From Egypt to Philadelphia, the Journey of the Penn Museum’s Sphinx

March 17, 2016

When the massive sphinx arrived at the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology in Philadelphia in 1913, it was eclipsed by another historic event in the city—opening day of baseball’s World Series, with the Philadelphia Athletics hosting the New York Giants.

So when the ship carrying the 13-ton artifact from the ancient Egyptian capital of Memphis docked at the Delaware River waterfront on Oct. 7, 1913, no workers were there to unload it.

“Everyone was tuned in some way to the game,” says Jennifer Houser Wegner, associate curator in the Egyptian Section of Penn Museum and an adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations in Penn Arts and Sciences.

So, for two days, the sphinx remained in the Schildturm, the ship that brought it to Philadelphia.

“It stayed on the dock until they could hoist it out,” says Josef Wegner, also associate curator in the Egyptian Section and an associate professor in Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations.

This is among the fascinating stories about the sphinx’s voyage that the Wegners share in their book, The Sphinx That Traveled to Philadelphia: The Story of the Colossal Sphinx in the Penn Museum.

The work chronicles the sphinx’s excavation and archaeological history, as well as how it is meaningful to the history of Philadelphia, Penn and the museum.

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