This imposing lion figure must once have guarded the entrance to a pyramid-age sanctuary. As the most powerful predator of the steppe bordering the Nile valley, the lion was a symbol of royalty from early on. The animal–especially the female–also embodied a number of deities. This sculpture is the earliest extant example of monumental size that has been preserved almost in its entirety. It was excavated by the British Egypt Exploration Fund in 1891 at Herakleopolis Magna, southeast of the Fayum oasis.
Excavated at Ihnasya el-Medina (ancient Herakleopolis Magna) by Édouard F. Naville for the Egypt Exploration Fund, 1891; McLean Museum and Art Gallery, Greenock, Scotland, 1891; Samuel Josefowitz, Lausanne, Switzerland, ca. 1966; [Robert Haber, New York]. Published in the MMA Bulletin, Fall 2002.
Arnold, Dieter 2015. "The Fayum." In Ancient Egypt Transformed: The Middle Kingdom, edited by Adela Oppenheim, Dorothea Arnold, Dieter Arnold, and Kei Yamamoto. New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art, p. 321.