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Speaking in tongues

Golden tongues found in mouths of ancient Egyptian couple

Tombs of man and woman dating back 2,500 years found at Oxyrhynchus; male mummy’s sarcophagus still sealed with hundreds of funerary items inside

A golden tongue found inside the skull of ancient mummy in Egypt, December 2021. (Egypt Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities)
A golden tongue found inside the skull of ancient mummy in Egypt, December 2021. (Egypt Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities)

Two golden tongues were found still inside the mouths of an ancient Egyptian man and woman who died over 2,500 years ago, the country’s Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities announced on Sunday.

The identities of those interred are unknown, but the stone sarcophaguses were placed alongside each other.

A University of Barcelona archaeological mission discovered the pair of tombs containing the golden prosthetics at Oxyrhynchus, modern-day El Bahnasa, which is located some 220 kilometers south of Cairo.

The tombs are believed to be from the Saite dynasty, a late period of ancient Egypt that ended in 525 BC.

According to the ministry, golden tongues were placed inside the mouths of the dead to enable them to speak with Osiris, the ancient Egyptian god of the underworld, who judged those on their way to the afterlife.

The male’s tomb was still sealed, an unusual find, keeping the mummy inside in a good state of preservation, according to Esther Pons Melado, co-director of the archaeological mission of Oxyrhynchus

“This is very important because it’s rare to find a tomb that is totally sealed,” she told the National News in a Monday report on the discovery.

Along with the mummy there were four canonic jars that were used to preserve the internal organs of the deceased. In addition, archaeologists found a scarab, other amulets, and about 400 funerary figurines made of faience, a tin-glazed earthenware.

The woman’s tomb appeared to have been opened in the past and the contents were not in a good condition, Melardo said.

An additional three golden tongues were also found outside the tombs, according to the Tourism and Antiquities Ministry. They were dated to the Roman period in Egypt that began in 30 BC.

The excavation team of 14 included members from Spain, Italy, France, the US and Egypt.

In February, archaeologists at the ancient Egyptian site of Taposiris Magna found over a dozen tombs, one of which contained a mummy with a similar golden tongue in the skull.

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