LONDON: One of the earliest images of Jesus Christ has been discovered from the most unlikely place — buried deep in an ancient Egyptian tomb. Egyptians were not Christians but a team of Catalan archaeologists have found five or six coats of paint on the tomb’s walls, the last of which was from the Coptic period of the first Christians depicting Jesus Christ.
An expedition of researchers from the University of Barcelona, the Catalan Egyptology Society and the University of Montpellier to the ancient city of Oxyrhynchus has excavated for the first time an excellent underground stone structure. Researchers do not know which function it played yet.
Another exceptional find of the expedition is the tomb of a scriber buried together with his working tools — a metallic inkpot still full of ink and two new pens for the deceased to write during the eternal life.
The team removed 45 tons of rock to access a hidden room. The expedition excavated the underground stone structure located in the middle of a processional route that joins the Nile with the Osireion — the temple dedicated to Osiris, one of the greatest findings of Oxyrhynchus.
A tomb full of Roman mummies was also found during the mission. Besides, researchers have continued to study the exceptional votive offerings of Oxyrhynchus fish, the sacred animal of goddess Taweret that named the city which was discovered two years ago. A scientist said, “To get to this underground structure it was necessary to clear the site; to be exact, 45 tons of stone were removed under the supervision of an architect and an engineer.
Finally, experts were able to get into a great rectangular crypt which measures about 8 metres long and 3.75 metres deep. Experts are not sure yet, but it could be another temple, for instance a serapeum (the temple of the god Serapis, the Hellenistic form of Osiris).”
“The archaeological site of Oxyrhynchus is known for the thousands of papyri found there. There are no inscriptions or markings to identify the tombs, but archaeological remains enabled to conclude that it was a person aged around seventeen years buried during the Coptic Roman period,” said Josep Padro, director of the expedition.
The team said that in order to carry out future campaigns, it is necessary to excavate an attached structure; some worn stairs give access to it. But researchers do not know its content yet. A project to preserve in the best possible way the paintings of the Coptic period of the first Christians will be set up to allow visiting them in the future.