The working tools of a scriber whose tomb was discovered at the ancient Egyptian city of Oxyrhynchus (Photo Credit: University of  Barcelona)
The working tools of a scriber whose tomb was discovered at the ancient Egyptian city of Oxyrhynchus (Photo Credit: University of Barcelona)University of Barcelona

A team of Spanish archaeologists have discovered an image of a young man, which may be one of the earliest depictions of Jesus.

Researchers from the University of Barcelona, the Catalan Egyptology Society and the University of Montpellier unearthed an underground stone structure in the ancient Egyptian city of Oxyrhynchus, which is located about 161 km (100 miles) south of Cairo. The stone structure was uncovered in a series of buried tombs that date from the 6th to 7th centuries.

They found five or six coats of paint on the walls, the last of which was from the earliest Coptic Christians. Among the Coptic images painted on the walls of the underground structure, one image is what researchers believe might be one of the oldest depictions of Jesus.

The image is that of a young man with a curly hair. Dr PadrĂ³, Emeritus Professor at the University of Barcelona and head of the expedition, told La Vanguardia that image painted on the wall is that of a "young man with curly hair, dressed in a short tunic and with his hand raised as if giving a blessing. We could be dealing with a very early image of Jesus Christ," he told the newspaper. To look at the picture, click HERE.

The excavated underground structure is located in the middle of a processional route that joins the Nile with the Osireion, the temple dedicated to Osiris (Egyptian God of the afterlife). Archaeologists had to remove forty-five tones of stone to get to the underground structure. After clearing the site, the researchers were able to reach the rectangular crypt which measured about 8 metres long and 3.75 metres deep.

They are not sure as to what the underground structure is for, but assume that it could be another temple dedicated to Osiris. Apart from finding the image of a curly man, researchers also found images of plants and inscriptions written in Coptic language that are being translated to decipher the identity of the figure.

During the excavation, researchers also discovered the tomb of a scriber who was buried with his working tools. His tools include a metallic inkpot full of ink, two new pens for the deceased to write during the eternal life. "The archaeological site of Oxyrhynchus is known for the thousands of papyri found there, but any scribe was found to date", PadrĂ³ said in a statement.

There were no inscriptions to identify the tomb, but archaeological remains have allowed the researchers to conclude that the writer was aged around seventeen years and was buried during the Coptic Roman period.

The team also found a tomb full of Roman mummies during their expedition. 

Photo Credit: University of Barcelona