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Smiling sphinx statue discovered in Egypt

The dimpled face may be a stylized representation of the Roman emperor Claudius, an Egyptian research team said.

Archaeologists in Egypt have unearthed a sphinx statue “with a smiley face and two dimples” near Hathor Temple, one of the country’s best-preserved ancient sites, the Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities (MoTA) has announced.

It is the latest in a series of discoveries revealed in recent months.

The limestone artifact, believed to be a stylized representation of an ancient Roman emperor, was found in a two-story tomb near the temple in southern Egypt, the MoTA said in a statement Monday.

In addition to the “beautifully and precisely sculpted” sphinx, researchers had found “a Roman stela written in demotic and hieroglyphic” scripts, the ministry statement said.

Once fully deciphered, the stele could shed light on the identity of the sculpted ruler, who the Egyptian research team believes could be Emperor Claudius.

The Hathor Temple, about 500 km south of the capital Cairo, was home to the Dendera Zodiac, a celestial map that has been on display at the Louvre in Paris since 1922, more than a century after Frenchman Sebastien Louis Saulnier destroyed it. out of the temple.

Egypt wants it back.

The country has uncovered significant archaeological discoveries in recent months, mainly in the Saqqara necropolis south of Cairo, but also in Giza, home to the only surviving structure of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.

On Thursday, MoTA announced the discovery of a 9-meter (29.5-foot) hidden passageway in the Great Pyramid of Giza that archaeologist Zahi Hawass says could lead to “the actual burial chamber” of Pharaoh Khufu, or Cheops.

Further south, in Luxor, archaeologists had discovered an 1,800-year-old “complete Roman-era residential town,” authorities announced in January.

Some experts believe such announcements carry more political and economic weight than scientific weight, as Egypt is counting on tourism to revive its vital tourism industry amid a severe economic crisis.

The government aims to attract 30 million tourists a year by 2028, up from 13 million before the pandemic.