Digging at the ancient quarry site of Gebel el-Silsila near Aswan, Egypt, archaeologists and workers unearthed the 11.5-foot-tall (3.5 meters) sphinx from a deep pit of quarry debris dumped there during the Roman era. The sphinx was sitting in an ancient carving workshop, where the team also found hundreds of stone fragments holding hieroglyphs and a carving of a coiled-up cobra that once crowned the sphinx.
The statue’s presence at the quarry is something of a mystery, but it might have been a canceled order, said Maria Nilsson, an archaeologist at Lund University in Sweden and the director of the Gebel el-Silsila excavation. The evidence suggests that the sphinx was carved around the end of the reign of pharaoh Amenhotep III (King Tut’s grandfather), Nilsson told Live Science. When the pharaoh died, the sculptures he commissioned might have been abandoned. [See Photos of the Ram-Headed Sphinx at Gebel el-Silsila]
The Gebel el-Silsila site sits along the banks of the Nile. The site was once a quarry, but recent excavations have revealed that it was also home for the quarry workers and their families. Nilsson and assistant project director John Ward have found a necropolis for men, women and children onsite. They’ve also found carved statues of well-off officials and an unlooted tomb full of a watery soup of human remains.