A golden tongue would not have been uncommon at elite burials during the Ptolemaic and Roman times, said Lorelei H. Corcoran, director of the Institute of Egyptian Art and Archeology at the University of Memphis.
“In an Egyptian burial context, the reference is to Spell 158 of the Book of the Dead, which ensures that the deceased can breathe, speak, and eat and drink in the afterlife,” added Dr. Corcoran added. “It could conflict with Greek burial practice to put a coin on or in the mouth of the deceased as payment for the ferryman Charon who transported the deceased across the Styx River to the underworld.”
The team of archaeologists that found the 16 tombs at Taposiris Magna was led by Kathleen Martinez, a lawyer who became an amateur archaeologist from the Dominican Republic. The team worked for years to find Cleopatra’s tomb and focused on Taposiri’s Magna.
But the tomb of the famous queen, who ruled from Alexandria and is believed to have died there, has not yet appeared there.
“The stated aim of the Egyptian-Dominican mission is to find Cleopatra’s burial in Taposiris Magna,” said Dr. Corcoran. “However, many scholars believe that Cleopatra’s tomb was located in a royal tomb complex that may be connected to the palace district and is now lost underwater in the port of Alexandria.”
Egyptian Ministry of Tourism officials did not immediately respond to a request for more information about the 16 tombs in Taposiris Magna. The Egyptian newspaper Al-Masry Al-Youm reported that there were two golden tongues found there to be studied at the Alexandria National Museum before being exhibited in museums across Egypt.
The latest discovery comes as Egypt makes concerted efforts to attract visitors to the country that is heavily reliant on tourism. In recent years, archaeologists have discovered more than 100 finely painted wooden coffins at the ancient Saqqara Tomb, a 4,400-year-old tomb with rare murals near Cairo and the remains of a colossal pharaonic statue in the working-class area of Matariya.