Granite Sphinx of Hatshepsut

The granite sphinx of Hatshepsut is carved in a fairly classical pose, in a similar manner to the Middle Kingdom sphinxes of Amenemhat III.

The front legs extend forward and the tail curls around the right hind leg. The sphinx is a portrait of Hatshepsut with the elegant feminine features of all her statues: almond-shaped eyes under arched brows, a fine aquiline or hooked nose, and a small smiling mouth. Writing on the chest reads, “Maatkare, Beloved of Amun, may life be given forever.”

Sphinx of Queen Hatshepsut
Sphinx of Queen Hatshepsut

The statue shows her with the body of a lion and the head of a king, wearing the traditional royal headcloth, the nemes.

A uraeus adorns her brow and a false beard is attached to her chin; both traditional royal regalia, indicating that Hatshepsut is being represented, not as a queen, but as a king.

This is supported by the column of inscription that provides her prenomen (throne name), Maatkare, in the royal cartouche, and describes her as beloved of the god Amun.

The statue was badly damaged, probably due to the destruction that was carried out by her coregent and successor, Thutmose III, in order to eradicate her memory.

Granite Sphinx of Hatshepsut
Granite Sphinx of Hatshepsut

Sphinx statues continued to be produced throughout ancient Egyptian history and were popular during the New Kingdom.

Six colossal granite sphinx statues, in various degrees of preservation, are believed to have originated from Hatshepsut’s mortuary temple at Deir el-Bahari. They were probably arranged in two east-west rows, flanking the processional route to the ramp leading to the temple’s second terrace. They, therefore, acted as guardians to both the temple, and the processions that went through it.

New Kingdom, 18th Dynasty, reign of Hatshepsut, ca. 1479-1458 BC. Granite, from Deir el-Bahari. Now in the Egyptian Museum, Cairo. JE 53114

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