For nearly 100 years, an enormous stone sphinx sat in the same room inside Philadelphia’s Penn Museum. But last year, the museum decided to relocate the ancient Egyptian statue to its newly renovated entrance hall. That presented a BIG problem: How do you safely move a 3,000-year-old, 12.5-ton sculpture?
First, movers used straps connected to a hydraulic platform—a machine powered by liquid under pressure—to raise the statue. Then they lowered it onto four thin metal pads. The pads shot jets of air downward with enough force to lift the sphinx slightly off the ground. Because the statue was floating, there was no friction—a slowing force created when two surfaces rub together—between it and the floor. Workers were able to simply glide the sphinx to its new home.
Originally, project manager Bob Thurlow thought the move sounded daunting. “But by turning the sphinx into a temporary hovercraft, we were able to move it pretty easily,” he says.