Recumbent Lion

Period: Old Kingdom

Dynasty: early dynasty 4–5

Date: ca. 2575–2450 B.C.

Geography: From Egypt, Fayum Entrance Area, Herakleopolis (Ihnasya el-Medina), EEF excavations 1890-1891

Medium: Granite

Dimensions: L. 201 cm (79 1/8 in); w. 73 cm (28 3/4 in); h. 87 cm (34 1/4 in)

Credit Line: Purchase, Anonymous Gift, in honor of Annette de la Renta; Annette de la Renta Gift; and Anne and John V. Hansen Egyptian Purchase Fund, 2000

Accession Number: 2000.485


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.