Smithsonian magazine at the time.
The three gold tongues found in the two tombs date to the Roman period that began in 30 B.C.E., reports The National.
Mellado tells The National that gold tongues have only been found at archaeological sites in Alexandria and El Bahnasa.
The other tomb, which had already been raided by grave robbers around the time of burial, held a sarcophagus in the shape of a woman, but the mummified remains were in poor shape, per the Daily Express.
Buried alongside the body were beads, a stone headrest amulet and a figure of the falcon-headed god Horus. Two more gold tongues were also found; one inside the woman’s mouth, and another believed to have been placed in the mouth of a child’s remains.
Per a translated statement released by the Egyptian Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities earlier this month, Jamal Samastawi, director general of the Architects of Central Egypt, commended the mission’s work in the area over the past 30 years.
During this time, archaeologists have found many graves that date back to the Sawi, Roman and Coptic era that have been of great importance to the El Bahnasa region, he says, in the statement.