• Spain edition
 
Spanish team finds hidden 'tomb of Jesus'
Previous digs nearby have uncovered a temple dedicated to the Egyptian god of the afterlife. Photo: Societat Catalana d’Egiptologia

Spanish team finds hidden 'tomb of Jesus'

Published: 25 Apr 2014 12:05 GMT+02:00
Updated: 25 Apr 2014 12:05 GMT+02:00

A team of Catalan archaeologists have returned from the ancient Egyptian city of Oxyrhynchus after uncovering a mystery underground structure in buried tombs which date from the 6th and 7th centuries.

It is reportedly decorated with Coptic images — or paintings by a group who number among the earliest Christians — and may contain one of the earliest-known representations of Jesus Christ.

The head of the expedition, Josep Padró, who has spent  over 20 years excavating sites in the area, described the discovery to La Vanguardia newspaper as "exceptional".

It has caused such as stir that even Egypt's Minister of Antiquities, Mohamed Ibrahim, has become personally involved.

He broke the news himself in a press release which described the contents of the tombs, which are believed to have belonged to a well-known writer and a family of priests.

The Egyptian ministry will take responsibility for developing the archaeological site, which was discovered by a joint team from the Catalan Egyptology Society and the University of Barcelona.

Previous digs in Oxyrynchus 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.

Padró described the underground stone structure as "incredibly good, but we don't know what it is".

SEE ALSO: Jesus' crucifixion was legal: Spanish study

Over 45 tonnes of rock was moved to get at the hidden treasures, in a meticulous operation overseen by an architect and an engineer.

Once inside, the archaeologists found "five or six coats of paint on the walls, the last of which was from the Coptic period of the first Christians."

Among the plant motifs and inscriptions was something special -- the "figure of a young man, with curly hair, dressed in a short tunic and with his hand raised as if giving a blessing," according to Padró.

"We could be dealing with a very early image of Jesus Christ," he added.

The figure is under protection while a team begins to translate the inscriptions surrounding it.

Archaeological work in the area is continuing as there has still not been time to excavate another unidentified structure connected to the tombs via a set of very worn steps.

"We don't know what we'll find there," said the Egyptologist.

Don't miss stories about Spain, join The Local on Facebook and Twitter

Steve Tallantyre (news@thelocal.es)

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
Military drops torture case against soliders
A Spanish soldier walks with his backpack past US soldiers at US Camp Echo in the central Iraqi town of Diwaniya in May 2004. File photo: Roberto Schmidt/AFP

Military drops torture case against soliders

Five Spanish soldiers charged with war crimes over allegations they tortured prisoners in Iraq have been left off by a military court, with judges using a precedent set by former US president George Bush. READ  

Spain grows by 0.5 percent in third quarter
Photo of warehouse: Shutterstock

Spain grows by 0.5 percent in third quarter

Five straight quarters of growth have seen Spain's unemployment drop to lowest level since 2011, although it still stands at over 23 percent. READ  

Isis wants to spread Ebola: security chief
Graffiti reading "Death to Islamic State (Isis)" in the Jurf al-Sakhr area, north of the Shiite shrine city of Karbala, Iraq, on Monday. Photo: Haidar Hamdani/AFP

Isis wants to spread Ebola: security chief

The Spanish government is taking seriously discussions in internet chat rooms on how terrorists could use biological weapons including Ebola in its war against the West, a top official said in parliament on Wednesday. READ  

'Scary clown' craze hits Spanish city
Coulrophobia, or fear of clowns, has swept across France in recent weeks. Photo of scary clown: Shutterstock

'Scary clown' craze hits Spanish city

A 'scary clown' craze that has caused panic across France in recent weeks has arrived in the northern Spanish city of Gijón, local media are reporting. READ  

Top drug lord 'hid cocaine inside bananas'
Police said the suspect had been on the run since being sentenced to 17 years in jail in 2006 for drug smuggling and other crimes. Photo: Guardia Civil

Top drug lord 'hid cocaine inside bananas'

Spanish police said on Wednesday they had arrested nine people, including one of the country's biggest drug smugglers, after finding cocaine hidden among a shipment of bananas from Colombia. READ  

Spaniards 'ignorant' on impact of immigration
Spaniards mistakenly believe that the population includes eight times more Muslim people than it actually does. Photo: Lluis Gene/AFP

Spaniards 'ignorant' on impact of immigration

Spaniards massively overestimate the number of people in their country who are Muslims, unemployed or teenage mothers, but are well-informed about how long they can expect to live, according to a new 'ignorance index' released on Wednesday. READ  

Corruption focus
'Corruption virus is in the guts of the system'
A man disguised as Spain's Primer Minister Mariano Rajoy takes part to a protest against corruption in 2013. File photo: Jaime Reina/AFP

'Corruption virus is in the guts of the system'

A Madrid court on Wednesday summoned 17 suspects including five mayors and a French energy executive for questioning in a corruption scandal that has rocked the Spain government, while there were also heated exchanges in the national parliament. READ  

Spanish bank BBVA says quarterly profits triple
BBVA's net profit for the July to September period surged to €601 million ($765 million) from €195 million a year earlier thanks to an increase in business. DANI POZO / AFP

Spanish bank BBVA says quarterly profits triple

Spain's second-biggest bank by market value BBVA said on Wednesday its profits tripled in the third quarter despite falling over the first nine months of this year after exceptional gains in 2013. READ  

Dad told to pay child support to daughter, 29
A lawyer said the decision was "absurd" while the judge argued the daughter had no other financial resources. File photo of woman studying: Shutterstock

Dad told to pay child support to daughter, 29

A Spanish judge has ordered a father to pay his 29-year-old daughter €500 ($630) a month in financial assistance, citing the difficulties under 30s have in finding work because of the country's crisis. READ  

'Swindler' Gypsies slam Spain's new dictionary
Two members of Spain's Gypsy community cast their ballots in European Union elections in 2009. File photo: Cristina Quicler/AFP

'Swindler' Gypsies slam Spain's new dictionary

Roma rights groups are to protest against the decision by Spain's Royal Language Academy (RAE) to include a definition of a 'gypsy' as a 'swindler' in their new official dictionary. READ  

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
Politics
'We're sorry': Spanish PM apologizes over corruption scandals
Tech
Meet Mr Biceps: Spanish policeman heats up Instagram
National
37 arrested as massive anti-corruption raids rattle Spain
National
Spain's public holidays in 2015: Official list
Health
Drug mule 'left to die' in airport over Ebola fears
National
Viral photo shows two worlds collide at Spain's African border
What's On
What's on in Spain: November 2014
National
Top Ten: the very best new Spanish words
National
Flash floods: woman dies in Canary Islands
Health
Cured: Spanish nurse with Ebola beats virus
International
Mango apologizes for 'Nazi blouse'
National
Where's the best place to live in Spain?
Travel
Top ten: great autumn getaways in Spain
National
The great Spanish cities quiz: take it now
National
Revealed: the cost of expat food in Spain
Politics
Catalan leader calls independence vote 'lite'
What's On
Games of Thrones star 'barred' from Seville film set
Education
Only one Spanish university makes world's top 200
What's On
What's on in Spain: October 2014
Politics
Spanish court suspends Catalan independence vote
National
Catalonia defies Madrid and calls independence vote
National
Spanish village swaps bulls for giant balls
Society
Spain scraps plans for tough new abortion law
National
'This is a great time for entrepreneurs in Spain'
National
Loud porn movie scares locals into calling cops
National
'We'll axe Catalan autonomy but won't send in tanks'
National
Spain's Thatcher square defaced by 'Brits'
National
Top 10: best Spanish movies of all time
National
Gravedigger suspended for corpse photo gaffe
Society
Named: the best city to live in Spain
Travel
Top ten amazing activities in Tenerife
National
Spain opens door to ban on burqas
Travel
Top ten: best bike rides in Spain
Travel
Spain to reopen 'world's most dangerous walk': The Camino del Rey
National
'Catalonia could be the shock Spain needs'
National
Office slang: Top ten Spanish expressions
Sport
Think you know Spanish football? Try these amazing facts
International
Australia set to welcome young Spanish workers
Opinion
Is tourism destroying Barcelona?
Society
Fashion fail: Zara pulls plug on 'Holocaust shirt' for kids
National
Man hurt as friend swaps ice bucket for plane
Spain 'would block independent Scotland from joining EU'
Politics
Spain 'would block independent Scotland from joining EU'
Property
'Dying' town flogs off land for €200 to woo new blood
Latest news from The Local in Austria

More news from Austria at thelocal.at

Latest news from The Local in Switzerland

More news from Switzerland at thelocal.ch

Latest news from The Local in Germany

More news from Germany at thelocal.de

Latest news from The Local in Denmark

More news from Denmark at thelocal.dk

Latest news from The Local in France

More news from France at thelocal.fr

Latest news from The Local in Italy

More news from Italy at thelocal.it

Latest news from The Local in Norway

More news from Norway at thelocal.no

Latest news from The Local in Sweden

More news from Sweden at thelocal.se

1,687
jobs available