Rare Egyptian Sphinx Uncovered in Israel

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TEL HAZOR, Israel -- Archaeologists uncovered part of a rare Egyptian sphinx recently in the northern part of Israel -- a very unusual discovery to find in the Holy Land.

Excavators found only the feet of the ancient sphinx at Tel Hazor, an archaeological site in northern Israel. 

The feet weigh about 100 pounds. They're the only part of a statue ever found anywhere of the pyramid-building pharoah King Menkaure.

"The Egyptologists assume that this sphinx originally stood in a temple in Egypt before it was taken from there and sent to Hazor," excavation co-director Dr. Sharon Zuckerman told CBN News.

The sphinx probably originated in the ancient city of Heliopolis -- the city of "On" in the Bible -- not far from modern Cairo. But how did it get to Israel?

Zuckerman, an archaeologist from Hebrew University's Institute of Archaeology co-directs the excavation at Hazor.  She believes the statue stood in Egypt for 1,000 years before being shipped to Hazor as a diplomatic gift to the Canaanites.

Zuckerman pointed out the cartouche in between the feet, which is an elliptical frame, within which royal names are usually written. "This is his name Menkaure," she said.

Shlomit Bechar is an area supervisor who was called to the scene when the feet were first discovered in 2012. They were taken to the lab for processing and presented to the public recently.

"We found them in the last hour of the last day right before we were getting ready to close off the area for the end of the season," Bechar told CBN News. "The volunteer who was here found this piece of rock that he thought was very interesting and I was completely shocked and amazed."

'My Graduation Present'

The excavation is staffed mostly by international volunteers like 18-year-old Marisa Figueroa from Wisconsin and Prof. Cory Crawford from Ohio.

"I don't really have any archaeological experience, if I think about it. But this was my graduation present," said Figueroa, who came with her best friend after high school graduation. 

She was covered with dust and sitting in a little hole she called her own. "It's a really cool little area. I've become attached to it a little bit," she said.

Figueroa explained her work.

"I have a little tiny pick. I have a spade, a brush and this hefty thing [a hoe] to scoop up soil," she said. "So basically right now I'm trying to expose rock here," she said pointing to a rock face, "because we're hoping to find an extension of this area."

Crawford was at the excavation this year for the second season. He's an assistance professor of classics and world religions at Ohio University in Athens, Ohio.

"It's a great combination of working with your hands, which academics don't do a lot of, and I really enjoy, so working with your hands and sort of thinking and discovering," he told CBN News.

"People always want to ask, what are you looking for? What do you hope to find and they're thinking you know statues, I mean like the sphinx and stuff like that, but again I'm mostly interested in the relationships -- the sort of big picture -- that the walls and the floors and the finds and the pottery tell us," Crawford said.

Hazor was an important Canaanite city under Egyptian rule until Israelites conquered the land.

Biblical Record

The Bible says: "Joshua…took Hazor, and struck its king … and all the people who were in it with the edge of the sword, utterly destroying them. …then he burned Hazor with fire" (Joshua 11:10-12).

Bechar pointed to layers in the rocks where black material is visible.

"This is the destruction line," she said.  There was even a huge burned wooden beam. 

Archaeologists debate whether or not Joshua was involved, but they can't argue that a massive fire destroyed the city.

"We ended up uncovering two rows of huge storage vessels that are characteristic of Hazor at the late bronze age," Bechar said.  "They were leaning against both [two walls] and they were filled with burnt grain material.

"Some of the bricks were burnt in such a high temperature that they were vitrified. They turned into glass," she added.

Archaeoligst Prof. Amnon Ben Tor, co-director of the excavation and also from the Hebrew University Institute of Archaeology, first started at the dig nearly 50 years ago as a student. 

"You know that there is a huge debate going on in the world nowadays with regard to biblical historiography -- how reliable is it. Is it exactly so? Is it all figment of somebody's imagination?" Ben Tor said.  "And insofar as I am concerned what we see here tallies very, very nicely with biblical historiography…including the destruction of Canaanite Hazor."

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