Archaeologists have discovered the 3,000-year-old remains of an Egyptian carving workshop containing several unfinished sculptures, including a ram-headed sphinx chiseled from sandstone.
The ancient workshop is thought to date back to the 18th Dynasty, during the reign of Amenhotep III – King Tut’s grandfather.
The Swedish-Egyptian team behind the discovery also found hundreds of hieroglyphic fragments at the site along with a small ‘practice piece’ of a sphinx that may have been carved by an apprentice.
Researchers with the Gebel el Silsila Project revealed their latest discovery in a blog post this week.
The team, led by archaeologists from Lund University and the Egyptian Ministry of Antiquities, says only the head of the ram-headed sphinx – known as a criosphinx – was visible before the excavations in the quarry.
Now, they’ve uncovered the full body of a sculpture that measures roughly 5-meters long and 3.5 meters tall.
The top half of its head, however, has broken off and appears to have been lost to time.
Beside the stomach of the large sculpture, the team uncovered yet another, smaller sphinx that appears to have been carved by an apprentice.
They also found a rough-cut sculpture of a coiled cobra that had been carved do crown the head of the main sphinx.
‘Both sculptures are preserved in a rough-cut and prepared for transportation, but were likely abandoned at Gebel el-Silsila as the larger sculpture fractured,’ the researchers said.
‘Since then, later Roman quarry activity buried the sphinxes in spoil.’
According to the team, the trove of hieroglyphic fragments also found at the quarry came from a since-destroyed shrine to Amenhotep III.
The 18th Dynasty ruler reigned in the mid 1300s BC alongside Queen Tiye.
They also unearthed fragments of a falcon sculpture and a quarry text written at the time the site first opened, during the ruler’s reign about 3350 years ago,
The team is now working to decipher the texts, which were written in red ochre.
Archaeologists will continue excavations and digital recordings at the site during the next dig season.