Sphinx, Memphis

Sphinx, Memphis (Palace of Merenptah), Dynasty 19, Reigns of Ramses II-Merenptah (1279-1204 BCE), Red Granite. Penn Museum Object E12326. Featured in the Lower Egyptian Gallery of the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology is the twelve-ton, red granite Sphinx of Ramesses II, 19th Dynasty, circa 1293-1185 BCE. It was excavated from the sacred enclosure of the temple of the god Ptah at Memphis, Egypt. The sphinx, a lion with a human head, represents the power of the Egyptian king, both to protect his people and to conquer the enemies of Egypt. This statue was buried up to its shoulders; only the exposed head was attacked by windblown sand, which eroded the facial features and the royal false beard. The inscriptions on the chest and around the base give the five names of Ramesses II.

His son and successor, Merenptah, added his own cartouches to the shoulders after his father’s death. This sphinx, the third largest known in the world was quarried at Aswan and transported by river to the Ptah Temple at Memphis, 600 miles away. Surrounding the sphinx are pillars and gateways from the palace of Merenptah (reign of Merenptah, ca. 1236-1223 BCE).