A tongue of gold would not have been uncommon in elite burials during the Ptolemaic and Roman periods, said Lorelei H. Corcoran, director of the Institute of Egyptian Art and Archeology at the University of Memphis.
“In an Egyptian funeral context, it refers to fate 158 of the Book of the Dead, which guarantees that the deceased has the ability to breathe and speak, as well as to eat and drink, in the afterlife”, Dr Corcoran added. “This can be confused with the Greek funeral practice of placing a coin on or in the mouth of the deceased as payment for the ferryman, Charon, who transported the deceased across the River Styx to the Underworld.
The team of archaeologists who found the 16 tombs at Taposiris Magna was led by Kathleen Martinez, a lawyer turned amateur archaeologist from the Dominican Republic. The team have been working for years to find Cleopatra’s tomb and have focused their efforts on Taposiris Magna.
However, the burial place of the famous queen, who reigned from Alexandria and is said to have died there, has not yet been there.
“The stated goal of the Egyptian-Dominican mission is to find Cleopatra’s burial at Taposiris Magna,” said Dr Corcoran. “Many scholars believe, however, that Cleopatra’s burial site was in a royal burial complex, possibly associated with the palace district, now lost underwater in the port of Alexandria.
Representatives of the Egyptian Ministry of Tourism did not immediately respond to a request for more information on the 16 tombs of Taposiris Magna. Egyptian newspaper Al-Masry Al-Youm reported that two golden tongues were found there and would be studied at the National Museum in Alexandria before being exhibited in museums across Egypt.
The latest discovery comes as Egypt makes a concerted effort to attract visitors to the country, which relies heavily on tourism. In recent years, archaeologists have unearthed more than 100 delicately painted wooden coffins in the ancient Saqqara cemetery, a 4,400-year-old tomb with rare wall paintings near Cairo, and the remains of a colossal pharaonic statue in the working-class district of Matariya.