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Construction Workers Discover a Buried Sphinx in Egypt

The sphinx, a human-lion hybrid from around 380 BCE, was discovered on a construction site in Luxor.

Sphinxes along the Great Processional Way (via Michael Ravodin/Flickr)

Egyptian archaeologists have announced the discovery of a new sphinx in Luxor, 670 kilometers south of Cairo.

While excavating the Great Processional Way — also known as Al-Kabbash Road, which connects the famous Luxor and Karnak temples — construction workers found the new sphinx upside-down and besotted with a dusty mixture of mud and sand. It is a human-lion hybrid, indicating a temporal or thematic difference from the nearby procession of ram-headed sphinxes.

Needless to say, the government has paused its roadwork that was previously scheduled for completion by 2018 with a $12.7 million budget. Working with the Ministry of Antiquities, the Luxor governorate had planned to pave the road to allow easy access for visitors. It is part of a broader push by Egypt to reinvigorate their ailing tourism industry, which has not regained its pre-Arab Spring numbers. According to a report published by Egypt Today, construction will also include the reinstallation of the ram-headed sphinxes lining the processional way after a short warehouse stay. The restoration project began in 2005, with a total cost of $33.5 million before its extended hiatus during the January 25 Revolution.

Image of the unearthed sphinx in its archaeological site (image courtesy Dr. Mostafa Al-Saghir)

Artnet news reports that the Ministry of Egyptian Antiquities is developing a new way to lift the sphinx from its resting place to avoid repeating the controversy of last year when Cairo officials haphazardly lifted a 24-foot-tall statue of a pharaoh’s head with an excavator.

According to Mostafa Al-Saghir, general director of Karnak and Avenue of Sphinxes, the new sphinx dates to the Late Period’s 30th Dynasty of Egypt. The sculpture was likely created around 380 BCE during the reign of Nechtebo I, the pharaoh responsible for building the specific area of the Great Processional Way where the sphinx was found.

Al-Saghir tells Hyperallergic that the sphinx was likely pushed from its pedestal and toppled during Roman occupation. Surrounding the sphinx, archaeologists found numerous examples of Roman pottery and manufacturing instruments. The general director says that other architectural elements have been found along the processional way during construction, including wine presses, shrines, and nilometers.

Image of the unearthed sphinx in its archaeological site (image courtesy Dr. Mostafa Al-Saghir)

Located on the bank of the Nile, Luxor is extremely prone to annual flooding. This explains why the sculpture looks absolutely caked with mud in the images of the sphinx that Al-Saghir provided to Hyperallergic. In ancient Egypt, the sphinx is considered a potent symbol of unification between the God and the Pharaoh. The general director says he expects to find many more sphinxes in the area once excavation continues.

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