Dr. Maria Nilsson and John Ward from Lund University led a Swedish-Egyptian mission that uncovered a New Kingdom sandstone workshop and several sculptures. The site is located at Gebel el-Silsila, an archaeological site in Aswan, in the south of the country. Among the major artifacts discovered, there is a large criosphinx which is a ram-headed sphinx measuring approximately 5 m long, 3.5 m high, and 1.5 m wide, and was carved in a style comparable with the criosphinxes to the south of Khonsu Temple at Karnak. The archaeological context suggests a date from Amenhotep III‘s reign. Amenhotep III is seen as one of the greatest (possibly the greatest) King of Kemet. He ruled during the 18th Dynasty which gave us some of the greatest rulers of Kemet like Tuthmosis III, Akhenaten, Hatshepsut, Tutankhamen, Queen Ahmose-Nefertari or Pharaoh Ahmose I.
Abdel Moneim Saeed, Director General of Aswan and Nubia Antiquities said that hundreds of hieroglyphic fragments that belong to a destroyed Naos of Amenhotep III (Naos E), together with new sculpture fragments of the associated falcon were unearthed. In addition, parts of an obelisk, including its pyramidion, were retrieved.
Maria Nilsson said that during the excavations, the team discovered a smaller practice piece of another ram-headed sphinx, perhaps carved by an apprentice. Both sculptures are preserved in a rough-cut and prepared for transportation but were likely abandoned at Gebel el-Silsila as the larger sculpture fractured. Since then, later Roman quarry activity buried the sphinxes in the spoil.
The excavations also uncovered the walls of a contemporary workshop, but also a rough-cut uraeus (coiled cobra), made to crown the head of the larger ram-headed sphinx, and a blank round-top stela. “It is a very important discovery,” said Saeed, explaining that the finding highlights that the Gebel El-Silsila area was not only a quarry but also housed workshops for the fabrication of architectural elements used in the decoration of temples.