Friday, August 3, 2012

Sphinx's beard

A question on Jeopardy! made me aware that part of the plaited beard of the 4,800-year-old Egyptian sphinx (1st image, Albumen print by G. Lékègian & Co., c. 1880s) was not lost to time, but in fact resides at the British Museum. The fragment (2nd image, see here for size scale), which may have been a later addition to the ancient statue, represents about 1/30th of the length of the beard. It was found in 1817 between the paws of the Sphinx by Giovanni Battista Caviglia, who presented it to the Museum. Such a beard was typically depicted on gods and the dead to indicate divinity. "It was carved out of local limestone, which was probablyleft over from rock used for construction of the 'GreatPyramid'....[The beard] was probably added duringrestoration work in the Eighteenth Dynasty (c. 1550-1295 B.C.),and fell off in antiquity."
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