THE mystery surrounding an INTENTIONALLY BURIED STONE STRUCTURE at Antinoopolis has deepened with the discovery of not just one ... but three ... human skeletons interred in sand directly on top of the structure.
With the discovery of the first body last week, archaeologists reluctantly speculated about "human sacrifice" ... but now they believe humans were buried separately but along with sacrificial animals.
The team of archaeologists working at ANTINOOPOLIS in Egypt say the subterranean "stone structure," which they believe may be an underground mortuary temple, is covered by two meters of soil strewn with sacrificial pottery sherds, bones of livestock and a crocodile ... and the skeleton of at least three human beings.
None of the animals was mummified ... nor were the humans,
says James B. Heidel, president of the Antinoupolis Foundation.
Some of the animals ... livestock ... were ritually butchered as normal for a Roman-era sacrifice. But a crocodile was buried intact, without being mummified.
But the human bodies were interred intact, also without being mummified. One of the bodies was accompanied by pottery vessels and ushabti figurines ... small clay dolls representing spirits who tend the deceased in the afterlife.
The experts are certain that the pottery vessels and the bodies date to the earliest days of the city which Hadrian founded at the site where Antinous died in the Nile.
None of the pottery is later than the 2nd or 3rd Century AD, the experts said ... meaning the sacrificial offerings were made at the time when the city was founded and under construction.
The archaeologists are also certain that the site is intact and has not been disturbed by looters over succeeding centuries.
They found bones of large livestock, which appear to have been butchered prior to burial. An intact crocodile skeleton is seen as proof that the site was used as a religious sacrificial offering venue ... since crocodiles were sacred to Ancient Egyptians and not a source of food.
But the human skeleton is a total mystery. In Roman times, human sacrifice was taboo, but the archaeologists say the human bones mixed in amongst the bones of sacrificial animals and pottery suggest a gruesome possibility.
"The human burial is sealed in the same clean sand layer as all the other offerings, and the not unreasonable, but somewhat uncomfortable, hypothesis must now be that at least one human was sacrificed and offered with the animals," says James B. Heidel, president of the Antinoupolis Foundation.
The pottery and bones are in soil which covers the mystery-shrouded "intentionally buried stone structure" which Heidel's team found in January 2017 in the heart of the city founded by Hadrian at the spot where Antinous died in the Nile.
Using ground-penetrating radar, the experts discovered the rectangular stone structure ... 12 by 22 meters in size ... which consists of three successive chambers.
The archaeologists suggest it could be an OSIREION ... symbolic Tomb of Osiris ... raising hopes that this could be the Lost Tomb of Antinous.
The structure was detected with ground-penetrating radar.
It is located near the waterfront peristyle discovered last season.
It is within what possibly was the Great Temple of Antinous and is a rectangular chamber which is subdivided into three sub-chambers ... apparently an antechamber, a middle chamber and an inner sanctum.