Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Wednesday Search Challenge (1/8/14): What's missing from the sphinx?

I just got back from my quick trip to Paris, so I'm slightly jetlagged and not thinking clearly.  But, as I was going through my photos from the trip on the flight back, I noticed something a bit... odd.  As you know, that's usually a clue that I'm going to need to do a bit of searching.  Maybe you can help me out with this one? 

Here's a picture I took of a sphinx in the Louvre.  As I noticed when looking at the photo again, there seems to be something missing.  (And I don't mean just his nose.)  It looks very much to me as though there's something broken off from the top of the forehead.  

Can you figure it out?  Should something have been there?  

Today's search challenge:  

1.  What's missing from the head of the sphinx?  Can you figure out this missing-in-action mystery from a few millennia ago?  

2.  Once you've figured out what's missing, what was the significance of that missing part?  

Search on, Egyptologists!   


  1. A search on "forehead sphinx" gave
    This says:
    _The Sphinx's face, which in ancient times was painted dark red, was also decorated with a stone beard and displayed a sculpted cobra on its forehead, both of which have also fallen off._

    On for the signification of it.

    A search for "significance of egyptian cobra" gets:

    1. That's the Great Sphinx... not the sphinx shown above. (Too many sphinxes!)

  2. After a few very simple request "sphinx statue head" "sphinx statue forehead", the request "sphinx stone statue forehead" gave me the name of the "uraeus", or cobra emblem frequently depicted on the forehead of the headdresses of the pharaos. the uraeus is the symbol of a goddess Wadjet and symbolize supreme power, "sovereignty, royalty, deity, and divine authority in ancient Egypt" (cf wikipedia). The uraeus is also used on the head of several deities and sphinxes.
    To confirm, I made a quick tour in googlescholar to find academics mentions of sphinxes adorned with uraeus, "sphinx uraeus" produce lot of results from archeological journals, of which severals are free or partially free (ex : Charbonneaux Jean. Observations sur la signification et la date de la tasse Farnèse. In: Comptes rendus des séances de l'Académie des Inscriptions et Belles-Lettres, 100e année, N. 2, 1956. pp. 163 "selon la tradition pharaonique, qui s'est transmise aux Ptolémées, le sphinx porteur de l'uraeus représente le roi mort ; et celui-ci continue d'exercer
    ses pouvoirs sur la nature, notamment en ce qui concerne la crue bienfaisante du Nil" , ex : Sauneron, S. (1960). Le nouveau sphinx composite du Brooklyn Museum et le rôle du dieu Toutou-Tithoès. Journal of Near Eastern Studies, 19(4), 269-287 ....)

    I went to the website of the french "ministère de la culture" which has a nice database with a search engine for museographic collections "sphinx uraeus" : the second result is your statue described with those keywords "Mots-clés :
    art égyptien antique . némès . sphinx . statue . uraeus"

    Just for curiosity's sake, I went also to Gallica with a simple request "egypte uraeus sphinx louvre" to find several guides to the Louvre Museum from the XIX century describing sphinxes (when there was fewer visual representation, descriptions were very rich and precise...):
    - Notice des monuments exposés dans la galerie d'antiquités égyptiennes : salle du rez-de-chaussée et palier de l'escalier du Sud-Est au Musée du Louvre (Septième édition) / par M. le vicomte E. de Rougé,... -impr. de Ch. de Mourgues frères (Paris)-1880
    - Description des antiques du Musée national du Louvre / par feu M. de Clarac,... -Vinchon (Paris)-1848

    1. caused me to check Gallica
      and find this blast from the ancient past (2005): menace imminente
      also went back to check the double vulture/cobra uraeus of Tut… somehow it looked more contemporary this time around, can't quite put my finger on why…
      maybe it is the Danish part of the Nile Valley?
      left/right uraeus swap
      also, folks should keep an eye out for relics that are on the loose again - nice piece: baboon/Thoth

  3. I searched the web for Sphinx Headdress which led me to the search term uraeus serpent which led me to the search term
    wadjet serpent goddess. The following sites gave further information but I wanted something more authoritative.

    Finally I searched wadjet serpent goddess and found a number of references.

    This one had illustrations and provided a summary about the goddess.

    This one, which was an excerpt from a book, provided concise information which confirmed what I found on the other sites:

    “Wadjet (meaning “green one”) was the general Egyptian term for cobra, and in that form she became the symbol of royalty and unification. In fact, the cobra, or uraeus, became a generic Egyptian ideograph for the concept of immortality. Thus the pharaoh was described as “the living year of the uraeus.” Wadjet was attached to the royal crown as protectress of the king or pharaoh and in the end became the “eye of Re.” As the “green one, “the serpent Wadjet embodied the forces of growth and health. (Significantly, green was the color that symbolized resurrection in ancient Egypt.)

  4. Louvre trans
    gato grande

    just guessing that someone was worried about being vaporized by spitting fire… or worse,
    or maybe just being crushed by the extra weight added to the 24 tons of pink granite.
    am going with Wadjet - in all her cobra-esque glory acting as the Uraeus atop Amenemhat II's nemes.
    Cobra use example in profile: painted bas relief
    Think this was Lower Nile style, pre vulture sharing, as seen with Steve Martin's pal, Tutankham
    … but then I'm no Egyptologist… of any dynasty or kingdom, nor have I ever caressed a banjo - facts I take no pride in.
    S.M.Tut, no banjo - note AncientDez's Wedjat - Eye of Horus avatar.
    some other examples: like the croc in the background… check Akhenaten

    fwiw; very much enjoyed the Paris photo album, interesting images and sights, it looked like a great adventure in the City of Light -
    given the chestnut predilection did you try the Mt. Blanc? ever given the
    sushi place across the street a whirl? is this #75?
    another view, with shadows - shadow & light pharaoh
    is there an 88 key sRs query in the offing? many questions and opportunities to use
    sRs skills — merci encore pour permettre à un coup d'oeil. Lucky Gustave's tower endures.

    1. I DID try a Mont Blanc dessert... at the restaurant "58" on the first floor of the Eiffel Tower. Excellent. (It's a combination of whipped cream and "chestnut cream.")

  5. part of the reason fire spitting cobra/goddesses were valuable - morphing polytheism is complicated, got to work on that heart/feather thing:
    "The weighing of the heart ceremony was an important factor of the Egyptian mythology. In this ceremony, the heart was weighed by Anubis, against an ostrich feather representing Maat or truth. If the heart was heavier than the feather the soul would be devoured by Ammit."
    Ammit (the croc)

  6. Good Morning, Dr. Russell, fellow SearchResearchers


    [sphinx forehead]

    Found :

    The History of the sphinx statues

    Ctrl F [Forehead]
    Site says: "The representation of the Cobra itself on the Great Sphinx was partly depicted, just the out starched part of the Cobra only depicted on the forehead on the sphinx, while all the statues of King Chephren and all the kings afterwards had the representation of the whole Cobra with the body being depicted over the head."

    Sphinx in Louvre is according to the site: King Djetef Ra.

    Also found the term Uraeus

    [define: Uraeus]
    A: A representation of a sacred serpent as an emblem of supreme power, worn on the headdresses of ancient Egyptian deities and sovereigns.

    [uraeus cobra sphinx Louvre]

    Grand Sphinx
    The Great Sphinx of Giza, an Introduction Tells the History of the Sphinx and links to Uraeus

    [uraeus cobra sphinx meaning]

    Symbols and Definitions
    Egyptian Pharaohs
    The Uraeus Site contains all about it: Facts, History, meanings, significance, materials and many more.


    1. What's missing from the head of the sphinx? Can you figure out this missing-in-action mystery from a few millennia ago?
    A: What is missing is the Uraeus; and upright cobra that means king is ready to strike. Symbol of goddess Wadjet.

    [Wadjet Egypt]

    2. Once you've figured out what's missing, what was the significance of that missing part? A: Symbol of Kingship in Egypt; emblem of supreme power and authority. This protected the king.Reinforced the close connection between the pharaohs and the gods. Uraeus were made of precious metals (gold). Name means "Rising One"


    The Greek word "sphinx", commonly used to refer to the Egyptian statues representing a lion with a human head, was not the original term. The appropriate Egyptian appellation for a statue or image of this kind was shesep-ankh ("living image"). The creature was a symbolic representation of the close relationship between the sun god (the lion's body) and the king (the human head), and was the "living image of the king", demonstrating his strength and his close association with Ra.
    The sphinx was always positioned either as (recumbent) guardian and protector of places where gods appeared - such as the horizon, and temple entrances - or as (upright) defender of Egypt against hostile forces, whom he trampled underfoot.

    Great Sphinx: You are forgetting the uraeus on top of my forehead, the female cobra which rears like the burning eye of my sun-god Ra and protects me from my enemies.

    Wikipedia for Uraeus offers this: In whatever manner that the Uraeus was displayed upon the pharaoh's head, it was, in effect, part of the pharaoh's crown. The pharaoh was recognized only by wearing the Uraeus, which conveyed legitimacy to the ruler

    IMAGES shows lots of examples devotes an entire page to utter nonsense about uraeus


    ...the use as a royal symbol dates back to the most ancient representaion of the king in ancient Egypt...this particualr serpant in striking mode had an innate meaning on the royal brow in addition to its religious associations...the egyptian cobra in striking position could be compared to a mace or a knife as a deadaly instrument that illustrated the power of the royal personage and also protected him.

    1. What's missing from the head of the sphinx? Can you figure out this missing-in-action mystery from a few millennia ago? the URAEUS

    2 what was the significance of that missing part? Symbol of the power of the royal personage

    about 10 minutes of easy sleuthing


  8. Thinking it is common to the headdress began with [ pharaoh headdress ] and found Royal Headdress That tells me the name "Nemes Headdress".
    In addition on the SERP was this What Is the Pharaoh's Headdress Cobra Called?. "The pharaohs' headdress cobra is called Uraeus..."
    [ Uraeus ] to Uraeus

    1. The missing piece is an upright cobra called Uraeus

    2. From Wikipedia "In whatever manner that the Uraeus was displayed upon the pharaoh's head, it was, in effect, part of the pharaoh's crown. The pharaoh was recognized only by wearing the Uraeus, which conveyed legitimacy to the ruler."

    To follow up I wanted to make sure that a sphinx wearing a nemes would also have an uraeus so I searched [ sphinx uraeus ] to Fragment of the beard of the Great Sphinx telling me there was one on the Great Sphinx.
    I then decided to search [ louvre sphinx uraeus ] and found Royal Sphinx with the name of the Pharaoh Achoris and Head of a sphinx of King Djedefre. Neither one was your sphinx. So...
    [ sphinx ] to see if I could find YOUR sphinx.

    Although there is no mention of the uraeus, I believe your sphinx is Great Sphinx of Tanis. To check I did an image search [ sphinx tanis ] and get Grand
    sphinx trouvé à Tanis, vers 2600 av. J.-C.
    Not perfect match but close to arch in your picture so that I would wager your sphinx is the Great Sphinx of Tanis.

  9. And as these things happen to us all, I'm looking at something totally unrelated and think "why didn't you do a general search for [ sphinx tanis uraeus ] instead of site specific to The Louvre?"

    [ sphinx tanis uraeus ] helped me find this cute page The Great Sphinx of Tanis - My museum.
    {Cute because my brain is in work mode at an elementary school. ;-) }

  10. Well… Is there something really missing on the forehead of the Sphinx?
    [sphinx louvre]
    No mention of something missing

    [sphinx louvre tanis]
    "Le sphinx mêle ici l'image du lion, animal puissant mais aussi symbole solaire, et celle du roi qu'on reconnaît grâce à sa coiffe (le némès), le cobra dressé (l'uræus), la barbe postiche et le nom écrit dans le cartouche."
    (and the Uraeus is depicted "le cobra dressé" 'the upright cobra')

    I then searched for other sources and found :

    ("le cobra dressé" again)
    ("Sur le devant plastronne l’uraeus royal" 'on the front the royal uraeus showing off')

    So I think nothing is really missing there, the uraeus was carved in that case as you can see on this other piece :
    May be a little worn out but not missing (and it looks that on you picture, Daniel, the tail is well showing)

    2- as for the significance WP says : "The Uraeus is the stylized, upright form of an Egyptian cobra (asp, serpent, or snake), used as a symbol of sovereignty, royalty, deity, and divine authority in ancient Egypt." Which can be cross checked and detailed in many sources.

    I guess that being french and performing the searches in french helped to notice nothing was really missing.

    1. Well... I see your point. However.. while the image is a little ambiguous, and while the pages you found don't mention anything missing, when I was there looking at it, it certainly seems as though the stone is rather rough, just as though something had broken off at that point. I like your picture from the Louvre of Djedefre, whose uraeus is pretty striking. But in looking around at many sphinx pictures, it seems that the majority of them had the uraeus, so I'm willing to bet that the Tanix sphinx did too.

  11. I have found sufficient references that I’m confident that the Sphinx is the Great Sphinx of Tanis at the Louvre. I identified the possible missing object from a ‘gold mask’ as a ‘ureaus’ (cobra). There is no difficulty establishing references to this object.

    There is the ‘Great Sphinx of Giza’ and the ‘Great Sphinx of Tanis’. References I’ve seen link the missing ‘ureaus’ to the Great Sphinx of Giza but I have not found any references here or online linking the ureaus to the Great Sphinx of Tanis.

    Next I found several images of other Sphinxes without any snakes/ureaus. Here’s an image at the Louvre. They do look slightly different and the Sphinx of Tanis has it’s own display which likely signifies importance. But are all the Sphinxes missing the mysterious object? Perhaps not because the Sphinx of Tanis likely belonged to a pharoah but I don’t think there is a consensus on that either.

    I did find an early image showing the of the Restoration of the Sphinx done around 1851 and you can zoom in really close to examine.

    Chances are the Sphinx of Tanis is missing what is referred to as the cobra/ureaus. I could assume this Sphinx should have a Uraeus but I don't have confirmation. So I guess my answer incomplete at this point.

  12. 1. What's missing from the head of the sphinx? Can you figure out this missing-in-action mystery from a few millennia ago?

    The Uraeus - an Egyptian cobra that symbolized the goddess Wadjet.

    2. Once you've figured out what's missing, what was the significance of that missing part?

    The cobra symbolized that the goddess Wadjet protected the Pharaoh and gave legitimacy to him as ruler of the land. The Sphinx of Tanis does not have this goddess' protection or reinforcement of the Pharaoh's rule.

    Search path:
    1. Dragged image into Google Image Search. This led me to an index that had a similar image of the sphinx at the Louvre, but no additional information:

    2. [sphinx louvre paris] Found a page on the museum's site that included the name of the sphinx (Great Sphinx of Tanis) and other information, but no details on a missing piece

    3. [headdress for sphinx] Found an article on the Great Sphinx of Giza that included embedded links to "nemes" and "double crown." The embedded links explained the name of the striped headcloth on pharoahs (nemes) and mentioned a double crown (pschent). In the article on pschent, it mentioned that it bore two animal emblems, a cobra known as the uraeus and a vulture

    4. [double crown sphinx louvre] did not return many relevant results

    5. [sphinx forehead ornament] took me to an academic article on sphinxes, where it repeated the word "uræus"

    6. [uræus} led me to a gold mine on Wikipedia: There I found that the uræus is a cobra that symbolizes pharoah's sovereignty and deity, among other things. Pharaohs wore the symbol as a head ornament on top of their heads or on a crown that circled their head. Without the ornament, pharaohs were not considered legitimate.

  13. Did a search for ureaus sphinx headdress louvre in google books and came up with this
    We had originally done a search for sphinx Tanis headdress and found out that the sphinx headdress was usually adorned with a cobra called a ureaus. After we got this information we tried searching in google and found nothing and decided to look in books and came up with the link above.
    The ureaus is missing and the ureaus is symbolic of a ruler of northern Egypt. There is some controversy over what pharaoh this sphinx represents and this article contends that only pharaohs of the north wore the cobra. The pharaohs from southern Egypt wore a vulture and rulers over both areas had both on their headdress.