Cypriot female sphinx


This Cypriot incense
burner was discovered in the lost ancient Egyptian city of Thonis-Heracleion. Over 2,500 years old,
this object would have been used for burning fragrances such as incense, an
important ritual both in Egyptian and Cypriot religious practice. This seated
sphinx, part-woman, part-lion, carries a bowl on its head. Since the 3rd
millennium BC in Egypt, a male sphinx embodied the powerful pharaoh. Greek and
Cypriot culture transformed it into a fantastical female creature and guardian
of borders, especially that between life and death. 

See more incredible objects
preserved and buried under the sea for over a thousand years in the BP exhibition Sunken cities: Egypt’s lost worlds (19 May – 27 November 2016).

Cypriot incense burner. Thonis-Heracleion, early 5th century BC. National Museum of Alexandria. 

Photo: Christoph Gerigk. © Franck Goddio/Hilti Foundation.