HIJINKS WITH THE SPHINX: 100 Years with the Largest Ancient Egyptian Sphinx in the Western Hemisphere

The Penn Museum in Philadelphia Celebrates 100 Years with the Largest Ancient Egyptian Sphinx
in the Western Hemisphere

01 Egypt Sphinx GalleryPHILADELPHIA, PA 2013—It came by boat, arriving in Philadelphia in October 1913—an ancient Egyptian Sphinx from Memphis, Egypt, excavated by renowned archaeologist Sir Flinders Petrie and presented to the Penn Museum on the University of Pennsylvania campus. Extraordinary by any measure, the Sphinx was carved from one massive piece of red granite, bearing the names of the great Pharaoh Ramesses II, and his son and successor, the Pharaoh Merenptah, both of whom reigned during Egypt’s 19th Dynasty (1292–1190 BCE).

Today, the Penn Museum’s imposing Sphinx—at about 15 tons, the largest such ancient stone sculpture in the Western Hemisphere and the sixth largest in the world—resides in a gallery created just for it, surrounded by columns and other architectural elements from the Palace of Merenptah, excavated by the Penn Museum in the early 20th century.

Beginning October 1, and throughout the month of October, the Penn Museum will celebrate this most iconic of artifacts—inviting visitors from the city, the region, and beyond to join in a celebration of history and fun through special events and social media—a HIJINKS WITH THE SPHINX. (the website goes live September 16, 2013: www.penn.museum/sphinx)

PhanaticandsphinxwebThe Sphinx Goes on Tour: Virtually

For 100 years, the Penn Museum’s Sphinx has welcomed visitors from all over the world. Beginning in October, the Penn Museum asks help from members, guests, school children, and the public to show him around the city, the region, and beyond. The PORTABLE SPHINX, available at the Museum’s admission desks, also can be downloaded (in color or in ready-to-decorate form), cut out, and made ready to travel!  Visitors can take him to other great museums, historic sites, ballparks, City Hall, or another favorite spot—snap a photo, and post it online.

Beginning September 16, Facebook users can navigate to the Penn Museum’s Facebook page (www.facebook.com/pennmuseum) and click on the “PORTABLE SPHINX contest” tab for details. Those not on Facebook can download their PORTABLE SPHINX at www.penn.museum/sphinx, snap a photo and email it to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. . All snapshots will be viewable on Facebook and Flickr (www.flickr.com/pennmuseum), and all participants will be eligible to win one of three great prizes fit for a Sphinx!

A Month of Egyptomania, and a Saturday Afternoon Celebration

A3 174874 cropThe Penn Museum hosts a variety of Sphinx and Egypt-related programming, a special display, and tours throughout the month—with a special celebration on Saturday, October 19. The schedule of programming follows:

Highlight Celebration:

Saturday, October 19, 1:00 pm - 4:00 pm
National Archaeology Day Celebration
Hijinks with the Sphinx
Guests are invited to join Penn Museum Egyptologists and staff to celebrate the Sphinx! There will be stories of the Sphinx, and an exclusive display of Egypt-related pop-culture drawn from the Museum Egyptologists’ personal collections. Guests can match wits in a True/False game about ancient Egypt, race through an Indiana Jones-style obstacle course, and enjoy an ancient hairstyles demonstration. Penn Museum members get an exclusive behind-the-scenes Sphinx history tour in the Museum Archives, while everyone can join the Sphinx for a celebratory slice of cake. The Egyptomania afternoon is sponsored in part by the Archaeological Association of America. Special pre-Halloween offer: dress like an ancient Egyptian and get in for half price!

Also on Saturday, 3:30 pm
Afternoon Lecture
The Millionaire and the Mummies: Theodore Davis’s Gilded Age in the Valley of the Kings
Guests to the Hijinks celebration can delve a little deeper into Egyptian archaeology at this program. John M. Adams, American Research Center in Egypt, speaks about Theodore Davis, one of the most famous names in archaeology at the start of the 20th century. Davis was a poor country preacher’s son who won great wealth in Gilded Age New York through corruption and fraud, only to atone for his ruthless career by inventing new standards for systematic excavation, and by discovering a record 18 tombs in Egypt’s Valley of the Kings. Sponsored by the American Research Center in Egypt - Pennsylvania Chapter. Admission: $8. For more information, visit http://www.arce-pa.org.

The Hijinks continue:

October 2
Wednesday, 6:00 pm
P.M. @ Penn Museum
1st Wednesday Quizzo: Egyptomania
Look for Quizzo’s DJ Quizzy Jeff to throw in a smattering of Sphinx and ancient Egypt-related trivia at this October program. Quizzo is held at 6:00 pm on the first Wednesday of every month, as the Penn Museum’s galleries stay open until 8:00 pm, with a half-hour gallery tour at 5:00 pm. The Pepper Mill Café offers happy hour specials and light supper until 7:30 pm. The Museum Shop remains open until 7:30 pm. For more information, call 215.898.2680.

October 11
Friday, 5:00 pm - 12:00 am
Young Professionals Event
Jump ‘N Funk
Join the Penn Museum for a night of music, dance, and networking at this late-night event in the Egyptian galleries! Rich Medina and The Marksmen headline the evening, presenting an energetic set of hip-hop, house, Afrobeat, funk, and soul music—watch out, even the Sphinx may get up and dance! Attendees must be 21+ and show ID. Admission: $10. For more information, call 215.898.2680.

October 17
Thursday, 6:00 pm
Young Friends Halloween Event
The Curse of Tutankhamun
Halloween is just around the corner, and the Young Friends—young professionals and graduate students, ages 21 to 45—invite guests to join them in welcoming Dr. David Silverman, Curator-in-Charge, Egyptian Section, for a look at the “Curse of Tutankhamun.” Guests can hear tales of death and mystery surrounding the exploration of Tut’s tomb, and enjoy drinks from a cash bar. Admission: $10. For more information, call 215.898.5093.

October 18
Friday, 5:30 pm - Saturday, 9:00 am
Sleepover Program
40 Winks with the Sphinx
Penn Museum's popular sleepover program, geared to ages 6 to 12 and their families or chaperones, has welcomed thousands of guests on an overnight "expedition" of the Museum since the program first began two years ago. The night's activities take intrepid explorers on a journey through time and across continents, with hands-on games, crafts, and more! A scavenger hunt and a flashlight expedition through the galleries offer new ways to connect with the ancient artifacts awaiting discovery. Later in the night, explorers roll out their sleeping bags to doze at the foot of the Sphinx! Expect some Sphinx-related special hijinks at this October event. Sleepovers sell out quickly! To register, visit www.penn.museum/40winks.

October 26
Saturday, 10:30 - 11:15 am
Young Family Workshop
Gallery Romp: Egypt
Young children (ages 3 to 6) and their favorite grownups are invited to explore the Penn Museum's galleries through stories, crafts, and play. Kids can take an adventure with Bill and Pete down the Nile at the foot of the Museum’s Sphinx, and make a special craft inspired by ancient Egypt to take home. Each workshop is limited to 25 people and advance registration is encouraged. To register, email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

The Penn Museum (the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology) is dedicated to the study and understanding of human history and diversity. Founded in 1887, the Museum has sent more than 300 archaeological and anthropological expeditions to all the inhabited continents of the world. With an active exhibition schedule and educational programming for children and adults, the Museum offers the public an opportunity to share in the ongoing discovery of humankind's collective heritage.

The Penn Museum is located at 3260 South Street, Philadelphia, PA 19104 (on Penn's campus, across from Franklin Field). Public transportation to the Museum is available via SEPTA's Regional Rail Line at University City Station; the Market-Frankford Subway Line at 34th Street Station; trolley routes 11, 13, 34, and 36; and bus routes 21, 30, 40, and 42. Museum hours are Tuesday and Thursday through Sunday, 10:00 am to 5:00 pm, and Wednesday, 10:00 am to 8:00 pm, with P.M. @ PENN MUSEUM evening programs offered select Wednesdays. Closed Mondays and holidays. Admission donation is $15 for adults; $13 for senior citizens (65 and above) ; $10 for children (6 to 17) and full-time students with ID; free to Members, PennCard holders, active U.S. Military, and children 5 and younger.

Hot and cold meals and light refreshments are offered to visitors with or without Museum admission in The Pepper Mill Café; the Museum Shop and Pyramid Shop for Children offer a wide selection of gifts, books, games, clothing and jewelry. Penn Museum can be found on the web at www.penn.museum. For general information call 215.898.4000. For group tour information call 215.746.8183.

Image captions (top to bottom): Sphinx of Ramesses II, 19th Dynasty, (ca. 1293–1185 BCE). Memphis, Egypt. Red Granite. (Object E12326) This twelve-ton Sphinx is one of the largest that survives. It was excavated from the sacred enclosure of the temple of the god Ptah at Memphis. Pillars and gateways of the palace of Merenptah (Memphis, Egypt, 19th Dynasty, reign of Merenptah, ca. 1236–1223 BCE) surround the sphinx (Photo: Penn Museum); The Portable Sphinx checks out a Phillies game with his friend the Phanatic; The sphinx relocated to the Lower Egyptian Gallery, Coxe Wing for its opening in 1926 (Photo: Penn Museum Archives).


3260 South Street
Philadelphia, PA 19104
(215) 898-4000


Tuesday-Sunday: 10:00am - 5:00pm
First Wednesdays: 10:00am - 8:00pm
Monday: CLOSED


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