A group of Spanish archaeologists have discovered what may be the earliest image of Jesus Christ in an ancient Egyptian tomb.
In an April 25 interview with The Local, the researchers described finding a painted "figure of a young man, with curly hair, dressed in a short tunic and with his hand raised as if giving a blessing" next to a series of inscriptions.
"We could be dealing with a very early image of Jesus Christ," Josep Padró said.
The underground tomb is from the 6th or 7th century.
The discovery was made in the ancient city of Oxyrhynchus by Egyptologists from the Catalan Egyptology Society and the University of Barcelona.
Previous digs in Oxyrhynchus have discovered temples dedicated to Osiris, Egyptian god of the dead, the underworld, and the afterlife.
Padró, leader of the archaeological team and a 20-year excavation veteran, said that this tomb may have belonged to a writer and family of priests. He stated that he did not know the type of stone that the structure was made from.
The archaeologist also said that over 45 tons of rock were carried out to find the tomb, and his team found "five or six coats of paint on the walls, the last of which was from the Coptic period of the first Christians."
The painting is being protected while experts translate the inscriptions that surround it. The Egyptian Minister of Antiquities, Mohamed Ibrahim, is also involved in the ongoing research.
Padró told reporters that there is another structure connected to the tombs by a set of stairs. His team has not had time to explore this yet unidentified area of the tomb.
"We don't know what we'll find there," he told The Local.