Location: Giza plateau, Nr Cairo, Egypt.

Grid Reference:  29˚ 58′ 31"N, 31˚ 08′ 16" E

  • The Sphinx. (‘Hwran Horemakhet’, ‘Hor-em-Akht‘).

The Giza Sphinx was carved from the living rock and faces directly east. It has become an symbol of mystery and is now believed to have been one of the first structures at Ghiza.

‘Guardian of the atmosphere, watcher of the rising sun’.

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The fact that the head is considerably smaller than the body has led to speculation over the original appearance and the original date of carving is questioned on the basis of the erosion marks surrounding the sphinx.

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The Ghiza Sphinx – ‘Hwran Horemakhet’.

The traditional view is that the Sphinx was carved in the time of the 4th dynasty Pharaoh Khafre, which Egyptologists place at sometime around 2,450 BC. This date is contested on several points.

The Sphinx of Giza has watched the rising sun for thousands of years, it’s position on the Giza plateau has earned it a special place in our  hearts and minds, as it’s origin and meaning have become lost to us.

The head-dress, beard and Cobra on the forehead are traditionally associated with royalty. Sir Norman Lockyer suggested that the image of a half lion, half woman aspect symbolised the junctions of the constellations Leo and Virgo which occurred at a summer solstice in the fourth millennium BC. (2)

As Dr. Selim Hassan (6),  stated in his report regarding his excavation of the Sphinx enclosure of the 1940s:

Taking all things into consideration, it seems that we must give the credit of erecting this, the world’s most wonderful statue, to Khafre, but always with this reservation that there is not one single contemporary inscription which connects the Sphinx with Khafre, so sound as it may appear, we must treat the evidence as circumstantial, until such time as a lucky turn of the spade of the excavator will reveal to the world a definite reference to the erection of the Sphinx.

The ‘Inventory stella’ – Found at Ghiza by Auguste Mariette in the 1850’s, in the ruins of the Temple of Isis clearly states that Khufu restored the Sphinx. This stone provides some of the strongest evidence that the Sphinx was constructed before Khufu and not by him. It says:

Long live The King of Upper and Lower Egypt, Khufu, given life

He found the house of Isis, Mistress of the Pyramid, by the side of the hollow of Hwran (The Sphinx)

and he built his pyramid beside the temple of this goddess and he built a pyramid for the King’s daughter Henutsen beside this temple.

The place of Hwran Horemakhet is on the South side of the House of Isis, Mistress of the pyramid

He restored the statue, all covered in painting, of the guardian of the atmosphere, who guides the winds with his gaze.

He replaced the back part of the Nemes head-dress, which was missing with gilded stone

The figure of this god, cut in stone, is solid and will last to eternity, keeping its face looking always to the East ‘(10).

…Which implies that the Sphinx (and a temple to Isis), were extant before Khufu…

While it is believed by traditional Egyptologists that this stella was carved in the 26th dynasty (664-524 BC), the reason why the statement that Khufu restored it is ignored by modern Egyptologists is a mystery, as the other information on it is regarded by the same people as historical fact.

The ‘Dream Stela of Thutmosis IV, who also restored the Sphinx.

In fact, the French Egyptologist and Director General of Excavations and Antiquities for the Egyptian government, Gaston Maspero, who surveyed the Sphinx in the 1920s asserted that:

‘The Sphinx stela shows, in line thirteen, the cartouche of Khephren. I believe that to indicate an excavation carried out by that prince, following which, the almost certain proof that the Sphinx was already buried in sand by the time of Khafre and his predecessors’. (5)

Zahi Hawass on the restoration of the Sphinx:

‘On the upper part of the body we found old kingdom blocks, of the same quality used to face the causeway of Khafre, reset against a badly weathered old kingdom core’.

The fact that the same Old kingdom blocks (contemporary with Khafre), were not found over the lower courses too, which were protected by sand over most of their life, confirms that the top part of the structure only was restored in the 4th dynasty. Also, and very importantly – the fact that old kingdom blocks had already been re-set against a ‘badly weathered‘ core clearly suggests that the structure was already extant in the 4th dynasty.

Restoration by Thutmosis IV (c.1400 BC): The Dream Stele.

Evidence for Thutmosis IV’s campaign is preserved in the so-called dream Stele he erected between the two paws of the Sphinx in ca. 1400 BC. According to the story inscribed in the Stella, the Sphinx spoke to him in a dream and asked the prince to free him from the sand. The Sphinx (Hor-em-Akht) offered in return the crown of Upper and Lower Egypt. It is often quoted as associating  the sphinx with Khafre.

When the Dream stele was discovered, however, the lines of text were incomplete, only referring to a “Khaf,” and not the full “Khafra.” The missing syllable “ra” was later added to complete the translation by Thomas Young, on the assumption that the text referred to “Khafra.” Young’s interpretation was based on an earlier facsimile in which the translation reads as follows:

…which we bring for him: oxen… and all the young vegetables; and we shall give praise to Wenofer …Khaf…. the statue made for Atum-Hor-em-Akhet.

From this story we know that the Sphinx was buried up to its neck again in 1400 BC.

Comment  – Apart from the above testimonies, there is no contemporary record of the construction of the sphinx (or the main three Ghiza pyramids), which seems to elude a historical context. It is noted that the sphinx is linked via a causeway, to the pyramid of Khafre, not Khufu.

Erosion Features in the Sphinx enclosure:

Following a detailed examination of the erosion features on the walls of the Sphinx enclosure, Dr Robert Schoch, together with other geologists and geophysicists, concluded that the Sphinx had been weathered mainly by rainfall before the Sahara became a desert, and must therefore be around 7,000 – 9,000 years old. (1)

Schoch argued that because the Nile valley experienced the ‘Nabtian Fluvial’ from 10,000 to 3,000 B.C., that it must have been in this time that the deep fissures in the sphinx enclosure were made. Schoch and a colleague also took seismic readings to determine sub-surface water penetration in the bedrock of the Sphinx.

(It is known that the pace of water penetration slows the deeper it seeps into the bedrock).

These erosion features have led some people to question the age of the Sphinx.

‘They found that their seismic readings showed sub-surface water penetration at six to eight feet deep in the front half, and four feet at the rear. This differential could only be explained by presuming that the Sphinx had been carved in different stages; the head and the forepart first, and the hindquarters last. It is known that the Sphinx has been renovated at least three times in history, and they argue that the rear part was carved by Khafre (Chephren), which accounts for the tradition linking Khafre with the Sphinx’. (1)


It is immediately noticeable that the head of the Sphinx is proportionally smaller than the body. It is suggested that this has been caused by the head remaining above the level of the sand whilst the body has been covered over for much of its existence. Re-carving the sand-eroded head has led to a decrease in size over time.

Note – the head is in far better condition than the rest of the body, which was buried for most of its life in sand…

Which has led many to suggest that it may have been re-carved at least once…

It has noticeable that the head is not in proportion to the rest of the body.

 

Radio-carbon-dating:

‘The Sphinx Temple gave radiocarbon dates of between 2085 BC and 2746 BC (700 years apart). This is in accordance with traditional theories about the pyramids’.

(Ref: Journal of African Civilisations Vol 12. 1994)

Note: The stone for this temple is believed to have come from the sphinx enclosure. It has features contemporary with other 4th dynasty structures at Ghiza (such as 200 ton limestone blocks).

The features of the sphinx’s profile have been described as both negroid and female.

A statement which appears to be borne out by this picture.

Senior forensic expert Frank Domingo of the New York Police Department, using his own detailed measurements taken of the Sphinx, determined through forensic drawings and computer analysis that the face of the Sphinx and the face seen on signed statues of Khafre could not be one and the same person (4).

Other observations:

Smyth (12), noted that the ‘red colour was still visible on its cheeks’, and that fragments of ‘a colossal stone beard’ were discovered in 1817, upon which it was noted that ‘all the internal joining surfaces of the blocks had been figured full of the idol gods of the most profane and Cainite Egypt’.

Former director of the German Institute of Archaeology in Cairo, Rainer Stadelmann, suggested it was Khufu, and not his son Khafra, who was responsible for constructing the monument. Stadelmann bases his ideas on the distinct iconography of the headdress and missing, collapsed, beard (the remains are housed in the Cairo museum), which he argued is more indicative of the style of Khufu than Khafra. He supports this by suggesting that Khafra’s causeway was built to conform to a pre-existing structure, which he concludes, given its location, could only have been the Sphinx.

Images of the Sphinx over the ages.



1579 By Helferich
1615 George Sandys.
1653 Francois de la Boulley Le-Gouz



Cornelis de Bruijn 1698
1743 By Pococke
1755 By Norden.



1849 By Maxime Du-Camp
1858 By Hammerschmidt
1861 Chinese expedition.

1877 Unknown



1870 – All By Sebah



Pre-1880 By Zangak.
1882 By Fiorillo
1885 – Unknown

Description De L’Egypt



1885 By Lekegian.
1885 By Lekegian.
1920’s By Baraize



Tunnel entrance.
The ‘Dream‘ Stella
More restorations

And Finally…

Spot the differences (How many can you find?) (1887 – 2004)

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Other Egyptian Sphinx’s:

Apart from the Great sphinx at Ghiza, the first ‘dateable’ Egyptian sphinx is one depicting Hetepheres II of the fourth dynasty (2723-2563 BC). (currently in the Cairo museum)

Painted limestone Sphinx Of King Djedefre’s wife. It was found at the site of Djedfre’s Pyramid at Abu Rawash and is considered by some to be the first example of a Sphinx. 4th Dynasty.

Ref: (www.gizabuildingproject)

Nine hundred sphinx’ with rams’ heads, representing Amon, were built in Thebes where his cult was strongest.

Ram headed Sphinx’s (Aries?) and a female sphinx from Karnak.

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Sphinx’s from round the world.

The word "Sphinx" comes from the Greek ΣφιγξSphingx, apparently from the verb σφιγγωsphinggo, meaning "to strangle" (note that the γ takes on a ‘ng’ sound in front of both γ and ξ). This may be a name derived from the fact that the hunters for a pride are the lionesses and they kill their prey by strangulation, biting the throat of prey and holding them down until they die. The word "Sphincter" derives from the same root.

Greek Sphinx’s: The historians and geographers of Greece wrote extensively about the Egyptian culture and their writings were circulated widely with Greek and Roman culture. They sometimes called the ram-headed sphinxes, criosphinxes and the bird-headed ones, hierocosphinxes.

There was a single Sphinx in Greek mythology, a unique demon of destruction and bad luck. According to Hesiod she was a daughter of Echidna and Orthrus or, according to others, a daughter of Echidna and Typhon. All of these are figures from the earliest of Greek myths, before the Olympians ruled the Greek pantheon. The Greek sphinx was represented in vase-painting and bas-reliefs most often seated upright rather than recumbent, as a winged lion with a woman’s head; or she was a woman with the paws, claws and breasts of a lion, a serpents tail and eagles wings.

The Sphinx was the emblem of the ancient city-state of Chios, and appeared on seals and the obverse side of coins from the sixth century BC until the third century AD.

The Riddle of the Sphinx

She is said to have guarded the entrance to a certain area, often the Greek city of Thebes, and to have asked a riddle of travellers to obtain passage. The exact riddle asked by the Sphinx was not specified by early tellers of the stories about the sphinx, and was not standardized as the one given below until late in Greek history.

It was said in late lore that Hera or Aires sent the Sphinx from her Ethiopian homeland (the Greeks always remembered the foreign origin of the Sphinx) to Thebes in Greece where, in the writings of Sophoclese, Oedipus Tyrannus, she asks all passers by history’s most famous riddle:

"Which creature in the morning goes on four feet, at noon on two, and in the evening upon three?" She strangled and devoured anyone unable to answer. Oedipus solved the riddle: answering, Man—who crawls on all fours as a baby, then walks on two feet as an adult, and walks with a cane in old age.

Bested at last, the tale continues, the Sphinx then threw herself from her high rock and died. An alternative version tells that she devoured herself. Thus Oedipus can be recognized as a "threshold" figure, helping effect the transition between the old religious practices, represented by the death of the Sphinx, and the rise of the new, Olympian deities.

Mesopotamian sphinx’s: The following images are both from Anatolia, or modern-day Turkey. Boghazkoy was the capital of the Hittite empire in the second millennium BC and the sphinx gateway at Alacahuyuk was the primary entrance to another Hittite city, Alacahuyuk which dates back to 4,000 BC.

(http://www.pbase.com/dosseman/alacahoyuk)

Alacahuyuk (left) and Boghazkoy (right).

The earliest known representation of a Sphinx was found in Turkey on pottery dating from 9,500 BC.

"Look at this", he says, pointing at a photo of an exquisitely carved sculpture showing an animal, half-human, half-lion. "It’s a sphinx, thousands of years before Egypt. South-eastern Turkey, northern Syria – this region saw the wedding night of our civilization."

Ref: (http://www.allempires.net/)

Asian Sphinx’s:  The sphinx is present in the traditions, mythology and art of South and South-East Asia. Variously known as purushamriga (Sanskrit, "human-beast"),purushamirukam (Tamil, "human-beast"), naravirala (Sanskrit, "man-cat") in India, or asnara-simha (Pali, "man-lion") in Sri Lanka, manusiha or manuthiha (Pali, "man-lion") in Myanmar, and nora nair or thepnorasingh in Thailand.

In contrast to the sphinx in Egypt, Mesopotamia, and Greece, where the traditions largely have been lost due to the discontinuity of the civilization, the traditions of the "Asian sphinx" are very much alive today. The earliest artistic depictions of "sphinxes" from the South Asian subcontinent are to some extent influenced by Hellenistic art and writings. These hail from the period when Buddhist art underwent a phase of Hellenistic influence. But the "sphinxes" from Mathura, Kausambi, and Sanchi, dated to the third century BC until the first century AD, also show a considerable non-Hellenist, indigenous character. It is not possible, therefore, to conclude the concept of the "sphinx" originated through foreign influence.

In South India the "sphinx" is known as purushamriga (Sanskrit) or purushamirukam (Tamil), meaning "human-beast". It is found depicted in sculptural art in temples and palaces where it serves an apotropaic purpose, just as the "sphinxes" in other parts of the ancient world. It is said by the tradition, to take away the sins of the devotees when they enter a temple and to ward off evil in general. It is therefore often found in a strategic position on the gopuram or temple gateway, or near the entrance of the Sanctum Sanctorium.

 

S. American Sphinx’s  – ‘In the south-east corner of Vera Cruz, the state where the largest of the Negroid colossi were found, archaeologists have turned up an Egyptian bas-relief carving of a Semite on the back of a Totonac slate mirror. In Monte Alban itself, where the Negroid dancers or death figures were engraved, carvings closely resembling an Egyptian Sphinx and the Egyptian god Ra, in its bird aspect, appear at the same location. Furthermore, when we move with the wave of the Olmec culture sweeping slowly down through the narrow corridor of land that joins the two Americas, linking Mexico in the north with the world of Peru in the south, we come upon the most concrete evidence of an Egyptian presence’. This is a find of "patently Egyptian statuettes" buried 3m deep’ (21)

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