Limestone statue of a hawk-headed sphinx

From Abu Simbel, Egypt
19th Dynasty, about 1250 BC

A symbol of royal power

In Greek mythology the Sphinx was a beast with a woman's head and the body of a lion. However, in Egypt the name is used to refer to a composite creature with the body of a lion and the head of another creature, usually a human, but hawk- and ram-headed sphinxes are also sometimes found.

The sphinx represents royal power. The composite creature combines the physical strength of the lion with the worldly might of the king, thus creating a creature with terrifying power. A hawk-headed sphinx, also called a gryphon, wearing a royal lappet head-dress, is often shown as a representation of the king treading on his enemies. The statue shown here and a similar one were set up near the Temple of Ramesses II at Abu Simbel. It is possible that this hawk-headed sphinx was intended to represent the king's powerful ability to defeat his enemies in the lands south of Egypt.

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Limestone statue of a hawk-headed sphinx

Statue of a hawk-headed sphinx


More information


H. McCall, 'Sphinxes' in Mythical beasts-2 (London, The British Museum Press, 1995), pp. 104-137

Miguel Angel Corzo (ed.), Nefertari: luce dEgitto, exh. cat. (Rome, 1994)


Length: 106.500 cm
Height: 33.000 cm

Museum number

EA 13


Salt Collection


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