Archaeologists discover stunning, rare mummy portraits in Egypt's Philadelphia

 | Updated: Dec 08, 2022, 02:26 PM IST

Archaeologists in Egypt have made an amazing discovery. They found mummies buried with rare and stunning, lifelike portraits of the deceased.

Let's take a look:

Where were the mummies buried?

The Egyptian Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities reported that the mummies were buried in a cemetery at the ancient Egyptian city of Philadelphia.

(Image courtesy: Egyptian Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities)

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The portraits

According to Basem Gehad, director of the ancient Philadelphia necropolis excavation expedition, two entire mummy portraits, as well as semi-complete and fragmentary portraits, were discovered during excavations at the ancient site's necropolis.

Artists who were most likely from Alexandria, an Egyptian city on the Mediterranean coast, painted the portraits, said Gehad.

(Image courtesy: Egyptian Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities)

(Photograph:Others)

Mummies of the elite

"People who were buried in such a context in Philadelphia are for sure upper-middle class or elite so that they could offer to their relatives [such] expensive portraits that are identical to the person," Gehad claimed.

(Image courtesy: Egyptian Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities)

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A rare find

Mummy portraits are an uncommon find for archaeologists. Prior to the recent discovery, the last mummy portraits discovered in archaeological excavations were discovered in the 1880s. This is due to the fact that during the 19th century, tomb robbers plundered old cemeteries, notably Philadelphia's, for these portraits.

(Image courtesy: Egyptian Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities)

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The looted works

According to Susan Walker, an honorary curator at the Ashmolean Museum at the University of Oxford, "the cemetery was looted in the 1880s for Roman mummy portraits, most of which were sold to the Viennese dealer and collector Theodor Graf."

The portraits are now spread out in museum and private collections, primarily in America and Europe, she added.

(Image courtesy: Egyptian Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities)

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An important discovery

Given that the latest discovery were studied using cutting-edge scientific techniques, Walker, who was not involved in the excavation, said to Live Science that the new discoveries may shed more light on Egyptian mummy portraits.

(Image courtesy: Egyptian Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities)

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Other discoveries

Along with the mummy portraits, archaeologists also discovered a statue of the Egyptian-Greek goddess of love, Isis-Aphrodite, and the ruins of a structure where mummies were buried. In addition, they discovered the ruins of papyri with Greek and demotic characters (an Egyptian cursive writing system). According to a statement from the ministry, the papyri detail the social, economic, and religious circumstances of the local population.

(Image courtesy: Egyptian Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities)

(Photograph:Others)