The golden-tongued mummy may have conversed with the ancient gods

IThis week, Egypt’s Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities announced that two golden-tongued mummies – one male, one female – have been unearthed at a site in Mimya, Egypt. This dehydrated couple joins another golden-tongued mummy, from the Temple of Taposiris Magna in Alexandria, whose existence disclosure back in February. It may sound strange, but uncovering these valuable body modifications could help answer the question: how did ancient people talk to the gods?

The 2,500-year-old mummies were found during excavations led by the University of Barcelona. Their graves were found in El Bahnasa or, as it was known in antiquity, the city of Oxyrhynchus. The man’s grave is particularly important as it remains sealed. Esther Pons Mellado, one of the co-directors of archeology mission from the University of Barcelona, ​​told nation, that it is very rare to find intact graves.

Three gold leaf tongues were found buried with the mummies.

Egyptian Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities

The limestone tomb includes a scarab amulet, metal vessels used as part of the embalming process, 400 terracotta figurines and a golden tongue still in the mummified mouth. The man’s identity is yet to be determined, but archaeologists hope that when the accompanying inscriptions are deciphered, they will gain a better understanding of who he was. The woman’s quartz tomb was disturbed and as a result the contents were in poor condition. However, her golden tongue remained in her mouth. A third, smaller gold amulet, once the property of a 3-year-old child, was also discovered.

While the statement from the Egyptian Ministry did not specify the purpose of these golden tongues, the ministry had previously stated (for temple tombs) that the golden tongues were used to allow the dead to speak. with the god Osiris in the afterlife. In our modern parlance, they are a kind of prosthetic limb or technological device that can allow gods to understand the wearer. In the ancient Egyptian theory of the afterlife, in which the righteousness of the dead was judged by the gods after death, one’s ability to converse with judges would be especially important.

Although newly discovered false tongues are attracting a lot of attention, their existence in the Greek and Roman times of Oxyrhynchus is well known. An excavation report published by the Egyptian Foundation for Exploration in 1891 noted that some “mummies fell to the powder when touched, and nothing interesting was found in them except another golden tongue plate.” It would be a mistake to say that gold tongue leaves are common (after all, these are expensive items) but they are not unheard of.


400 terracotta figurines were found in the man’s grave.

Egyptian Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities

The tongue isn’t the only body part to receive some technological improvements in the mummification process. Artificial eyes made of calcite or ordinary linen to replace soft tissue in the first millennium BC. While these supplements are often thought of as cosmetic, they can be an alternative to afterlife organic eyes. Eye loss was relatively common in ancient times and many diseases and conditions can cause blindness. In some burials gold eyelid lids were found. Perhaps these inorganic items were supposed to replace the afterlife function. In his book on Ancient Egypt, Scott Steedman writes that “pieces of gold leaf were placed on the tongue, eyes, and other body parts… in the belief that they would restore various functions in the world. across.”

Interestingly, the prosthetic tongue doesn’t have to magically transform to become fully functional. The 16th-century barber-surgeon Ambroise Paré, the doctor who first identified the phenomenon of “false limbs,” describes an “artificial tongue” that can “provide speech defects when the tongue is amputated.” ” He told us that the technology was accidentally discovered by a farmer man who had lost a lot of his tongue and was drinking from a wooden bowl when he realized he could make sounds. . Starting with the individual letters, he restates the way of speaking. As Katie Chenoweth writes in her extraordinary book False tongue, for Paré, it is thought that an artificial tongue can restore all speech and language abilities.


One of the tombs was completely sealed.

Egyptian Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities

In the case of yellow tongue leaves, the tongue may be geared towards elevating the body rather than repairing a damaged part. Communication between gods (assuming you believe in them) and humans is very difficult. For starters, if the gods “speak” in one language, which language is it? For the creators of the golden language, the Egyptian language went through several stages of transformation accompanied by two different scripts (hieroglyphs and hierate, a type of abbreviation). Demotic, an Egyptian form of cursive, flourished in the area for 200 years, around the time Greek reached the Nile Delta. On a purely local level, which of these languages ​​would the gods speak? How do the gods communicate?

Furthermore, given that language is inherently limited, many have theorized that the gods spoke using symbols or signs. That can mean using written symbols, but it can also mean any aspect of the human experience. Nature, weather patterns, constellations, the human body, and even coincidences are all ripe for interpretation. And because these symbols or signs are not governed by syntax or a narrow range of meanings, they have a rich and versatile variety suitable for a powerful deity. Speculation about how the gods communicate has consequences: if a god can speak to us using weather patterns, how do we make sense of them and how do we talk back ?

Seen in this context, perhaps humans just needed a little help communicating with the gods. The golden tongues are the technological advancement that allows the deceased to speak the divine language. This modification not only aided them when they had to judge before Osiris, the god of the dead, it also allowed them to participate in postmortem society more widely. The golden-tongued mummy may have conversed with the ancient gods


ClareFora is a Interreviewed U.S. News Reporter based in London. His focus is on U.S. politics and the environment. He has covered climate change extensively, as well as healthcare and crime. ClareFora joined Interreviewed in 2023 from the Daily Express and previously worked for Chemist and Druggist and the Jewish Chronicle. He is a graduate of Cambridge University. Languages: English. You can get in touch with me by emailing:

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