Standing at the base of the Great Pyramid, it is hard to imagine that this monument—which remained the tallest building in the world until early in this century—was built in just under 30 years. It presides over the plateau of Giza, on the outskirts of Cairo, and is the last survivor of the Seven Wonders of the World. Five thousand years ago Giza, situated on the Nile’s west bank, became the royal necropolis, or burial place, for Memphis, the pharaoh’s capital city. Giza’s three pyramids and the Sphinx were constructed in the fourth dynasty of Egypt’s Old Kingdom, arguably the first great civilization on earth. Today, Giza is a suburb of rapidly growing Cairo, the largest city in Africa and the fifth largest in the world.
About 2,550 B.C., King Khufu, the second pharaoh of the fourth dynasty, commissioned the building of his tomb at Giza. Some Egyptologists believe it took 10 years just to build the ramp that leads from the Nile valley floor to the pyramid, and 20 years to construct the pyramid itself. On average, the over two million blocks of stone used to build Khufu’s pyramid weigh 2.5 tons, and the heaviest blocks, used as the ceiling of Khufu’s burial chamber, weigh in at an estimated nine tons.
How did the ancient Egyptians move the massive stones used to build the pyramids from quarries both nearby and as far away as 500 miles? This question has long been debated, but many Egyptologists agree the stones were hauled up ramps using ropes of papyrus twine. The popular belief is that the gradually sloping ramps, built out of mud, stone, and wood were used as transportation causeways for moving the large stones to their positions up and around the four sides of the pyramids.
The Sphinx, which embodies the body of a lion and the head of a pharaoh, is believed to be the head of Khafre and his guardian spirit for his entire burial complex. Carved from the natural limestone of Giza, the sphinx has disintegrated over the years, entire pieces dropping off to the desert floor below. It is not known to have chambers inside, like those found in the pyramids at Giza.
Dates Built: undetermined
Base: 187 feet (57 m) in length
Total Weight: undetermined
Width: Face is 20 feet (6 m) wide
Height: Total height is 66 feet (20 m), 30 feet (9.15 m) high from chin to head
The most enigmatic of sculptures, the Sphinx was carved from a single block of limestone left over in the quarry used to build the Pyramids. Scholars believe it was sculpted about 4,600 years ago by the pharaoh Khafre, whose Pyramid rises directly behind it and whose face may be that represented on the Sphinx.
The Sphinx from the rear, gazing down on Cairo.
Half human, half lion, the Sphinx is 240 feet long and 66 feet high. Badly eroded, it has undergone numerous restorations over the millennia, beginning with one conducted about 1400 B.C. by the pharaoh Tuthmosis IV, who dreamt that the Sphinx asked him to clear the sand around it in return for the crown of Upper and Lower Egypt. The Sphinx has recently undergone a major modern restoration.
The so-called “dream stela” of Tuthmosis IV, which the pharaoh placed between the Sphinx’s paws about 1400 B.C.
In this 180° image, as you “walk” around the Sphinx from its left side to its right, watch the sunrise first strike the top of the Khafre Pyramid in the background, then light up the Sphinx itself. To get a sense of the sheer size of the sculpture, keep an eye out, too, for the man standing below it.
The Great Sphinx of Giza, the worlds largest single-stone statue.
The half-human Sphinx is an ancient Egyptian mystical figure usually formed as a lion with a human head, usually made to resemble a pharaoh.
The Great Sphinx of Giza, Egypt, is the worlds biggest single-stone statue. It is made from limestone and it is 57 metres (260 feet) long, 6 m (20 ft) wide, and 20 m (65 ft height.
It can be found on facing due east at the Giza Plateau on the west bank of the great Nile river.
The statues Arabic name translates as “Father of Terror”.
Some people believe that the head of the pharaoh Khafra (The Hellenised version is Chephren). This would mean that it was built during the Fourth Dynasty (2723 BC ? 2563 BC), making about 4,500 years old.
A more likely theory is that it was built around 10500 BC because there are patterns of water erosion on the Sphinx body, and this is the last time any significant volume of rain fell in Egypt.
We know almost nothing about the statue for sure, basic knowledge like who is on the face, when it was built and by whom is still remains a riddle.
The Sphinx has been a symbol of Egypt from ancient times to the present. It has inspired the imaginations of artists, poets, adventurers, scholars and travelers for centuries and has also inspired endless speculation about its age, its meaning and the secrets that it might hold.
A Description of the Great Sphinx
The Great Sphinx of Giza is an immense stone sculpture of a creature with the body of a lion and the head of a human. The greatest monumental sculpture in the ancient world, it is carved out of a single ridge of limestone 240 feet (73 meters) long and 66 feet (20 meters) high.
The Sphinx sits in a shallow depression to the south of the pyramid of the Pharaoh Khafre (also known as Chephren) at the west bank of the Nile River near the city of Cairo.
The rock stratum out of which the Sphinx has been made varies from a soft yellowish to a hard grey limestone. The massive body is made of the softer stone, which is easily eroded, while the head is formed of the harder stone.
To form the lower body of the Sphinx, enormous blocks of stone were quarried from the base rock and these blocks were then used in the core masonry of the temples directly in front and to the south of the Sphinx.
Despite the hard quality of the stone of the head, the face is badly damaged, and not only by natural erosion. The nose is missing altogether and the eyes and the areas around them are seriously altered from their original state.
Some scholars believe that the Great Sphinx originally had a beard. Pieces of this beard discovered by excavation are in the British Museum in London and the Cairo Museum. These pieces, however, may be dated to the New Kingdom times of
Napoleon’s artillerymen have been blamed for using the face of the Sphinx for target practice.
The Sphinx is part of a complex of structures that also contains the Sphinx temple. This temple, like the Great Pyramid and the Oseiron temple at Abydos in Southern Egypt, may also date from Pre-dynastic times.
The History of the Sphinx
According to orthodox Egyptology the Sphinx was constructed in the 4th Dynasty (2575 – 2467 BCE) by the Pharaoh Khafre. However, an accumulating body of evidence, both archaeological and geological, indicates that the Sphinx is far older than the 4th Dynasty and was only restored by Khafre during his reign.
There are no inscriptions on the Sphinx, or on any of the temples connected to it that, that offer evidence of construction by Khafre. The so-called ‘Inventory Stele’ (uncovered on the Giza plateau in the 19th century) tells that the Pharaoh Khufu (Cheops) – Khafre’s predecessor – ordered a temple built alongside the Sphinx, meaning of course that the Sphinx was already there, and thus could not have been constructed by Khafre.
A much greater age for the Sphinx has been suggested by R.A. Schwaller de Lubicz, based upon geological considerations. Schwaller de Lubicz observed, and recent geologists (such as Robert Schoch, Professor of Geology at Boston University) have confirmed, that the extreme erosion on the body of the Sphinx could not be the result of wind and sand, as has been universally assumed, but rather was the result of water.
Geologists agree that in the distant past Egypt was subjected to severe flooding. Wind erosion cannot take place when the body of the Sphinx is covered by sand, and the Sphinx has been in this condition for nearly all of the last five thousand years – since the alleged time of its 4th Dynasty construction.
If wind-blown sand were responsible for the deep erosion of the Sphinx, we would expect to find evidence of such erosion on other Egyptian monuments built of similar materials and exposed to the wind for a similar length of time. Yet the fact of the matter is, that even on structures that have had more exposure to the wind-blown sand, there are minimal effects of erosion, the sand having done little more than scour clean the surface of the dressed stones.
The purpose of the Sphinx is not known. Some orthodox archaeologists assume that it was a memorial to a Pharaoh or that it functioned as some sort of talisman or guardian deity. Other scholars, however, believe the Sphinx functioned as an astronomical observation device that marked the position of the rising sun on the day of the spring equinox in the time of Leo the Lion, which lasted from 10,970 to 8810 BCE. This interpretation is given support by the leonine shape of the Sphinx.
In 1798, when Napoleon came to Egypt the Sphinx was buried in sand up to its neck. Between 1816 and 1858, a series of adventurers and antiquarians, including Giovanni Caviglia, Auguste Mariette and Gaston Maspero, attempted to clear the sand from around the body of the Sphinx but were each forced to abandon the project due to the enormous amount of sand. Finally, between 1925 and 1936, the French engineer Emil Baraize was successful in clearing the sand to reveal the base of the Sphinx.
The Mystery of the Sphinx
Edgar Cayce (1877-1945) the ‘sleeping prophet’ had the ability to put himself into a deep trance. He stated in some of his trances that Egypt was the repository for records of the alleged civilization of Atlantis, about 10,500 B.C. This repository was an underground library, called the Hall of Records,” that contained the wisdom of Atlantis. Cayce claims that the Sphinx points in the direction of the “Hall of Records.” His reading states: “There is a chamber or passage from the right forepaw of the [Sphinx] to this entrance of the Hall of records, or chamber.”
In the 1980’s and 1990’s the Edgar Cayce Foundation conducted research in Egypt around the Sphinx to verify Cayce’s reading. Although researchers from all over the world have begun to look for this chamber with very sophisticated instruments, they have not found the Hall of Records.”
There are three passages into or under the Sphinx, two of them of obscure origin. The one of known cause is a short dead-end shaft behind the head drilled in the nineteenth century. No other tunnels or chambers in or under the Sphinx are known to exist. A number of small holes in the Sphinx body may relate to scaffolding at the time of carving.
The Pre-Dynastic era age of the Sphinx
Evidence suggesting a construction period for the Sphinx – greatly predating the 4th Dynasty – may perhaps be indicated by the astronomical significance of its shape, being that of a lion. Roughly every two thousand years (2160 to be exact), and because of the precession of the equinoxes, the sun on the spring equinox rises against the stellar background of a different constellation. For the past two thousand years that constellation has been Pisces the Fish, symbol of the Christian age. Prior to the age of Pisces it was the age of Aries the Ram, and before that it was the age of Taurus the Bull. It is interesting to note that during the first and second millennia BC, approximately the Age of Aries, ram-oriented iconography was common in Dynastic Egypt, while during the Age of Taurus the Bull-cult arose in Minoan Crete. Perhaps the builders of the Sphinx likewise used astrological symbolism in designing their monumental sculpture. Geological findings indicate that the Sphinx may have been sculpted sometime before 10,000 BC, and this period coincides with the Age of Leo the Lion, which lasted from 10,970 to 8810 BC.
Further support for this vast age of the sphinx comes from a surprising sky-ground correlation proven by sophisticated computer programs such as Skyglobe 3.6. These computer programs are able to generate precise pictures of any portion of the night sky as seen from different places on earth at any time in the distant past or future. Graham Hancock explains in Heaven’s Mirror that, “computer simulations show that in 10,500 BC the constellation of Leo housed the sun on the spring equinox – i.e. an hour before dawn in that epoch Leo would have reclined due east along the horizon in the place where the sun would soon rise. This means that the lion-bodied Sphinx, with its due-east orientation, would have gazed directly on that morning at the one constellation in the sky that might reasonably be regarded as its own celestial counterpart.”
Restoration of the Sphinx
Repairs to the Sphinx have been made over the centuries by the Pharaohs Tuthmosis IV and Ramesses II, and also during the Roman era. Restoration attempts have continued to the present time yet the Sphinx continues to deteriorate because of the relentless wind, humidity and the ever-increasing smog from nearby Cairo.
In the 1980’s, during a six-year period, more than 2000 limestone blocks were added to the body of the Sphinx and various chemicals were injected in the hopes of preventing its further deterioration. This treatment was not successful and in fact contributed to the deterioration. In 1988 the left shoulder crumbled and blocks fell off. Present attempts at restoration are under the control of the Supreme Council of Antiquities’ archaeologists.