CAIRO – The Egyptian Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities unveiled on December 5 two adjacent cemeteries dating from the “Sawy era”, or the late period of ancient Egypt, at an archaeological site in the governorate of Minya, in Upper Egypt.
In a December 5 statement, Mustafa Waziri, secretary general of the state-run Supreme Council of Antiquities, said the Spanish archaeological mission affiliated with the University of Barcelona, working at the al-Bahnasa site, ” found in one of the two tombs the remains of two unknown persons with golden tongues.
He continued, “Inside the tomb, a limestone sarcophagus was found with a lid in the shape of a woman and next to the remains of an unknown person.”
Waziri said that “preliminary studies of the tomb have shown that it had already been visited in ancient times”.
According to the ministry statement, however, Spanish mission chief Maite Mascourt said the second cemetery was completely closed and the mission first opened it during excavations.
The director general of Central Egyptian Antiquities, Gamal al-Samastawy, told Al-Monitor: “The Spanish mission found in the second cemetery a limestone sarcophagus with a human face in good condition, in addition to 402 small statues. “
He said the mission had worked in the archaeological area of al-Bahnasa for almost 30 years, during which time it found numerous tombs dating from the Sawy, Greco-Roman and Coptic eras.
Commenting on the golden tongues found in the tombs, Samastawy said, “Tongues were one of the oldest religious beliefs of the late period of ancient Egypt – the Roman and Ptolemaic periods. The tongue was gold so that the deceased could defend themselves before trial in the next world, according to the belief prevailing at the time.
He added: “The discovery of the Golden Tongue in this tomb is not the first of its kind. Tongues of gold have already been discovered in a rock tomb in Alexandria.
In late January, the Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities unveiled an archaeological find in the coastal city of Alexandria overlooking the Red Sea, where 16 mummies were found in rock-cut tombs. One of the mummies had a golden tongue.
“The Spanish mission is still working in cooperation with several Egyptian restorers to study the remains of a corpse and determine the identity of the owner of the second tomb,” Samastawy said.
Hussein Abdel Basir, director of the Antiquities Museum of the Bibliotheca Alexandrina, told Al-Monitor by telephone: “The Sawy era is called the Renaissance era and is an important period, during which [Egyptians] revived the glories of the ancient arts and added their own touch. It is also the period of prosperity after the end of the modern state. Archaeologists describe [Late Period of ancient Egypt] like Egypt’s last smile before the Greek Ptolemaic occupation at the hands of Alexander the Great.
Abdel Basir said: “During the Sawy era, Egypt experienced a renaissance at all cultural, economic and religious levels.
Commenting on the recent find, he said: “It is very important to find antiques dating back to the Sawy era in the Minya region of Upper Egypt. This confirms the importance of the al-Bahnasa region, which has seen several archaeological finds in the past.
The Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities previously announced in a statement in May 2020 that a joint archaeological mission from Egypt and Spain discovered a cemetery dating from the Sawy era in the al-Bahnasa region of the governorate. of Minya, composed of a piece constructed of polished wood. limestone, described as “one of a kind and not previously discovered at al-Bahnasa”.
Abdel Basir noted: “What is of utmost importance is the ministry’s announcement this week regarding the discovery of a golden tongue inside the mummy, which would have enabled the deceased to speak. in the presence of Osiris, the god of the resurrection and the afterlife. The find is also further evidence of the importance of religious and funeral rituals at this time.
“The new find adds to the archaeological richness of Egypt and is seen as a further global promotion for Egyptian relics, helping to stimulate the tourist movement in the country and aiding in the recovery of this vital sector which has been badly affected. by the coronavirus pandemic, ”he added. .
“Minya Governorate in Upper Egypt is one of the most famous archaeological areas in Egypt and is home to a large number of antiquities from different periods, including Roman, Greek and ancient Egypt. The recent discoveries could be the start of a greater archaeological breakthrough in this rich region, ”he concluded.