Egyptian archaeologists have uncovered full-color portraits of mummies – the first to be found in over a century – the Egyptian government has announced.
Researchers found the two full portraits of Egyptian mummies and fragments of others at the Gerza excavation site in Fayoum, Egypt, making these artworks the first of their kind to be discovered in over 115 years.
English archaeologist Flinders Petrie was the last to find similar artwork when he discovered 146 mummy portraits at a Roman cemetery in 1911, Artnet News reports.
The findings are from a dig site located amid the ruins of the ancient city of Philadelphia, which, according to the Austrian Archeological Institute, lies in the northeastern corner of Fayoum, approximately 75 miles (120 kilometers) southwest of modern-day Cairo.
The team investigating the Gerza archaeological site in Fayoum also uncovered a funerary building, records written on papyrus, pottery, and coffins dating from the Ptolemaic period, which spans from 305 BCE to 30 BCE, through the Roman era, which lasted from 30 BCE to 390 CE.
The government has said these finds give fascinating insights into the social, economic, and religious conditions of the people living in Philadelphia (which meant, in ancient Greek, "City of Brotherly Love") nearly 2,000 years ago.
The collection of paintings, known as the Fayoum portraits, portrays some of the wealthiest people that existed in these ancient communities. The Philadelphia settlement was home to Greeks and Egyptians over the 600-year period.
Basem Gehad, the head of the Ancient Philadelphia Excavation project, which led the latest dig, wrote in an email to Artnet News that "no one really knows the context of these portraits," but added, "[n]ow, we can know certainly where they came from, and find more."
In addition to these finds, archaeologists also revealed a rare terracotta statue of the goddess Isis Aphrodite inside a wooden coffin, per Artnet.
Gehad told the news outlet the statue "reflects the influence of Greeks on Egyptian art as a result of [the] new community living there".
A statement from the Egyptian government explains that pharaoh Ptolemy II Philadelphus (309–246 BCE) established Philadelphia as an agricultural village meant to secure further food resources for his empire.
Researchers have been digging at the site since 2016, according to the government.
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