A sphinx-like statue and a Roman-era stone slab with inscriptions on it have been discovered in Egpyt, the Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities announced in a press release Monday.
Archeologists from Ain Shams University unearthed the Roman-era statue during a dig at the Dendera temple complex, located north of Luxor in the Qena province in southern Egypt. Researchers believe the smiling sphinx is modeled on Roman Emperor Claudius. Along with the statue, a stone slab with hieroglyphic and demotic inscriptions was discovered. These finds are just a few of the many recent discoveries announced by the antiquities ministry.
“The statue is really beautiful, its face is characterised by royal features that are depicted quite precisely,” Dr. Mamdouh El Damaty, the excavation leader said. “The traces of a smile can be seen on the edges of its mouth, which has a dimple on either side. There are traces of yellow and red in the face.”
The sphinx was unearthed in a two-level tomb along with the stone slab at Dendera, which is a 9.8-acre complex. Researchers believe the limestone sphinx depicts Roman Emperor Claudius based on a “preliminary examination” of the face. The statue’s head appears to be wearing a nemes, which is a type of striped head cloth often seen on pharaohs.
Archaeologists in Egypt have unearthed a sphinx statue “with a smiley face and two dimples” near the Hathor Temple, one of the country’s best preserved ancient sites, the tourism and antiquities ministry announced Monday.https://t.co/Stho4LSv8i pic.twitter.com/dO06E9J5F3
— AFP News Agency (@AFP) March 6, 2023
While the recently discovered sphinx looks similar to the well-known one located in Giza, it is much smaller and newer than the 66-foot-high, 240-foot-long statue on the Giza Plateau. A sphinx has the head of a human but the body of a lion and were often located near temples or around temple complexes, according to History.com.
Below the sphinx statue was the stone slab with inscriptions, which Artnet News describes as a Roman stela. Stelas are primarily “used to commemorate people or events, to delineate physical spaces or as objects through which to access the dead or divine,” according to the American Research Center In Egypt. Researchers believe studying the markings on the stela will assist in understanding the origin and history of the sphinx.
Claudius ruled from 41 to 54 A.D. as the fourth Roman emperor. He’s credited with expanding the empire further into the Middle East and North Africa. Prior to becoming emperor, many, including some of his own family members, deemed him too weak to rule, and some historians believe he suffered from cerebral palsy or Tourette’s syndrome. According to History.com, Claudius’ mother described him as a “monstrosity of a human being, one that nature began and never finished.”
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Archeologists began their study of the temple complex last February and used radar, magnetic, and radio surveys. The press release from the university that led the excavation says the site will prove to be “promising” in the future, and that these finds “will add a lot to the history of Egyptian civilization in the Greek and Roman ages.”
In late January, authorities in Egypt announced the discovery of multiple tombs, including one belonging to an ancient king’s “secret keeper” in Saqqara. Those finds date back to the fifth and sixth dynasties of the Old Kingdom, between 2686-2181 B.C.