Ancient Egyptian Mummies Had Gold Tongues to Talk to God of the Underworld

Several mummies with gold tongues have been discovered during excavations at an ancient necropolis in Egypt.

Researchers with an Egyptian archaeological mission found the unusual remains after uncovering an extension of the Quweisna (also spelled Quesna) necropolis—located in the central Nile Delta about 40 miles north of Cairo—the country's Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities said in a statement.

The extension of the necropolis contains ancient tombs dating to different time periods, including the late period (around 664-332 B.C.) of ancient Egypt, the Ptolemaic period (332–30 B.C.) and the Roman period (30 B.C.-641 A.D.).

The mummies that the archaeologists found feature pieces of gold foil shaped into the form of a human tongue where their real tongue should be.

While unusual, this isn't the only instance of gold tongues being found among human remains in Egypt. In February 2021, for example, archaeologists uncovered such a mummy during excavations at the temple of Taposiris Magna—a site dating back around 2,000 years that is also located in the central Nile Delta, around 30 miles west of the city of Alexandria.

Then, toward the end of last year, researchers discovered three gold tongues inside the mouths of human remains—that of a man, woman and young child who died about 2,500 years ago—at Oxyrhynchus, an important archaeological site located around 100 miles south-southwest of Cairo.

Gold tongue found in Egyptian mummy
A gold tongue (left) and human remains (right) found at the Quweisna necropolis—located in the central Nile Delta around 40 miles north of Cairo. The ancient Egyptians may have placed gold tongues in some human remains to enable the spirits of the deceased to communicate with Osiris, the god of the underworld. Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities

Experts think the ancient Egyptians may have placed gold tongues in some human remains to enable the spirits of the deceased to communicate with Osiris—the god of the underworld—and to help them cross into the afterlife.

The mummies found during the latest excavations at the Quweisna necropolis are in a poor state of preservation—perhaps partly as a result of looting—Mustafa Waziri, secretary-general of Egypt's Supreme Council of Antiquities, said in the statement.

Researchers also found mummies whose bones had been wrapped in gold sheets, as well as gold ornaments made to resemble scarab beetles and lotus flowers—a symbol of creation and rebirth in Ancient Egypt—among the human remains.

A number of funerary amulets, including stone scarabs and pottery vessels used in the mummification process, were also discovered, and researchers came across wooden coffins shaped in human form.

Egypt is a land rich in gold and the material was used for making funerary ornaments in ancient times. Gold was used to decorate the coffins and funerary masks of rulers and other important figures, as well as being shaped into toenails, fingernails and tongues to be placed on mummies.

The ancient Egyptians considered gold to be a divine material that was everlasting and had magical powers. They believed gold was the skin of the gods, particularly the Sun God, Ra—the creator of the universe and giver of life.

The Quweisna necropolis is one of the most important archaeological sties in the Nile Delta due to the diversity of burial methods from different periods found there. The site is also notable for being home to tombs created for the burial of sacred birds.

Newsweek has contacted the Egyptian Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities for comment.