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Head from a Female Sphinx

Small details sometimes provide crucial clues to understanding a work of Egyptian sculpture. On this object, for example, the back of the wig extends horizontally instead of downward, indicating that the head originally belonged to a sphinx, a mythological creature with a human head and a lion's body. Sphinxes represented the king's ability to crush Egypt's enemies. Although sphinxes were usually male, the heavy striated wig shown here only appears on representations of women. This statue's inlaid eyes, probably of metal and colored stones, were pried out in antiquity, resulting in extensive damage. Repairs to the eyes, lips, and chin were apparently made in the eighteenth century.

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