Ancient Egyptian sphinxes often represented a king or royal with the body of a lion as a symbol of power and might.
The statue was unearthed in a two-tiered tomb at the archaeological site of the Temple of Dendera in Qena province, north of Luxor. According to Mustafa Vaziri, secretary general of the Supreme Council of Antiquities, the area also includes a temple to the ancient Egyptian god Horus, which also dates back to Roman times.
During the excavation of the tomb, “a limestone statue of the Roman emperor was found,” Mamdouh Damati, former minister of archeology and professor of archeology at Ain Shams University, said in the statement.
He described the statue as “magnificent” with facial features that “carefully depict royal features and a slight smile on his lips, with two dimples at the ends.” Damti told that yellow and red marks also remain on the face.
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“Preliminary examination of the statue’s face indicates that it may be that of Emperor Claudius,” the ministry said.
A slab from the Roman era was also found with hieroglyphs and demotic inscriptions, which once restored may give more clues.
The statue of the Smiling Sphinx is not to be confused with the much larger Sphinx in the Giza pyramid complex, which is 73 meters long and 20 meters high.
That colossal statue is the hallmark of ancient Egyptian civilization and was carved directly from the bedrock. According to the Antiquities Department, it dates back to around 2500 BC.
The mission said it would continue excavation work in the area of the Temple of Horus to the east of the Dendera Temple. The team started work last month and is using radar scanning system at the ancient temple site.
In recent years, Egyptian authorities have uncovered a wealth of ancient artifacts at various sites, including 2,500-year-old mummies and bronze statues.
The government is hoping such historic discoveries could help revive the country’s tourism industry, which has been hurt by the pandemic, and boost the ailing economy by creating jobs. The government also has an ambitious target of attracting 30 million tourists per year to the country by 2028, it has already been said.