Gold-tongued mummy found in Egyptian tomb

A mummy with a gold tongue has been discovered in a rock-cut tomb at Taposiris Magna in western Alexandria on the Mediterranean coast of Egypt. It was in a poor state of preservation with most of the soft tissue disintegrated, but the oblong piece of gold foil with a thin indentation down its center was still in the position where the tongue had been. It was likely placed in the mouth by priests in a funerary ritual to ensure the deceased could speak eloquently on their behalf before the tribunal that would judge their worthiness to join Osiris in eternal life.

Archaeologists uncovered 16 burials in rock-cut tombs typical of the Greco-Roman period. Several mummies were found inside, all of them poorly preserved. Two of them retained some of their cartonnage layers. One is gilded and decorated with images of the god Osiris. The other features the Atef crown (white crown with ostrich feathers) of Osiris and the Uraeus (the rearing cobra) on the forehead. One the chest is a necklace with a falcon head pendant, symbol of the god Horus.

Other notable grave goods include a funeral mask covering face and body of a woman, complete with sculpted breasts, a set of eight gold foil leaves that were part of a gold wreath, and eight marble busts. The busts are in excellent condition and are finely carved. The faces are expressionless, but the details of hair, facial features and proportions are highly individualized, perhaps representations taken from life of the deceased.


Funerary bust of male. Photo courtesy the Egyptian Antiquities Ministry.