A team of Catalan archaeologists believes it has unearthed one of the earliest images of Jesus Christ buried deep in an ancient Egyptian tomb.
Experts at the University of Barcelona discovered an underground structure in the ancient Egyptian city of Oxyrhynchu which may have acted as a resting place for a number of priests.
More than 45 tonnes of rock had to be moved in order to access the hidden room. Another unidentified structure found nearby during this process is currently being investigated.
Once inside, the 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 underground structure was also reportedly decorated with Coptic images and may contain one of the earliest-known representations of Jesus Christ, The Local has reported.
Dr Josep Padró, the Emeritus Professor at the University of Barcelona who led the expedition, described the find as “exceptional”.
He told the La Vanguardia newspaper that the figure 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 added.
A team is now working to translate inscriptions surrounding the figure.
The tomb of a writer who had been buried with his tools was also discovered during the excavation.
Mr Padro explained: “Another exceptional find of the expedition is the tomb of a scriber who was buried together with his working tools: a metallic inkpot which is still full of ink and two new pens for the deceased to write during the eternal life.”
There are inscriptions to identify the tomb, but Mr Padro said he believed the archaeological remains allowed them to conclude the writer was aged around seventeen years.