Archaeologists in Egypt have uncovered what appears to be a smiling ancient sphinx.
Ancient Egyptian sphinxes often represented a king or royal with the body of a lion, as a symbol of might and power.
The statue was uncovered in a two-level tomb at the archaeological site of the temple of Dendera in Qena province, north of Luxor. The area also includes a shrine to the ancient Egyptian god Horus, also dating back to the Roman era, according to Mostafa Waziri, secretary general of the Supreme Council of Antiquities.
During the excavation of the tomb, “a limestone statue of a Roman emperor was found,” Mamdouh Damati, a former minister of archaeology and professor of archaeology at Ain Shams University, said in the statement.
He described the statue as “magnificent” with facial features that “meticulously depicted royal features and a light smile on his lips, which have two dimples on the ends.” Traces of yellow and red color also remain on the face, Damati said.
“Preliminary examination of the statue’s face indicated that it was likely to belong to Emperor Claudius,” the ministry added.
A slab from the Roman era was also found with hieroglyphic and demotic inscriptions, which may give more clues once restored.
The smiling sphinx statue is not to be confused with the far larger sphinx at the Giza pyramid complex, which measures 73 meters long and 20 meters high.
That colossal statue is a hallmark of ancient Egyptian civilization and carved directly out of the bedrock. It dates to about 2500 B.C., according to the antiquities department.
The mission said it will continue excavation work in the area of the Horus temple, east of the Dendera temple. The team began work last month and has been utilizing radar scanning systems across the ancient temple site.
In recent years, Egyptian authorities have uncovered a trove of ancient artifacts at various sites, including mummies and bronze statues dating back 2,500 years.
The government is hoping such historic finds may help revive the nation’s tourism industry, hurt by the pandemic, and boost the ailing economy by creating jobs. The government also has an ambitious goal of drawing 30 million tourists a year to the country by 2028, it has previously said.