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Archaeologists scoff at claim of second Sphinx statue

An Egyptian tourism official claimed the discovery of a second statue of the Sphinx, sparking controversy and surprise in Egypt.

CAIRO — Reda Abdel Halim, the director of public relations for the Giza pyramids district at the Egyptian Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities, told local media on Oct. 24 that he discovered a statue in the pyramids area that is of similar size to the Sphinx.

According to him, the statue is 73 meters high, with a head 20.5 meters high, and hands extended over 15.5 meters, like the Sphinx.

He added that scientific research was published at Zagazig University confirming the existence of this statue.

However, “This is completely not true,” Zahi Hawass, former Minister of Antiquities and an archaeologist who oversaw the pyramids area for nearly 20 years, told Al-Monitor.

“The Sphinx is unique in Egypt and the world. … Any talk about discoveries of other similar statues is baseless and has only one purpose, which is creating media fanfare,” he added.

“Any claims about research on the Sphinx at the Zagazig University is also false,” Hawass went on, stressing that Egyptian archaeologists are not aware of current scientific research in any Egyptian university about the discovery of any such statue.

“Studies and research must be published in a scientific journal so that we can respond with scientific evidence. Talks about a text that is said to have been inscribed on the Sphinx but got erased by the passage of the time mentioning the existence of another similar statue, are baseless,” Hawass said.

“During the many years I headed the Giza pyramids area, we worked along Egyptian and foreign experts and archeologists, scanning the entire area, and I can assure there is not another statue of the Sphinx,” he added.

Abdel Halim stuck to his claims, stressing in his press statement that the discovered statue is another Sphinx, and that the writings on the original statue that were erased are proof of his claims.

However, Nevin al-Arif, media advisor to the minister of tourism and antiquities, told Al-Monitor, “All these statements about a new Sphinx are baseless." Archaeologists and experts, including the Secretary-General of the Supreme Council of Antiquities, Mustafa al-Waziri, have denied the claims, she said.

"The statue in question was discovered a long time ago in the area and has nothing to do with the original Sphinx. It is nothing but a normal statue,” she told Al-Monitor.

When a major discovery is made, "the ministry would fully coordinate with those in charge of the discovery," Arif explained. "The ministry is usually informed of all the details of such a discovery, which would be officially announced during a press conference in the presence of local and foreign reporters and journalists.”

Mohammed Hamza, the former dean of the faculty of archeology at Cairo University, told Al-Monitor that any talk about the discovery of a new Sphinx is completely baseless and just for media fanfare.

He stressed that a few years ago, David Wilson, the former director of the British Museum, made similar claims, saying that a yellow spot next to the Sphinx was the location of another similar statue, which was proved to be untrue.

“The Giza pyramids area is an active zone in terms of archaeology and tourism. If there were another Sphinx, scientists would have discovered it earlier. This area is of paramount importance, whether in the past or nowadays,” Hamza said.

Because the area is one of the most famous tourist and archaeological sites in the world, he said, "Had there been any other Sphinx statue, it would have been discovered two hundred years ago. Excavations and digging operations are nonstop there.”