Sphinx of Thutmose III

Granodiorite statue of King Thutmose III depicted as a sphinx. The sphinx depicts the king reclining on the Nine bows, which represent the traditional enemies of Egypt brought to submission. The sculpture once stood in the Karnak Temple Complex near Thebes. However, it was discovered in 1903 buried with thousands of statues, steles, amulets, inlay plaques, votive cubits, and other artifacts in the north court of the seventh pylon of the Great Temple of Amun at Karnak. This is now known as the ‘courtyard of the cachette.’

Scholars believe that the hoard was ritually buried by temple priests during the Ptolemaic Period to relieve the crowding of statues and private offerings that have accumulated over the centuries. Most of the objects found date from the New Kingdom through the Ptolemaic Period, although some objects from the Old and Middle Kingdoms were also unearthed.

Sphinx of Thutmose III
Sphinx of Thutmose III

“Unobtrusive as they may have been individually, the temple statues gradually accumulated over the centuries until they seriously encroached on the space available and got in the way of new building projects.

Temple personnel had to accept new statues, yet could not simply discard the older, hallowed dedications. The usual solution was to relegate the older statues to large pits or caches dug beneath the surface of the temple courtyard. Here, although buried and no longer visible to passers by, the ancient statues were at least still within the sacred precincts.”

The Complete Temples of Ancient Egypt, by Richard H. Wilkinson (#aff)

In Egyptian art, the sphinx statue dates back to 4th Dynasty of the Old Kingdom, more than a thousand years before the time of Thutmose III. The most famous example is the Great Sphinx at Giza which represents Khafre who also built the second pyramid in about 2500 BC.

Related: Sphinx of Hatshepsut

The earliest sphinx statue in the Museum’s collections represents the Middle Kingdom king Amenemhat III who ruled about 1860 BC.

Sphinx of King Thutmose III
Sphinx of King Thutmose III. Photo: Dallet-Alba

New Kingdom, mid 18th Dynasty, reign of Thutmose III, ca. 1479-1425 BC. From Courtyard of the Cachette at Temple of Amun-Re, Karnak. Now in the Egyptian Museum, Cairo. JE 37981; CG 42069