Two 2,500-year-old tombs of man and woman unearthed in Egypt

Spanish archaeological mission uncovers sarcophagi, three golden tongues and hundreds of funerary figurines in El Bahnasa

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A Spanish archaeological mission has unearthed two tombs containing the remains of a man and woman dating back 2,500 years in El Bahnasa, about 220 kilometres south of Cairo.

Three gold foil amulets in the shape of tongues inside the mouths of human remains were also found, said Egypt’s Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities.

This is very important, because it's rare to find a tomb that is totally sealed
Esther Pons Melado, co-director of Spanish archaeological mission

One of the tombs from the Saite dynasty, a late period of ancient Egypt up to 525BC, was discovered completely sealed.

“This is very important, because it’s rare to find a tomb that is totally sealed,” Esther Pons Melado, co-director of the archaeological mission of Oxyrhynchus, told The National.

The University of Barcelona set up the mission at Oxyrhynchus, the ancient name of El Bahnasa in El Minya governorate, as long ago as 1992.

Inside the sealed tomb was a limestone male sarcophagus with a mummy in a good state of preservation, four canopic jars, amulets such as the scarab and about 400 ushabti funerary figurines made of faience.

The second tomb of the woman had been opened in ancient times and the remains were not in good condition, Ms Melado said.

The three golden tongues found outside the tombs include one belonging to a 3-year-old child and two in the mouths of adults. They date to the Roman period in Egypt, starting in 30BC.

In February, golden tongues were discovered at the temple of Taposiris Magna near Alexandria. The Tourism and Antiquities Ministry has said that the tongues were meant to help the deceased converse with Osiris, the ancient Egyptian god of the dead, on their way to the afterlife.

Ms Melado said golden tongues have been found in only Alexandria and El Bahnasa, including 11 discovered “some years ago” and now on display in museums.

She has led the archaeological mission with co-director Maite Mascort since 2019 and the excavation team of 14 comes from Spain, Italy, France, the US and Egypt.

“There have been many discoveries in the area over the last 30 years,” Hassan Amer, the mission’s excavation director and professor in the Greco-Roman department at Cairo University’s faculty of archaeology, told The National.

In May 2020, the mission discovered a cemetery from the Saite period, as well as eight Roman-era tombs.

Oxyrhynchus is considered one of Egypt's most important archaeological sites. In the late 19th century, archaeologists discovered a huge collection of papyrus scrolls dating from the Ptolemaic kingdom and the Roman period.

“It’s also very important to see the type of Saite tombs and compare with other Saite tombs in Saqqara or Tanis,” Mr Amer said.

The discovery of dozens of sealed coffins in October last year, most with mummies inside, was made at the Saqqara necropolis.

The latest find is one of many archaeological discoveries that Egypt has publicised recently to help revive its tourism sector, which has not fully recovered since the 2011 uprising and has suffered more recently from the coronavirus pandemic.

Updated: December 06, 2021, 3:36 PM