Mummies with 'golden tongues' uncovered in Egypt

Archaeologists explain why gold foil amulets in shape of tongues were placed in the mouths of the dead

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Archaeologists in Egypt found 2,000-year-old mummies in the Mediterranean city of Alexandria, with gold foil amulets in the shape of tongues in their mouths, the country's Antiquities Ministry said on Tuesday night.

The poorly preserved mummies, dating from the Greek and Roman eras, were found in 16 rock-cut burial shafts at Alexandria’s Taposiris Magna temple.

The amulets represent a ritual designed to enable the dead to speak before the court of the god Osiris in the afterlife. According to ancient Egyptian beliefs, Osiris was the lord of the underworld in the afterlife.

What did ancient Egyptians eat?

What did ancient Egyptians eat?

It was customary in ancient Egypt, even under Greek and Roman rule, to bury the dead with items thought to equip and prepare them for their afterlife journey.

These included food, wine, small boat-shaped structures and jewellery.

An image of Osiris also appeared in gilded decorations on the material encasing one mummy found in the burial shafts, while the material wrapped around another mummy’s head depicted a crown, horns and a snake, said archaeologist Kathleen Martinez of the University of Santo Domingo, who was involved in the dig.

Egyptian archaeologists made a series of stunning archaeological discoveries in recent months, mostly in Saqqara, a sprawling complex of pyramids, tombs and temples in the desert west of Cairo.

Among those discoveries were dozens of sealed wooden sarcophagi dating back about 2,500 years.

Egypt hopes that archaeological discoveries and the media attention that surround them will spur tourism, a sector devastated by years of turmoil since an uprising in 2011 and more recently by the coronavirus pandemic.

Experts believe the intense media attention the discoveries attract helps keep Egypt on the minds of potential visitors for when better times return.

Egypt was a top travel destination in 2019 and made a promising start in 2020 before the pandemic struck.