Spanish archaeologists made a ground-breaking discovery of rock-hewn Ptolemaic and Roman tombs, mummies, coffins, golden masks and terracotta statues in the historic city of Al Bahnasa in the Minya governorate.
The Spanish team from the University of Barcelona and the Institute of Ancient Near East was led by archaeologists Maite Mascort and Esther Pons Miladou.
“The new discovery is shedding more light on the rich history of the region, as the team uncovered a series of rock-cut tombs dating back to both the Ptolemaic [305-30 BC] and Roman [30 BC-641 AD] periods, showcasing unique burial practices and artistic expressions of the time,” said Secretary General of the Supreme Council of Antiquities (SCA) Mostafa Waziri.
He pointed out that one of the most remarkable findings is the discovery of terracotta statues depicting deity Isis-Aphrodite adorned with foliage crowns, representing a significant addition to the archaeological record.
“This find suggests that Al Bahnasa still harbours numerous secrets waiting to be unveiled,” Waziri emphasized.
The excavation also revealed Roman-era mummies, some of which were adorned with gilded and coloured funeral masks. In an intriguing twist, two mummies were found with golden tongues placed inside their mouths—a distinctive feature known from the Roman era in Al Bahnasa, believed to symbolize the preservation of the deceased.
“The team discovered parts of a ruined structure adorned with captivating drawings depicting intricate details of plants, grapevines, and various animals, providing valuable insights into the daily life and cultural significance of Al Bahnasa during ancient times,” explained Adel Okasah, head of the Central Administration Department for Middle Egypt Antiquities.
He expressed excitement about the ongoing excavation efforts, noting that the mission’s dedication and expertise promise even more remarkable discoveries in the seasons to come.