The artifact is a fragment of the beard of the Great Sphinx of Giza, housed in the British Museum. It measures 34.5 cm in height, 14.5 cm in width, and 15.0 cm in thickness. Made from a single block of veined, blue-grey limestone, the fragment demonstrates the bonafide workmanship of ancient Egyptian sculptors.
Historically, the size of the artifact indicates it was part of the ceremonial beard of the Sphinx, representing the symbolic amalgamation of human intellect (the head) and the power of a lion (the body). Carved horizontal and vertical lines on the stone may denote stylized hair strands, supporting its identity as a beard segment.
Dating back to the New Kingdom of Egypt, approximately 1550-1070 BC, the addition of the beard fragment to the Sphinx enhances our knowledge of the monument's evolution. Notably, the authentically older Sphinx likely featured its limestone beard during specific religious events such as the renewal festival of the ancient Egyptian monarchy - a ritual involving pharaoh’s symbolic death and rebirth to renew his power.
Materials used for fastening the beard onto the Sphinx did not withstand the test of time, leading to the discovery of the fragment separately. Found amid other debris surrounding the base of the Sphinx by a 19th-century archaeological expedition, its eventual acquisition by a prestigious institution underlines the globally acknowledged cultural import of this artifact.