At the height of the Achaemenid empire of the Near East, Darius I (522-486 B.

C.E.) began construction on the great royal centre of Persepolis, a complex of places, columned halls and storerooms. This relief was originally part of the façade but was eventually transferred to form part of the staircase of another palace. It depicts a male sphinx wearing an elaborate head-dress of a divinity. Intended to protect the building from an enemy he raises his left forefoot to ward of intruders. Such fantastic beasts were derived from Assyrian art. This relief was discovered at Persepolis in June 1826 during excavations by Lieutenant-Colonel John MacDonald (Kinneir), then heading an official delegation from the East India Company to the Persian Court. It originally formed a pair, but its pair no longer survives.

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