The Sphinx Unriddled (2015-2016)

The sphinx and related composite creatures. A motif of political-religious legitimation during the dynamical period of cultural changes appearing in the Late Bronze (1600-1200 BC) and the Early Iron Age (1200-800 BC) in the Eastern Mediterranean. (Doctoral research: Nadine Nys)

 Is dit een mummy?
Is dit een mummy?
The sphinx has been a well-known motif from antiquity onwards till the present day.  Especially in Egypt she seems to appear everywhere, but also in other regions around the Mediterranean (Mesopotamia, Levant, Anatolia and the Aegean) she was a popular motif.    She can be found on wall-paintings, on seals, on ritual objects and furniture, on jewellery, or she can be admired as a tiny figurine as well as an enormous monument, or as protective amulet.  Moreover, she is present in very diverse contexts, e.g. near divinities or their symbols, near royal figures, on or near sarcophagi and in tombs, with animals or other fantastic creatures, …).

Probably the motif was used first in Egypt from which it was distributed across large parts of the Mediterranean area.  This phenomenon, of course, begs different questions; e.g. did the creature have one clear meaning and function or did it have several and were these meaning(s) and function(s) the same in every region?  Did the motif and its function and meaning evolve mainly through influences by other regions or was it only through local customs and traditions?


Prof Dr Joachim Bretschneider