BARCELONA, Spain, April 30 (UPI) -- The latest excavation of Oxyrhynchus -- an ancient Egyptian city and one of the region's most remarkable archaeological sites -- has unearthed potentially revelatory paintings of early Coptic Christians.
Archaeologists from the University of Barcelona, the Catalan Egyptology Society and the University of Montpellier, recently made their way into an ancient tomb, removing loads of stones and artifacts as they dug their way into the giant burial room.
The tomb was the resting place for a scribe who lived during the Coptic Roman period and died at the age of 17. But the tomb has been called "exceptional," not for what's in it but what's on it.
On the inner walls of the tomb are several coats of paint; the freshest imagery apparently dates to the sixth or seventy century A.D., but the bottom coat, the oldest, was left by Egypt's earliest Christians, the Copts. One of these early images depicts a young man wearing a tunic and sporting curly hair.
“He raises his hand as if making a blessing,” Egyptologist Josep Padró told Discovery News. Padró has more than 20 years of experience digging up the treasures of Oxyrhynchus. "We could be dealing with a very early image of Jesus Christ," Padró added.
The tomb is part of a much larger temple dedicated to the god Serapis, the Hellenistic version of Osiris, the Egyptian god of the afterlife. "In order to carry out future campaigns," the researchers explained in a press release, "it is necessary to excavate an attached structure."
Specifically, the tomb and surrounding structures are situated amidst what appears to be a processional route that connects the larger temple to the nearby Nile.
The archaeologists hope to eventually allow visitors' access to the paintings.
A tomb full of Roman mummies was also unearthed during the latest excavation.