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The Two Egyptian sphinx statues found in a garden in Suffolk, UK.	Source: Mander Auctioneers

Egyptian Sphinx Statues Found In English Garden Fetch £200,000

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A pair of 5,000-year-old Egyptian sphinx statues have sold for just under £200,000 ($270000) at auction. The owner was “shocked” having paid only £300 ($407) for the “garden ornaments”.

Sphinxes are mythical creatures from the Ancient Egyptian religious imaginarium. Illustrated in arts with the head of a human, falcon, cat or a sheep, sphinxes all have lion’s bodies and some have falcon’s wings. These creatures were associated with ferocious animal-like strength, and for this reason they were generally situated at the entrances to royal tombs and temples, symbolically protecting the inner sacred-sanctuaries.

Two 5,000-year-old sphinxes have recently sold at auction in England after being found in a garden in Clare, Suffolk. The ex-owner had used the two statues as garden ornaments after they were erroneously believed to be 18th or 19th century replicas. Everyone at the auction house was “shocked” when after bidding opened at £200 ($270), the two statues ended up selling for almost £200,000 ($270000).

The ancient Egyptian sphinx statues here have survived thousands of years, but are worn with time. (Mander Auctioneers)

The ancient Egyptian sphinx statues here have survived thousands of years, but are worn with time. (Mander Auctioneers)

The Ultimate Antiques Road Show Story

Television is saturated with shows like Cash In Your Attic, Storage Wars and Antiques Road Show, the latter being the grandfather of this popular genre. The basic premise behind all of these shows is we, the public, have ancient treasures tucked away in our houses, garages and gardens. Now, with not a television camera in sight, perhaps the ultimate home-hidden treasure has emerged from an English garden.

A report in Daily Mail explains that the ex-owners of the statues bought the items fifteen years ago for £300 ($407). At that time they were under the impression that the statues were 18th or 19th century replicas, however, the two ancient stone carved sphinxes are in actuality, around 5,000 years old.

They are described by East Anglian Daily Times as being “in very bad condition” having been used as garden ornaments for the last 15 years. And it wasn’t only the weather that degraded the two ancient mythical beasts, but a builder in the past had also secured them to the ground using industrial cement.

The pair of sphinx statues have seen better days. (Mander Auctioneers)

The pair of sphinx statues have seen better days. (Mander Auctioneers)

Free Markets Find True Value, It Seems

The Egyptian sphinx statues, which both have human heads on lion’s bodies, became cumbersome when the family planned to move house this summer. They were valued at Mander Auctioneers in Sudbury for between £300-500, with the auctioneers also following the false narrative that the pieces were modern replicas. According to the Metro when the two sphinxes came up at auction on October 9 it quickly became clear that the inner-wheel of the antiques world had worked out that the statues were original Ancient Egyptian, and at least 5,000 years old.

Bidding began at £200, but private buyers soon began offering huge sums of money. The owners were “shocked at the prices” being offered by bidders. Auctioneer James Mander told Daily Mail that the bidding “quickly went up to £100,000 ($132500) and then seemed to stall.” Then bidding resumed and sped up again, and less than five minutes later Mander slammed his wooden hammer at “£195,000” to the bid of an international auction gallery. This single sale set a new house record for the highest bid on a single lot at the Mander Auctioneers in Sudbury.

From The River Nile, To An English Garden

The largest and most famous depiction of a sphinx is the Great Sphinx of the Giza Plateau, on the west bank of the Nile River facing east. Commissioned by the pharaoh Khafre between 2600 and 2500 BC, it is located north of the lower end of the causeway of Khafre that connects his pyramid and Valley Temple. The Great Sphinx was carved out of the bedrock, and the enormous sandstone blocks that were removed were used to construct the Sphinx Temple immediately to the east of the Sphinx and north of the Valley Temple.

The reason the two garden sphinx statues slipped under the radar, and ended up shocking everyone with their sale price, is because Britain is awash with imported replicas of Egyptian decorative art. The sphinx saw a major popularity revival during the Renaissance. The creature was generally installed at the entrances to royal tombs and religious temples. Rich Victorian English folk often marked the entrances to expansive gardens with replica sphinxes - and real ones from time to time, it has just been discovered.

Top image: The Two Egyptian sphinx statues found in a garden in Suffolk, UK.    Source: Mander Auctioneers

By Ashley Cowie

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Ashley is a Scottish historian, author, and documentary filmmaker presenting original perspectives on historical problems in accessible and exciting ways.

He was raised in Wick, a small fishing village in the county of Caithness on the north east coast of... Read More

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