Photo © President and Fellows of Harvard College
Identification and Creation
Object Number
Sphinx, part of an Incense Burner
Work Type
sculpture, statuette
c. 900-700 BCE
Creation Place: Ancient & Byzantine World, Asia, Syria, Northwestern Syria
Iron Age
Persistent Link
Physical Descriptions
Steatite or chlorite
Acquisition and Rights
Credit Line
Harvard Art Museums/Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Norbert Schimmel
Accession Year
Object Number
Asian and Mediterranean Art
The Harvard Art Museums encourage the use of images found on this website for personal, noncommercial use, including educational and scholarly purposes. To request a higher resolution file of this image, please submit an online request.
This small sphinx with curling locks, facing right, was originally part of a sculptured openwork incense burner produced somewhere in Northern Syria or on the Levantine coast in the Iron Age. It may have been reworked as a separate object after the incense burner itself had been broken up. The sphinx of the female type seems to have originated in the Late Bronze Age Aegean and Anatolian worlds as a guardian figure which made its way to the Near East where it is abundant in many media during the Iron Age. Around 700 BCE the female sphinx returned to the Greek world where it had a long and illustrious career as a fearsome guardian of tombs and as the sphinx whose deadly riddle was solved by Oedipus.
(David Gordon Mitten, 2004)
Exhibition History

The Book and the Spade: An Exhibition of Biblical Art and Archaeology, University of Wisconsin, Madison, 04/13/1975 - 05/04/1975

32Q: 3620 University Study Gallery, Harvard Art Museums, Cambridge, 11/16/2014 - 02/13/2015

This record was created from historic documentation and may not have been reviewed by a curator; it may be inaccurate or incomplete. Our records are frequently revised and enhanced. For more information please contact the Division of Asian and Mediterranean Art at