Two colossal limestone statues thought to depict an ancient Pharaoh in the form of a Sphinx have been uncovered thanks to a recent restoration project by the Egyptian Ministry of Antiquities and the German Archaeological Institute.
An Egyptian-German archeological team discovered the statues – once approximately 8 meters (26.25 feet) in length – while carrying out recent restoration works on the statues of Memnon and the “Temple of Millions of Years” on the western mainland in Luxor, southern Egypt.
The “Temple of Millions of Years” is a vast complex of temples, statues, walls, and complicated structures dedicated to King Amenhotep III, a pharaoh sometimes called "Amenhotep the Magnificent” because of his prominence and military might.
His rule of Egypt in the 14th century BCE is considered somewhat of a “golden age” defined by peaceful prosperity and a time when ancient Egypt peaked its international influence.
Dr Mustafa Waziri, Secretary-General of the Supreme Council of Antiquities, explained in a statement that the two colossal limestone statues depict this eminent ruler in the form of a Sphinx, wearing a mongoose headdress, and a royal beard.
Dr Horig Sorosian, head of the archeological mission, added that the statues were likely placed at the entrance of a procession road, which cut between a column of the mortuary temple and a courtyard filled with wall relief.
"This discovery shed light on the processional way from the third pylon to the Peristyle Court,” Sourouzian told Al-Monitor, a news website that reports on the Middle East. “In the peristyle, the newly discovered pieces of wall relief reveal new scenes of the Heb-Sed, a festival of the king started after 30 years of his rule and repeated every three years thereafter.”
With the head of a human, the body of a lion, and the wings of a falcon, the sphinx are mythical creatures commonly associated with ancient Egypt. The most famous is no doubt the Great Sphinx of Giza, a 73 meter (240 foot) long sphinx statue that dates to the reign of Khafre (2558–2532 BCE).
The precise meaning of the sphinx has been lost to time, and there are many interpretations of what this iconic mythical beast symbolized. Some explanations say the animal represents awe-inspiring authority and the sacred power of the sun.
Since sphinxes also depict the faces of pharaohs – the face of the Great Sphinx of Giza appears to represent the pharaoh Khafre – some have interpreted them as symbols of how the powerful royal dynasties of ancient Egypt were inseparable from the divine.
That's one possibility, or perhaps they just really wanted to confuse some archeologists in 3,300 years' time.