Egyptian archaeologists have discovered a sphinx while draining water from Kom Ombo, a temple in the town of Kom Ombo in Aswan Governorate, Upper Egypt, built during the Ptolemaic dynasty from 180–47 BC.
According to the antiquities ministry, the sandstone sphinx is roughly 15 inches tall and 11 inches wide, and probably dates back to the Greco-Macedonian Ptolemaic dynasty, which ruled Egypt from 305BC until 30BC. Two sandstone reliefs of King Ptolemy V were also found recently at the temple.
After the coronation of Ptolemy V, who ruled from 210 BC until 180 BC, priests in the sacred Egyptian city of Memphis delivered the renowned Rosetta Stone, which recorded the king’s noble deeds. Centuries later, the stone taught experts to read ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs.
Some rulers would have their likenesses carved as the sphinx's head, to signify their relationship with the lioness-headed sun goddess Sekhmet. The sphinx of Queen Hatshepsut, which weighs more than seven tons, is well-known. Believed to date back to the reign of Hatshepsut and Thutmose III from 1479–1458 BC, the sphinx is currently on display at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.
Kom Ombo is not a typical ancient Egyptian temple since it honors to two separate gods — crocodile god Sobek and falcon god Haroeris. Three hundred ancient crocodile mummies discovered near the temple have been displayed in the adjacent Crocodile Museum.
The discovery of the sphinx comes after the inauguration of the restored Tomb of Mehu, a 4,000-year-old burial site near Giza discovered 80 years ago that had not been open to the public. Another archeological excavation near Aswan has also uncovered a sandstone coffin with mummified human remains. The coffin, which features hieroglyphics, was discovered in a site near the banks of the Nile.
Abdul Moneim Saeed, head of the Aswan Governorate's antiquities department, said experts would continue to study the statue to understand its purpose. In ancient Egypt, the sphinx represented royal power through the physical strength of a lion and the unquestionable power of a king.
Most people associate the figure with the Great Sphinx near the pyramids of Giza, which stands 65 feet tall and extends 187 feet in length. The Great Sphinx is believed to have been carved from limestone during the reign of Khafra, a king of the Fourth Dynasty who ruled from 2558 BC to 2532 BC.