The Sphinx, the hybrid creature of man and lion, was usually provided in ancient Egypt with a rather indifferent facial expression. At most, some want to recognize a narrow smile in the face of the Sphinx in the shadow of the pyramids of Giza.
It is more pleasing for antiquities connoisseurs what has now been brought to light in the Dendera Temple in the Upper Egyptian governorate of Qena: a sphinx-like statue and remains of a shrine. And indeed, the Sphinx smiles. The Egyptian Ministry of Antiquities even presented the find with a daring theory: According to this, the smiling facial features of the statue could show the Roman Emperor Claudius. The finds also include a stone slab from Roman times with inscriptions in the ancient Egyptian colloquial language Demotic and hieroglyphics.
The limestone statue in the shape of a sphinx was reportedly found in a water storage basin made of red, mortar-covered bricks, which belongs to the shrine. Researchers dated the basin, which was equipped with a staircase, to Byzantine times. Further investigations should provide information about the origin of the statue.
She wears the royal headgear known as Nemes, which was worn by pharaohs. Initial examinations of the facial features indicate that it may be a representation of the Roman emperor Claudius, who ruled Egypt from about 10 BC to 54 AD.
The ancient Egyptian temple complex in Dendera is located about 55 kilometers north of Luxor and 450 kilometers south of Cairo. It is considered one of the most important and best preserved temple complexes in Egypt and was dedicated to the goddess Hathor and the god Horus.