Egyptian Archaeologists Uncover Sphinx At Aswan Temple

The BBC reports that while draining groundwater from the ancient temple of Kom Ombo near Aswan in southern Egypt, archaeologists found a well-preserved statue of a sphinx -- the mythical being from Egyptian legend bearing the head of a man and the body of a lion. In ancient Egypt, the sphinx represented royal power. Sometimes the head of a hawk or snake replaced the human head, depending on the purpose of the sphinx and what it was intended to symbolize. According to the head of Aswan's antiquities department, Abdul Moneim Saeed, the sphinx -- and the area in which it was found -- will be studied carefully to determine its original purpose.

The statue is about 28 cm. (11 inches) wide and 38 cm. (15 inches) high and is made of sandstone. Two sandstone reliefs of King Ptolemy V were also found at the site recently in the same area. Ptolemy V ruled Egypt from 210 B.C. until 180 B.C., in the middle of the Greco-Macedonian Ptolemaic dynasty. It's thought that the sphinx also dates back to that period.

Ptolemy V is the Egyptian pharoah most closely associated with the Rosetta Stone, as the stone contains a decree about the temple priests in Memphis supporting his rule. According to The British Museum, where the stone currently resides, it was found in 1799 by Napoleon's troops. The stone contains the same text about Ptolemy V in three different languages, making it vitally important for further understanding and translation of Egyptian hieroglyphics.

According to Discovering Egypt, Kom Ombo was built during the reign of Ptolemy VI, the son of Ptolemy V. It was dedicated to the twin gods Sobek (Seth, the crocodile god) and Haroeris (Horus, the falcon god), who were sworn enemies. Since it was dedicated to twin gods, the temple is unique in that it is completely symmetrical, with two complete sets of entrances and rooms on opposite ends, oriented north-south. Part of the temple has been destroyed by the Nile and other parts ruined by later builders cannibalizing the stones for different projects.

According to the Horus legend, followers of Seth turned themselves into crocodiles to escape the wrath of Horus, and as a result, live crocodiles were kept in the building while it was an active temple. In addition, nearly 300 crocodile mummies have been found in the area, some of which are shown in the temple sanctuary. Others are housed in the Aswan Crocodile Museum.

Until relatively recently, the area was infested with crocodiles, adding an alluring element of danger to the continuing history of the region.