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About This Image:

Little did I know before visiting the ancient Egyptian Karnak Temple that there are multiple types of sphinxes. Unless you study ancient Egyptian art, you may not know that the Great Sphinx at Giza, the one we all know so well, is just one of three types of Egyptian sphinxes. Those with the head of a man like at the Giza Necropolis are Anrosphinx. There are also ones with the head of a falcon which are known as Hieracosphinx. And the type of sphinxes seen in this print from the ruins of Karnak are Criosphinx, which have the head of a ram.

This collection of Rams Headed Sphinxes in this print caught my eye not simply because of their novelty. They were bathed in a great warm morning light as we entered the first pylon of Karnak Temple. That strong light picked up every detail of their ancient texture. They literally leaped out at me as we entered. They simply had the feeling of a row of venerable guardians and I was curious about their story. As it turned out these Ram’s headed sphinxes reminded me at our core how much we still have in common with the ancient Egyptians that carved them so long ago.

Once upon a time these Ram’s headed sphinxes were part of a group of statues that lined a processional avenue connecting the Egyptian Temples at Luxor and Karnak. Our guide told us that these sphinxes were in fairly good condition for their ancient age precisely because they were a victim of changing tastes in ancient Thebes. When the Ram’s Headed sphinxes fell out of fashion, they were buried or otherwise hidden away in the walls of the temple at Karnak. Doesn’t it make you feel more connected to the ancient Egyptians to realize they redecorated just like we do? So these ancient sphinxes were consigned to the attic and have since been rediscovered. So, there is a fascinating and very human story behind this golden row of statuary.

I think on some level when I saw those old statues I knew there was a human story there somewhere. I’ve read there are plans to rebuild the avenue they once lined and to put these old sphinxes back atop their plinths once more. I’m sure that would be spectacular to see. Yet I kind of like them fresh from the attic as seen in this golden Karnak print!

Have you seen the Ram’s headed sphinxes at Karnak Temple? Or are you simply in love with ancient Egyptian art? I would love for you to take a second to share what you find most striking about this Karnak print!

Note: Karnak Temple as part of Ancient Thebes is a UNESCO designated World Heritage site.

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    About Me

    I’m Mark Tisdale, a Georgia artist whose journey started with a love of travel and a desire to capture the beautiful places I saw. It’s a path that has changed my life in ways I never would have imagined. I feel quite fortunate to spend my days doing something I love. I have been working as an artist for over a decade and I have supported myself as a full time artist for eight years and counting.

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