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Photos: The Ram-Headed Sphinx of Gebel el-Silsila

Excavated Sphinx

ram-headed sphinx of gebel el-silsila

(Image credit: Copyright The Gebel el-Silsila Project 2019)

The ram-headed sphinx carved more than 3,000 years ago sits in a trench excavated from quarry rubble. The sphinx looks similar to some finished statues found at a temple complex in the Egyptian archaeological site of Karnak, according to the project directors. It's unclear why the sphinx was left unfinished and abandoned.

On a wing

ram-headed sphinx of gebel el-silsila

(Image credit: Copyright The Gebel el-Silsila Project 2019)

A fragment of stone bearing the carving of a wing, found near the ram-headed sphinx. Archaeologists discovered hundreds of carved stone fragments from a Naos, or shrine, to Amenhotep III at the site. The pharaoh ruled from around 1390 BC to 1351 or 1353 BC. He was father of the pharaoh Akhenaten, whose chief consort was the famous Nefertiti. Akhenaten fathered Tutankamun (probably by another of his consorts), making Amenhotep III King Tut's grandfather.

Chisel Marks

ram-headed sphinx of gebel el-silsila

(Image credit: Copyright The Gebel el-Silsila Project 2019)

A sandstone block bearing ancient chisel marks from the quarry at Gebel el-Silsila. There was a noticeable change in the rubble around the ram-headed sphinx, excavation assistant director Ward told Live Science. Most of the rubble around the quarry is made up of large rock chunks created by large chisels. Around the sphinx, the rock shards were finer, indicating delicate work with small tools by artisans.

Excavations directors

ram-headed sphinx of gebel el-silsila

(Image credit: Anders Andersson/The Gebel el-Silsila Project)

Excavation director Maria Nilsson and co-director John Ward at the site of Gebel el-Silsila in Egypt. The archaeologists and their team have discovered a variety of tombs, statuary and structures at the quarry site. Among the latest discoveries was an inscription in red ochre dating to the opening of the quarry during the reign of Amenhotep III. Researchers are working to translate the text now.