The Great Sphinx is one of the most significant sculptures in the world. Showcasing a reclined lion’s body and a human head, it stands at nearly 66 feet. The length of this magnificent statue is around 240 feet. A royal headdress adorns the Sphinx’s human head.
This giant statue stands in the Valley temple belonging to pharaoh Khafre. Moreover, the face resembles Pharaoh Khafre. Hence, historians date the Great Sphinx to the 4th dynasty. Therefore, the ownership of the Sphinx inclines towards Khafre.
However, some scholars believe that Khafre’s older sibling, Redjedef, built the monument. Perhaps Redjedef built the Sphinx to honour their father, Khufu. Moreover, people debate that the Great Sphinx resembles King Khufu more than Khafre.
Location of Great Sphinx
The Great Sphinx stands at Giza Pyramid Complex on the west bank of the Nile in Giza, Egypt. The Sphinx faces directly from west to east and stands on the Giza plateau. This grand monument remains one of the oldest known monumental structures of Ancient Egypt. Additionally, it is one of the most recognisable structures you can see at the Giza Necropolis.
What is a Sphinx?
A sphinx is a mythical being with a face of a human and the body of a lion. Hence, it is a prominent mythological feature in Egyptian, Asian and Greek mythology.
Ancient Egyptians believed the Sphinx to be a spiritual guardian. Often the creature depicts a male with a pharaoh headdress.
Sphinx is a monolithic statue carved out of the bedrock of the plateau. Around 2500 BC, King pharaoh also built the second pyramid of Giza. Furthermore, a temple in front of the statue constitutes the stones cut from around its body.
During the eighteenth dynasty, ancient Egyptians called Sphinx “Horus of the Horizon”, also “Horus of the Necropolis”. This name refers to the mighty sun god that stands above the horizon.
Historians have associated a theory given for the organisation of the Sphinx and pyramids. They assumed that there might be a divine purpose to the Great Sphinx. These structures channel the power of the sun to resurrect the soul of Pharaoh Khafre.
Construction of the Sphinx
According to specific estimates, it would have taken about three years to build the monument. About 100 workers might have worked every year. They would use stone hammers and copper chisels to finish the statue.
This monument did not assemble piece by piece. Essentially the Great Sphinx of Giza originates from a mass of limestone. This limestone became exposed when workers cut a quarry around the Giza plateau.
According to evidence, perhaps this statue was supposed to be bigger initially. However, the workers left the site in a hurry. Archaeologists found large stone blocks left behind without processing. Abandoned toolkits found near the site suggest the same.
Historians made a deduction in line with the graffiti found on the walls of the Sphinx. Archaeologist Lehner concluded that the Egyptian ruler did not use slaves for his workforce.
Construction of the Mummification Temple
In the 1980s, historians uncovered specific evidence regarding the limestone. The blocks that constitute the sphinx temple originated from the ditch surrounding the statue itself.
Accordingly, they suggested that workers hauled away quarry blocks from the Sphinx. Subsequently, builders constructed the Mummification Temple using some leagues like the one used for the statue.
Mythology Related to The Great Sphinx
Around the first intermediate period, the Necropolis went through abandonment. Subsequently, the drifting sand buried this colossal figure up to its shoulders.
The first excavation attempt dates to 1400 BC. A dream stele found between the mighty paws of the Sphinx illustrates this attempt. The stele tells how Prince Thutmose, son of Amenhotep II, fell asleep near this great guard.
In the dream, the statue complained about its disarray. Hence, the Sphinx made a deal with the young price. In case the prince restored the Sphinx, it would help him in becoming a Pharaoh.
Accordingly, the young prince gathered a team and managed to dig out the front paws of the Sphinx. A shrine is erected between them that houses the dream stele.
Whether or not the dream occurred is debatable. However, the prince did become Pharaoh Thutmose IV. Accordingly, he also introduced a Sphinx worshipping culture to his people.
Italian Giovanni Battista supervised the first modern archaeological dig. It led to uncovering the Sphinx’s chest ultimately. At the beginning of 1887, he unearthed the statue entirely. They discovered flights of steps. Hence, historians finally calculated the statue’s accurate measurements.
From the lowest step, the height was around one hundred feet. Moreover, the distance between the paws was thirty-five feet.
Excavation in the 19th century revealed pieces of carved stone beards. Additionally, residues of red pigment are still visible on the face. Hence researchers concluded that earlier, the Sphinx’s entire visage had red paint.
Mark Lehner also found traces of blue and yellow paint on the statue. Therefore, he suggested that the ancient Egyptians painted it entirely in the past.
In the year 1931, the Egyptian government repaired the head of the statue. In 1926, due to erosion, a part of the headdress had fallen off. Hence, it also created a deep cut into the neck of the Sphinx. They added a concrete collar between the cap and the neck.
In the 1980s and 1990s, archaeologists added some renovations to the stone base and rock body. However, that resulted in an altered profile. Moreover, people held several renovations later.
The Mystery of the Nose
The Sphinx’s nose shows consistent damage in the bridge and nostril area. It seems like long rods or chisels were hammered down from the bridge and beneath the nostril. Furthermore, the pried off nose was towards the south. Hence, resulting in the one-metre wide nose lost to date.
Archaeologist Mark Lehner performed a study and concluded that the nose went intentionally broken. He did this study around the period of the 3rd and 10th centuries AD.
According to many tales, the army of Napoleon Bonaparte employed cannonballs to destroy the nose. However, the illustrations reveal a noseless sphinx before Napoleon. Another theory says that Muhammad Sa’im al-Dahr mutilated the statue. It occurred in the 14th century to protest idolatry.
Archaeologists describe this magnificent monument as a cosmic engine. And that, Pharaohs it built to harness the power of the sun and other gods. It is the kind of power the mysterious and grand Sphinx holds. Over the ages, multiple storms weathered on this great guard on Giza necropolis. However, the grandeur of the monument remains untouched. The Great Sphinx continues to be an enigma from the troves of Ancient Egyptian History.