Massive sphinxes found in the temple of Pharoah Amenhotep III
Although the Great Sphinx of Giza is the best known, it is only one of many sphinxes in Egypt. In early 2022 the Egyptian Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities announced the discovery of two more. These two sphinxes were uncovered in the funerary temple of Pharaoh Amenhotep III who ruled Egypt as part of the 18th Dynasty (c. 1550–1292 B.C.E.). The limestone sphinxes each measure 26 feet long and consist of the body of a lion and the head of the pharaoh. Along with the sphinxes, the team also made a number of other discoveries.
The two new sphinxes in Egypt were uncovered by an Egyptian-German archaeological mission that has been restoring Amenhotep’s Temple of Millions of Years and the Colossi of Memnon since 1998. The sphinxes were found half-submerged in the temple, which is located in the ancient city of Luxor along the Nile River. They were both wearing a mongoose headdress, a royal beard, and a wide necklace. Horig Sorosian, head of the Egyptian-German mission, said in a statement to Al-Monitor, “Our main task of this project is to gradually document, reassemble and restore the last remains of this temple, then display these monumental remains in their original places.” These new sphinxes in Egypt will join a long list of other objects that have been restored, including a colossal quartzite statue of Pharaoh Amenhotep III.
In addition to the sphinxes, the team also announced the discovery of three granite busts of the war goddess Sekhmet, who was depicted as a lion, and several columns, inscriptions, and pieces of ceremonial artwork. According to Sorosian, the large sphinxes would have guarded the processional road that was used for festivals held in the temple in honor of Amenhotep.
Pharaoh Amenhotep III’s long reign (r. 1387–1348 B.C.E.) was a time of both peace and strength for the 18th Dynasty of Egypt. During this period, Egyptian power stretched far into the southern Levant, where many Canaanite kings served as vassals of the Egyptian state. Many of the famous Amarna Tablets, which provide detailed insight into relations between Egypt and the other great Near Eastern powers, also date to his reign. Upon his death, Amenhotep III was succeeded by his son, the infamous Pharaoh Akhenaten. Akhenaten carried out a series of religious reforms that many scholars have associated with monotheism.
Amenhotep’s Temple of Millions of Years was dedicated to the Egyptian god Amon-Re. The main enclosure was the largest and most elaborate of its kind, measuring over 4 million square feet, making it almost as large as Vatican City. This enclosure included temples to minor deities, gardens, pools, workshops, storerooms, residential quarters, and administrative buildings. Despite its grandeur, the temple was destroyed by an earthquake less than 200 years later (c. 1200 B.C.E.). Much of the destroyed temple was later repurposed for the building projects of Pharaoh Merneptah, whose famous stele contains the earliest historical mention of Israel.
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