Archaeologists working at a burial site in Egypt have unearthed ancient mummies with golden tongues.
The team, headed by Kathleen Martinez of the University of Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic, were working at the Taposiris Magna Temple in western Alexandria when they discovered 16 burial shafts dating from the Greek and Roman eras.
A number of “mummies in a poor state of preservation” were found inside the shafts, according to a Facebook post by Egypt’s Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities.
The archaeologists discovered “remnants of gilded cartonnage” – a case made of tightly fitting layers of linen or papyrus glued together – the ministry said, as well “amulets of gold foil in the form of a tongue that were placed in the mouth of the mummy.” This, they believe, was a special ritual to ensure the dead could speak to the court of the god Osiris in the afterlife.
Martinez singled out two of the mummies as the most significant among the find. One bears gilded decorations showing Osiris, the god of the afterlife, while the other wears a crown decorated with horns and a cobra snake on the forehead. On its chest is a gilded decoration depicting a necklace, from which hangs the head of a falcon, the symbol of the god Horus.
Another important find was a funeral mask for a woman, according to Dr Khaled Abo El Hamd, director-general of the Ministry of Antiquities’ Alexandria section. He also highlighed eight golden flakes representing the leaves of a golden wreath on a funeral mask, and eight marble masks dating back to the Greek and Roman eras, which “show high craftsmanship in sculpture and depiction of the features of its owners”, the statement said.
Greek king Alexander the Great of Macedon conquered Egypt in 332 BCE, with control passing after his death to the Greek Ptolemy dynasty. In 30 BC, they succumbed to the Romans, who ruled until around 640 AD.
Over the past decade, archaeologists at the site have discovered several coins bearing the name and image of Queen Cleopatra VII inside the temple walls. They have also uncovered parts of statues and temple grounds that proved it was built by King Ptolemy IV, the ministry said.