In the Minya governorate of Egypt, Spanish archaeologists led by Dr. Mayte Mascorro and Dr. Esther Pons Melado from the University of Barcelona and the Institute of Ancient Near East have recently unearthed rock-hewn tombs dating back to both the Ptolemaic (305-30 BCE) and Roman (30 BCE-641 CE) periods.
The excavations, supervised by Dr. Mustafa Waziri, the Secretary-General of the Supreme Council of Antiquities, also unveiled a wealth of artifacts, including coffins, golden masks, and terracotta statues.
The Roman-era tombs, situated in the eastern part of the Upper Cemetery of El-Bahnasa, showcase a novel burial style directly carved into the natural rock below the ground.
Dr. Waziri said: “The new discovery is shedding more light on the rich history of the region, as the team uncovered a series of rock-cut tombs, showcasing unique burial practices and artistic expressions of the time.”
Among the remarkable findings are terracotta statues portraying the deity Isis-Aphrodite adorned with foliage crowns, a unique addition to the archaeological record. This discovery suggests that Al Bahnasa still holds many secrets about the funeral rituals of different historical periods.
Terracotta figurines representing goddesses such as Isis and Aphrodite with floral crowns were also found for the first time in El-Bahnasa, further emphasizing the region’s historical significance.
The excavation revealed Roman-era mummies, some adorned with gilded and colored funeral masks. An intriguing aspect was the discovery of golden tongues inside the mouths of two mummies, a known Roman-era funeral practice in El-Bahnasa to preserve the deceased’s ability to speak.
Dr. Adel Okasha, head of the Central Administration Department for Middle Egypt Antiquities, explained, “The team discovered parts of a ruined structure adorned with captivating drawings depicting intricate details of plants, grapevines, and various animals.” He also reported additional findings, including papyrus fragments inside a clay seal and mummies wrapped in colorful bandages.
Dr. Gamal Samostawi, the Director-General of Antiquities in Central Egypt, described the funerary architecture, consisting of stone wells closed with brick doors leading to large chambers with empty sarcophagi and others sealed with mummies wrapped in colored cartonnage.
The mission also uncovered 23 mummies without sarcophagi and four anthropomorphic coffins, including one containing two mummies and small votive perfume bottles.
Dr. Hassan Aamer, a professor of Archaeology at the University of Cairo and the director of the mission’s excavations, emphasized that the upcoming excavation seasons would allow the mission to complete its work at the site and uncover more secrets.