A team of Catalan Egyptologists from the Catalan Egyptology Society and University of Barcelona claim to have found one of the earliest-known pictures of Jesus in a 6th century tomb unearthed in Upper Egypt, according to a news report in La Vanguardia. The image found painted on the wall of the Coptic Christian crypt depicts a young man with curly hair and a short tunic, with a hand raised in blessing.
The tomb is located in the ancient city of Oxyrhynchus at Al Bahnasa, approximately 160 km south of Cairo. Previous digs in ancient city of Oxyrhynchus have unearthed temples dedicated to Osiris, the Egyptian god of the afterlife, but the exact nature of the latest discovery has left the experts baffled but excited.
The crypt was discovered inside an unusual underground structure measuring 8 x 3.75 metres, the purpose of which researchers are unsure about. The subterranean stone structure was found in very good condition with walls fitted with niches were statues probably stood. Although the research team does not know what it was used for, its “importance seems unquestionable”, according to head of the expedition, Josep Padró, who has spent over 20 years excavating sites in the area. One possibility, according to Padró, is that it is an Osireion or Serepeum (temple of the god Serapis, the Hellenised form of Osiris).
The excavation of the structure involved a massive effort to remove very heavy debris (more than 45 tonnes), in a meticulous operation overseen by an architect and an engineer. The researchers believe the debris was placed there purposely, possibly to protect the tomb from looters.