'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'.
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
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.
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 beforeKhufuand 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
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
He replaced the back part of the Nemes head-dress, which was missing with
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
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
Zahi Hawass on the
restoration of the Sphinx:
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
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.
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
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
(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
'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.
'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
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
(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
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.
1870 - All By Sebah
Pre-1880 By Zangak.
1882 By Fiorillo
1885 - Unknown
1885 By Lekegian.
1885 By Lekegian.
1920's By Baraize
Spot the differences
(How many can you find?) (1887 - 2004)
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.
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
The word "Sphinx" comes from the
Greek Σφιγξ — Sphingx, apparently from
the verb σφιγγω —
"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.
Sphinx's From Around The World:
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,
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
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
The Riddle of the
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
"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
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
(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."
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 as nara-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)
1). Ivan Van
Sertima. Egypt: Child of Africa. 1995. Transaction Publ.2). P.
Thompkins. The Secrets of the Great Pyramid. 1971. Harper and Row.4). Serpent in the Sky: The High Wisdom of
Ancient Egypt.5). Giza Sphinx & Temples Page
3 - The Great Sphinx - Spirit & Stone.6). Z. Hawass:
Abstract for the First International Symposium on the Great Sphinx
(Egyptian Antiquities Organisation, Cairo, 1992).10). Ian Lawton &
Chris Ogilvie-Herald. Giza: The
Charles Piazzi Smyth. The Great Pyramid. 1978. Bell Publishing.21). Ivan
Van Sertima. They came before Columbus.
1976. Random House.