Archaeologists working in northern Egypt have unearthed several mummies that date back some 2,000 years, the BBC reports. Among the human remains discovered in 16 burial chambers on the outskirts of Alexandria was a skull in which had been placed a tongue crafted from gold foil, per the New York Times. Egypt’s Ministry of Tourism and antiquities said in a statement that the golden tongue was part of a “special ritual” to ensure the dead’s ability to speak before the court of the god Osiris, the Egyptian lord of the underworld, in the afterlife. “For the Egyptians, gold was a material that had qualities of everlastingness,” Jennifer Houser Wenger, a curator at Philadelphia’s Penn Museum tells the Times. “It never tarnished. It always shone brilliantly. A team of Egyptian and Dominican archaeologists made the find when they were working at the Taposiris Magna Temple, per CNN.
In addition to “a number of mummies in a poor state of preservation,” they discovered gilded decorations bearing the image of Osiris on a cartonnage, a material made of plaster, linen, and glue. Also discovered were a funerary mask of a woman, golden flakes from a golden wreath, and eight marble masks dating to the Greek and Roman periods. One mummy was wearing a crown “decorated with horns and the cobra snake,” the Ministry says, as well as a gilded decoration portraying a falcon’s head, a symbol for the god Horus. The archaeologists, led by Kathleen Martinez of the Dominican Republic, have spent years trying to find the tomb of Cleopatra, according to the Times, who reigned for some 20 years. Cleopatra was the last ruler of Egypt’s Ptolemaic Dynasty. After her death in 30 BC, the Romans took control. (Read more Egypt stories.)