Intriguing Coptic Tombstone Belonging to a Little Girl Discovered in Luxor
A team of archaeologists in Egypt has recently uncovered an ancient Coptic tombstone during the excavation works taking place in the Avenue of Sphinxes. Now archaeologists suggest that the tomb belongs to a 10-year-old girl.
Gravestone Discovered Near the Avenue of Sphinxes
The archaeologists stumbled upon the ornamental Coptic tombstone buried on the eastern side of the Avenue of Sphinxes, under Al-Mathan Bridge, as Ahram Online reports. The tombstone was discovered in good condition and was well preserved, a fact that helped archaeologists to study the engraved inscriptions. The grave headstone measures 98×38 cm (35.5×15 in), with Coptic inscriptions and a cross engraved on it. “The gravestone is carved of limestone and adorned with a cross and Coptic texts,” Mostafa Waziri, secretary-general of the Supreme Council of Antiquities, told Ahram Online, and added that the excavations in the Sphinxes Avenue are part of a Ministry of Antiquities program to reinstate the area and transform it into an open-air museum.
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An avenue of human headed sphinxes of over one and a half miles (3 km) once connected the temples of Karnak and Luxor (CC BY-SA 4.0)
The avenue was built during the reign of Pharaoh Nectanebo I, in order to replace an earlier avenue built during the 18th Dynasty, and became the main location where the Festival of Opet took place. The Opet Festival was an Ancient Egyptian festival celebrated annually in Thebes (Luxor), during the New Kingdom and in later periods. The statues of the deities of the Theban Triad — Amun, Mut and their child Khonsu — were escorted in an ecstatic procession. The highlight of the ritual was the meeting of Amun-Re of Karnak with the Amun of Luxor. Some 1,350 sphinxes, with human heads and lion bodies, lined the 2,700-meter-long avenue, and many of them have been now been restored, as Ahram Online reports.
Sphinx Avenue from Karnak Temple to Luxor (CC BY-SA 4.0)
Tombstone Belongs to a Little Girl
The Ministry of Antiquities announced that the analysis of the Coptic tombstone showed that the burial belongs to a 10-year-old girl named “Takla,” who most likely lived during the First Intermediate Period, anytime between the Seventh and Tenth Dynasties. Mostafa Waziri said in a statement that the inscription of one of the engraved words on the tombstone states the word “Jesus”. However, he added that the archaeological mission is still working on translating the rest of the written words inscribed on the stone. “Those found below the cross are five incomplete lines written in Coptic language, which makes it difficult to read…a special team is to conduct more studies on it in an attempt to decipher the text,” Waziri stated as Daily News Egypt reports.
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The tombstone is engraved with a cross and Coptic inscription, one word of which has been translated as ‘Jesus’. (Image: Egypt Ministry of Antiquities)
Who Are the Coptic Christians?
The word "Copt" comes from an ancient Greek word that means "Egyptian," and it's used to refer to all Egyptian Christians, according to Paul Rowe, a professor of political and international studies at Trinity Western University in British Columbia, Canada.
As a recognized autonomous branch of the Christian Church, the Coptic Christians originated in the city of Alexandria, one of the most faithful and respected cities during the Apostolic Period. Proudly, the Coptic Christians acknowledge and herald John Mark, (author of the Gospel of Mark), as their founder and first bishop sometime between 42 and 62 AD. According to theological tradition, when John Mark arrived on a missionary journey to Egypt, the Coptic form of religion of that day was god-centered worship, but focused upon the pyramids. However, John Mark and the Gospel message were well received by the Coptic people as they also believed in “eternal life.” The Coptic people, under Roman rule, consisted of Greeks, Jews and Egyptians.
The Procession of the Opet Festival, Colonnade Hall east wall, central section, Luxor Temple (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)
Nowadays, only a very small population of Coptic Christians still remains in Alexandria, but most are located elsewhere. Unofficial estimations suggest that the current population of the Coptic Church ranges from 10 million to 60 million members worldwide.
Top image: The tombstone is engraved with a cross. Image: Egypt Ministry of Antiquities