Petrie excavated the ancient city of Memphis from 1908-1913. Although their exact find spots are unknown, the fired clay (terracotta) camel and sphinx figures may have been found at the same time Petrie discovered examples of terracotta human heads. Traditional Egyptian iconography for a sphinx, such as this one, has a man’s head with a lion’s body.
Petrie tried to link the human faces to representations of different races. Today, these are understood to represent instead people and deities found in Greek and Roman society in Egypt (for example, priests and rulers). These figures may have been manufactured at Memphis, which was also an industrial centre for glass and faience.