A rare well-preserved marble sphinx carving has been unearthed in a tomb in northwest China dating back more than 1,000 years, said Chinese archaeologists on Tuesday. The delicately-carved sphinx statue is 36 cm high with 21 cm long and 13 cm wide base. It has a human face with a bulge on the head and a sitting lion body.
The sphinx statue was excavated in November along with eight warrior, horse, camel and lion carvings in the tomb in Guyuan City, Ningxi Hui Autonomous Region. The tomb was one of the 29 ancient graves in the area which archaeologists have excavated this year to pave way for the construction of a local water plant. More than 150 funeral items, such as carvings, pottery, bronze and iron wares, have been unearthed from the graves so far. The sphinx statue, made of white marble according to preliminary research, was intact except for minor damage in the middle of the face.
These nine marble carvings showed excellent craftsmanship, said Fan Jun, head of the excavation team of the Ningxia Cultural Relics and Archaeology Institute.
According to an epitaph, the tomb housed Liu Jun and his wife, who lived during the Tang Dynasty (618-907).
“The style carvings had features from the west and are considered rare for ancient Chinese tombs during that period,” said Fan. The white marble material was also rarely seen in north China, he added. The excavations will help scientists better understand freight transport during the Tang Dynasty, said Fan. Ningxia was along the ancient Silk Road trade route.
The original half-human, half-lion Sphinx, is believed to have been built by Egyptians 5,000 years ago. The statue is 73 meters long and 21 meters high. It sits on the west bank of the Nile River near the great pyramids of Giza to the west of Cairo.