Sphinxes on ancient Egyptian scarabs
- von Galerie Alte Römer
A sphinx is a mythical creature deeply rooted in the culture of Ancient Egypt. The body is that of a lion, the head can be of a human, falcon or ram. Before the Greek adaption of the myth sphinxes were mostly depicted without wings (for an early example with wings see e.g. the scarab from the time of Hatshepsut in Petrie, Historical Scarabs, fig. 29, 889). In art, sphinxes are shown standing, seated or walking. The origin of the myth is not known.
Earliest known sources suggest the sphinx represents royal status and power of the Egyptian pharaoh. As a motive on scarabs, the creature was made popular by the Hyksos. During the New Empire, it was already a mass product with countless variations of the main theme. Two main scenes can be distinguished. A sphinx facing and fighting evil, e.g. in the symbolic form of a cobra. Or a sphinx facing and representing good, e.g. in the form of the Ankh symbol of life. In both cases, the scarab amulet should magically protect the one owning or carrying it.