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John Barback

5/15/15
Ancient World Slot F

Monumental Power
The Sphinx of Hatshepsut was built in Ancient Egypt during the
New Kingdom. It was built during the 18th dynasty, around 1479-1458
B.C. The statue shows the pharaoh Hatshepsut as the head on the
body of a lion. In Ancient Egypt, the sphinx was an important symbol
that represented protection and power. The Egyptians during this time
believed in the afterlife, and so they built giant temples with many
treasures inside them for their pharaohs. They believed that the tombs
would help the pharaohs get into the afterlife. The Sphinx of
Hatshepsut demonstrates the eternal truth that people show their
power in their life, and their legacy in their death, through the
production of architectural and artistic monuments.
This statue, The Sphinx of Hatshepsut, is important because it
demonstrates the eternal truth that leaders show their power, in life,
and their legacy, in death, through the production of architectural and
artistic monuments. The Sphinx of Hatshepsut is located at the
Metropolitan Museum of Art in gallery 131. The Sphinx of Hatshepsut,
number 31.3.166, is located at the MET in gallery 131, and it is
currently on display. It was built ca. 1479-1458 B.C. during the New

Kingdom and the 18th dynasty.1 Although the artist is unknown, it is


believed to be Senenmut who was the architect of the entire mortuary
temple of Hatshepsut (Deir el-Bahri or Bahari). The sphinx is built out
of red granite and was painted. On the MET website, they describe the
statue of Hatshepsut as the sphinx. They say that,
This colossal sphinx portrays the female pharaoh Hatshepsut
with the body of a lion and a human head wearing a nemes
headcloth and royal beard. The sculptor has carefully observed
the powerful muscles of the lion as
contrasted to the handsome, idealized face of the pharaoh.2
What this shows is that the sphinx was used to portray Hatshepsut with
the body of a lion. The lion is a very powerful and muscular animal. By
portraying Hatshepsut as a lion, her power is exemplified and shown
through the image of an animal. In addition, lions are a type of cat and
cats were viewed as divine in Egypt.3
In addition, the materials that the sphinxes were constructed
from show the power of them. Historian, Gemma Wood from Egyptian
Emporium states, the red granite sphinxes would have been
approached from the side, with the musculature of the body clearly
visible, and therefore emphasizing the quiescent strength and power of

1 "Sphinx of Hatshepsut," MET Museum, accessed May 14, 2015,


http://www.metmuseum.org/collection/the-collectiononline/search/544442.
2 Ibid.
3 Yekaterina Barbash, "Exhibitions: Divine Felines: Cats of Ancient
Egypt," Brooklyn Museum, accessed May 14, 2015,
https://www.brooklynmuseum.org/exhibitions/divine_felines/.

the lion.4 The importance of this quote is the fact that the red granite
sphinxes symbolized power. As stated before, the lion was a powerful
animal and by approaching these animals with the muscles in sight,
the sphinx appears especially powerful.
Hatshepsut happened to be the first female pharaoh.
Hatshepsuts legacy monuments were constructed to show Hatshepsut
as a powerful leader. According to Cameron Walker from National
Geographic, Other pieces, like a colossal sphinx from Hatshepsut's
temple of Deir el Bahri, have few feminine attributes.5 This quote is
important because it shows that the colossal sphinx was designed to
make Hatshepsut look like a man. Although we cannot delve into
Hatshepsuts mind and see her reasoning for this, we can infer that
Hatshepsut viewed her sex as something that could make her look
weak, and so instead she had herself sculpted to look like a man. In
addition, other contextual factors about the Sphinx of Hatshepsut are
important.

4 Gemma Ellen Wood, "The Lion Queen #1 the purpose and artistic
significance of the maned sphinx of Hatshepsut," Egyptian Emporium,
last modified July 25, 2012, accessed May 14, 2015,
https://egyptianaemporium.wordpress.com/2012/07/25/the-lion-queenthe-purpose-and-artistic-significance-of-the-maned-sphinx-ofhatshepsut/.
5 Cameron Walker, "Egyptian 'Female King' Gets Royal Treatment,"
National Geographic News, last modified April 10, 2006, accessed May
14, 2015,
http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2006/04/0410_060410_egyp
tian_2.html.

The historical, cultural, and geographical context were important


because they showed the importance of the statue to show
Hatshepsuts power, in life, and legacy, in death. The sphinx plays an
important role due to its historical, cultural, and geographical context.
The sphinx was meant to be located in Hatshepsuts Mortuary Temple
called Deir el-Bahari. The MET found the sphinx through museum
excavations between 1926-1928 in Senenmut Quarry. Senenmut was
the chief architect for Hatshepsuts Mortuary Temple, and many of his
sculptures can be found at this quarry.6
The sphinx itself has been a symbol throughout history. In
Ancient Egypt, the sphinx was an especially important symbol.
According to the MET,
The sphinx has a long history in Egyptian art, the most famous
example being the great sphinx at Giza which represents the
Fourth Dynasty King Khafre who lived almost a thousand years
before Hatshepsut. Sphinxes
representing other pharaohs may be seen throughout the
Egyptian galleries.7
As shown through this quote, the menacing sphinx portraying
Hatshepsut was not completely unique. Sphinxes had been used in the
past in the Egyptian culture to show power as well. The cultural context
of the sphinx actually aided in creating a powerful image due to the

6 "Sphinx of Hatshepsut," MET Museum, accessed May 14, 2015,


http://www.metmuseum.org/collection/the-collection-online/search/544442.
7 Ibid.

fact that everyone already knew what the statue represented, which
was the power and legacy of Hatshepsut.
The geographical significance of this object is also important. As
stated previously, the sphinx was intended to be found in Hatshepsuts
incredible mortuary temple known as Temple Deir el-Bahari. According
to New Jersey Institute of Technologys Art Department, Temple Deir elBaharis, approach was a 121-foot causeway lined with Sphinxes.8
The importance of geography is crucial to understanding why the
sphinx showed Hatshepsuts power. Mortuary temples such as this one
needed structures to intimidate tomb robbers. The temples would
contain tons of riches and by building monuments that showed power,
these riches would be protected. Historian Gemma Wood states that,
the granite sphinxes provide guardianship employed for the
protection of royal mortuary complexes and, when paired in the
recumbent form, traditionally guarded the entrance to temples.9 This
quote shows how the sphinxes would guard the temples. The sphinxes
that lined the approach to the temple would show how powerful
Hatshepsut was and it would scare off most people.

8 "HATSHEPSUT'S TEMPLE AT DEIR EL-BAHRI BENCHMARK,"


Preservation Arts, accessed May 14, 2015,
https://web.njit.edu/~delano/hatshepsut.htm.
9 Gemma Ellen Wood, "The Lion Queen #1 the purpose and artistic
significance of the maned sphinx of Hatshepsut," Egyptian Emporium,
last modified July 25, 2012, accessed May 14, 2015,
https://egyptianaemporium.wordpress.com/2012/07/25/the-lion-queenthe-purpose-and-artistic-significance-of-the-maned-sphinx-ofhatshepsut/.

Other sources at the time also show that people demonstrate


their power, in life, and their legacy, in death, through the production
of architectural and artistic monuments. The Code of Hammurabi was
documented in Babylon in 1754 B.C. It is a set of laws created by
Hammurabi and written down onto steles (large stones). In the Code of
Hammurabi it states,
Set up these my precious words, written upon my memorial
stone, before the image of me, as king of righteousness. The king
who ruleth among the kings of the cities am I. My words are well
considered; there is no wisdom like unto mine By the order of
Marduk, my lord, let no destruction befall my
monument.10
As shown by this quote, Hammurabi wanted his legacy to live on
through his memorial stone. This memorial stone or as he refers to it
his monument was to be preserved and worshipped. By preserving
the monument, Hammurabis legacy would also be preserved.
According to Blaise Joseph from Dickenson College,
Hammurabi took great pains to ensure that he and his code
would be considered important, not only by his current subjects,
but by future generations as well. The epilogue of the Code
makes this clear, where Hammurabi orders his teachings to be
passed down the Code, with a long list of his achievements,
also indicates that Hammurabis legacy was
important to him11
10 L. W. King, trans., "Code of Hammurabi the Text," History Wiz,
accessed May 14, 2015,
http://www.historywiz.com/primarysources/codeofhammurabitext.html.

The most important part about this quote is the fact that it directly
references Hammurabis desire for power. Not only did Hammurabi
want all the power, which was why he created the laws, but he also
wanted the future civilizations to recognize him as being powerful. He
believed that he could achieve this through creating a monument to
preserve his legacy. According to Owen Jarus from live science, The
stele was also a monument stating that Hammurabis sense of justice
should rule over the land forever.12 Again, this quote shows that
Hammurabi needed his monument to solidify and pass on his legacy.
Similar to many powerful rulers from the past, Hammurabi created a
monument to show his legacy. Today, these traditions still exist.
As proven above, The Sphinx of Hatshepsut demonstrates the
eternal truth that people show their power in their life, and their legacy
in their death, through the production of architectural and artistic
monuments. This eternal truth is still prevalent in todays society
through various examples in the modern world. One such example can
be seen in the 2014 film, Monuments Men. George Clooney stars in this
movie, as well as taking the responsibility of director and co-writer. The
movie takes place in 1943, during World War II. The idea of the film is
based upon a true story of a platoon of men who are sent into
11 Blaise Joseph, "Hammurabi's Code," Cliojournal, last modified 2009,
accessed May 14, 2015, https://cliojournal.wikispaces.com/Hammurabi
%27s+Code.
12 Owen Jarus, "Code of Hammurabi: Ancient Babylonian Laws," Live
Science, last modified September 3, 2013, accessed May 14, 2015,
http://www.livescience.com/39393-code-of-hammurabi.html.

Germany to recover the stolen art by the Axis powers and return these
pieces of art to their owners. In the movie, Frank Stokes, the character
played by George Clooney says,
You can wipe out an entire generation, you can burn their
homes to the ground and somehow they'll still find their way
back. But if you destroy their history, you destroy their
achievements and it's as if they never existed.
That's what Hitler wants and that's exactly what we are fighting
for.13
This quote exemplifies the importance of art to show legacy. One of the
most important parts of this quote is the fact that George Clooney
says, if you destroy their history, you destroy their achievements and
its as if they never existed. When George Clooney says history, he
means the art and monuments that the Axis powers stole. The art and
these monuments leave a legacy and by destroying these artifacts,
Hitler would have erased this legacy and eradicated the power of the
Jewish people. Other art forms are also used to memorialize events.
Sculptures are one such art form that is traditionally used to make
memorials.
One of the most influential people from the 20th century was
Martin Luther King Jr. He represented equality, righteousness, justice,
and peace. He left a legacy that still exists today and this legacy

13 The Monuments Men, directed by George Clooney, screenplay by


George Clooney and Grant Heslov, 20th Century Fox, 2014.

empowers black people today. Martin Luther King Jr.s national


memorial was opened in Washington D.C. on August 22nd, 2011. This
national memorial is also considered to be a national park. The mission
statement for the memorial states,
Dr. King championed a movement that draws fully from the
deep well of America's potential for freedom, opportunity, and
justice The vision of a memorial in honor of Martin Luther King,
Jr. is one that captures the essence of his message, a message in
which he so eloquently affirms the commanding
tenants [sic] of the American Dream.14
This quote shows how Martin Luther King Jr.s legacy thrives today
through his memorial. Martin Luther King Jr. will always be recognized
as one of the most influential people in history. His legacy is taught in
schools, and displayed all over the world in memorials to him. From
this quote, his legacy is exemplified and his message, for freedom,
opportunity, and justice, is proudly expressed. Memorializing people
through the creation of monuments is a long-lasting tradition that will
last for as long as the human race.
In Ancient Egypt, life did not necessarily end with death. This was
especially true for people with power, such as pharaohs. For these
people, life continued not only in the afterlife, but also through artistic
and architectural expression. While these types of sculptures and
memorials did not directly lead to the extended life of leaders, it left
14 "Mission and Vision Statement of the Memorial Project," Archive.is,
accessed May 14, 2015, http://archive.is/Hwyq#selection-1003.01007.380.

the legacy and power of these leaders to remain intact. The Sphinx of
Hatshepsut was built in the New Kingdom of Ancient Egypt, and it
served as a memorial for the pharaoh Hatshepsut. Through the Sphinx
of Hatshepsut, many eternal truths of the Ancient World can be
appreciated. One such eternal truth of the Ancient World is that leaders
constructed artistic and architectural monuments to demonstrate their
power in their life, and their legacy in their death. This eternal truth
permeates modern culture today as well. Movies such as The
Monuments Men, and more importantly memorials such as the Martin
Luther King Jr. Memorial, reinforce the presence of this eternal truth in
the 21st century. Ultimately, it is a hallmark of human nature that the
deeds and achievements of the living endure to become legacy after
their passing.

Bibliography
Barbash, Yekaterina. "Exhibitions: Divine Felines: Cats of Ancient Egypt." Brooklyn
Museum. Accessed May 14, 2015.
https://www.brooklynmuseum.org/exhibitions/divine_felines/.
Jarus, Owen. "Code of Hammurabi: Ancient Babylonian Laws." Live Science. Last
modified September 3, 2013. Accessed May 14, 2015.
http://www.livescience.com/39393-code-of-hammurabi.html.
Joseph, Blaise. "Hammurabi's Code." Cliojournal. Last modified 2009. Accessed May 14,
2015. https://cliojournal.wikispaces.com/Hammurabi%27s+Code.
King, L. W., trans. "Code of Hammurabi the Text." History Wiz. Accessed May 14, 2015.
http://www.historywiz.com/primarysources/codeofhammurabitext.html.
MET. "Sphinx of Hatshepsut." MET Museum. Accessed May 14, 2015.
http://www.metmuseum.org/collection/the-collection-online/search/544442.
"Mission and Vision Statement of the Memorial Project." Archive.is. Accessed May 14,
2015. http://archive.is/Hwyq#selection-1003.0-1007.380.
The Monuments Men. Directed by George Clooney. Screenplay by George Clooney and
Grant Heslov. 20th Century Fox, 2014.

NJIT. "HATSHEPSUT'S TEMPLE AT DEIR EL-BAHRI BENCHMARK." Preservation


Arts. Accessed May 14, 2015. https://web.njit.edu/~delano/hatshepsut.htm.
Walker, Cameron. "Egyptian 'Female King' Gets Royal Treatment." National Geographic
News. Last modified April 10, 2006. Accessed May 14, 2015.
http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2006/04/0410_060410_egyptian_2.htm
l.
Wood, Gemma Ellen. "The Lion Queen #1 the purpose and artistic significance of the
maned sphinx of Hatshepsut." Egyptian Emporium. Last modified July 25, 2012.
Accessed May 14, 2015.
https://egyptianaemporium.wordpress.com/2012/07/25/the-lion-queen-thepurpose-and-artistic-significance-of-the-maned-sphinx-of-hatshepsut/.