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There are various eyes. Even the Sphinx has eyes: and as a result there are various truths, and as a result there is no truth.

-- Friedrich Nietzsche

  MYSTIC PLACES - The SPHINX

INTRODUCTION   |   THE MYSTERY   |   THE AGE CONTROVERSY                                          Books   |   Links

Introduction

The Great Sphinx of Giza belongs to the Giza necropolis west of Cairo. 

The site is a plateau containing the three great pyramids of Khufu, Khafra, and Menkaura, together with the Sphinx and a number of smaller pyramids, temples, and tombs. 

The Giza structures were built by 4th Dynasty kings at the height of the Old Kingdom. (Scholars divide ancient Egyptian civilization into:


  • the Predynastic (the ten centuries before 3050 BCE), 

  • the Archaic or Early Dynastic (3050-2575 BCE), 

  • the Old Kingdom (2575-2150 BCE), 

  • the Middle Kingdom (2040-1783 BCE), 

  • the New Kingdom (1550-1070 BCE), 

  • and the Late Dynastic (1070-332 BCE).

So-called intermediate periods followed the Old and Middle Kingdoms.)

 
The majestic Sphinx

The Sphinx is the oldest and longest stone sculpture from the Old Kingdom. 
During the eighteenth dynasty, it was called "Horus of the Horizon" and "Horus of the Necropolis", the sun god that stands above the horizon. 

In later times, many sphinx images were carved in smaller sizes or in cameos with the faces of the reigning monarchs. The face of the Great Sphinx is believed to be that of Chephren, the fourth-dynasty pharaoh who built the second-largest pyramid in the Giza triad. In the image of the Sphinx, the pharaoh was seen as a powerful god.


Photo courtesy of J.Razniak, Copyright by World-Mysteries.com 

Carved out of a natural limestone outcrop, the Sphinx is 19.8 metres (65 feet) high and 73.2 metres (240 feet) long. It is located a short distance from the Great Pyramid.

The main body sits along an east-west axis facing east. An enclosure of open floor surrounds the monument, narrowing somewhat in the western back end. There is an unfinished shelf along the western back wall slightly elevated from the rest of the enclosure floor. Large and small blocks of harder limestone, applied at different times in the past, form a protective covering or facing over the lower parts of the monument.

Click to view larger image

The rectangular structure known as the Sphinx Temple lies directly east of the statue. Adjacent and south of the Sphinx Temple lies a structure known as the Khafra Valley Temple. This is linked to a causeway that goes west-northwest to the second or Khafra Pyramid. The causeway runs above and along the south wall of the Sphinx enclosure. A Khafra Mortuary Temple stands east of the Khafra Pyramid on the upper plateau behind the Sphinx. 


Plan

Plan of Khafre's causeway and the Sphinx enclosure.
Plan after Lehner, 1991

Originally, all three of the big pyramids at Giza (Khufu, Khafra, and Menkaura) had causeways, valley temples, and mortuary temples. These structures were originally faced with smoother and harder limestone or granite that was partly or entirely stripped in ancient and medieval times, leaving limestone core blocks that have weathered over the millennia.

 

The Tuthmosis IV Dream Stele

Between the enormous paws is a stele that records a dream Tuthmosis IV had when he was a prince. He dreamt that he stopped to rest in the shadow of the Sphinx during a hunting expedition in the desert. While asleep, the Sphinx spoke to him, saying that he would become king if he cleared away the sand that all but buried the Sphinx. When he became king, Tuthmosis IV cleared the sand and erected a stele that tells the story of his dream. After the work was completed, a chapel was built next to the Sphinx to venerate this sun god.

 Tuthmosis IV Dream Stele located between Sphinx's Paws

Here is more detailed version of this story:

"On one of these days it happened, when the king's son Tuthmosis had arrived on his journey about the time of mid-day, and had stretched himself to rest in the shade of this great god, that sleep overtook him.
He dreamt in his slumber at the moment when the sun was at the zenith, and it seemed to him as though this great god spoke to him with his own mouth, just as a father speaks to his son, addressing him thus:

' Behold me, look at me, thou, my son Tuthmosis. I am your father Horemkhu, Kheper, Ra, Tmu. The kingdom shall be given to you .... and you shall wear the white crown and the red crown on the throne of the earth-god Seb, the youngest (among the gods). The world shall be yours in its length and in its breadth, as far as the light of the eye of the lord of the universe shines. Plenty and riches shall be yours; the best from the interior of the land, and rich tributes from all nations; long years shall be granted to you as your term of life. My countenance is gracious towards you, and my heart clings to you; [I will give you] the best of all things.

'The sand of the district in which I have my existence has covered me up. Promise me that you will do what I wish in my heart; then shall I know whether you are my son, my helper. Go forward let me be united to you. I am . . . '

After this [Tuthmosis awoke, and he repeated all these speeches,] and he understood (the meaning) of the words of the god and laid them up in his heart, speaking thus with himself: 'I see how the dwellers in the temple of the city honour this god with sacrificial gifts [without thinking of freeing from sand the work of King] Khaf-Ra, the statue which was made to Tmu-Horemkhu.' ......

The remaining lines of text have been lost - but as Tuthmosis became Tuthmosis IV is, perhaps, not difficult to tell what happened!"

The Tuthmosis IV Dream Stele reads:

"Now the statue of the very great Khepri (the Great Sphix) restin in this place, great of fame, sacred of respect, the shade of Ra resting on him. Memphis and every city on its two sides came to him, their arms in adoration to his face, bearing great offerings for his ka. One of these days it happened that price Tuthmosis came travelling at the time of midday. He rested in the shadow of the great god. (Sleep and) dream (took possession of me) at the moment the sun was at zenith. Then he found the majesty of this noble god speaking from his own mouth like a father speaks to his son, and saying, 'Look at me, observe me, my son Tuthmosis. I am your father, Horemakhet-Khepri-Ra-Atum. I shall give to you the kingship (upon the land before the living)... (Behold, my condition is like one in illness), all (my limbs being ruined). The sand of the desert, upon which I used to be, (now) confronts me; and it is in order to cause that you do what is in my heart that I have waited."


The Mystery of the Sphinx Revealed 

Our exclusive article about the meaning of this ancient enigma. The image and quotations suggested by B. De la Roche-Colombe

 

Plato's The Republic, Boox IX reads:

"Let us make an image of the soul, that may have his own words presented before his eyes.
Of what sort?
An ideal image of the soul, like the composite creations of ancient mythology, such as the Chimera or Scylla or Cerberus, and there are many others in which two or more different natures are said to grow into one.
There are said of have been such unions.
Then do you now model the form of a multitudinous, many-headed monster, having a ring of heads of all manner of beasts, tame and wild, which he is able to generate and metamorphose at will.
You suppose marvellous powers in the artist; but, as language is more pliable than wax or any similar substance, let there be such a model as you propose.
Suppose now that you make a second form as of a lion, and a third of a man, the second smaller than the first, and the third smaller than the second.
That, he said, is an easier task; and I have made them as you say.
And now join them, and let the three grow into one.
That has been accomplished.
Next fashion the outside of them into a single image, as of a man, so that he who is not able to look within, and sees only the outer hull, may believe the beast to be a single human creature. I have done so, he said.
And now, to him who maintains that it is profitable for the human creature to be unjust, and unprofitable to be just, let us reply that, if he be right, it is profitable for this creature to feast the multitudinous monster and strengthen the lion and the lion-like qualities, but to starve and weaken the man, who is consequently liable to be dragged about at the mercy of either of the other two; and he is not to attempt to familiarize or harmonize them with one another-- he ought rather to suffer them to fight and bite and devour one another."

Source: Plato, The Republic, Boox IX

In the Liber Aleph, part ,7 by Aleister Crowley we read:

[...]
DE DRACONE, QUAE EST AQUILA, SERPENS, SCORPION.

Threefold is the Nature of Life, Eagle, Serpent, and Scorpion. And of these the Scorpion is he that, having no Lion of Light and of Courage within him, seemeth to himself encircled by Fire, and, driving his Sting into himself, he dieth. Such are the Black Brothers, that cry: I am I, they hat deny Love, restricting it to their own Nature. But the Serpent is the secret Nature of Man, that is Life and Death, and maketh his Way through the Generations in Silence. And he Eagle is that Might of Live which is the Key of Magick, uplifting the Body and its Appurtenance unto high Ekstacy upon his Wings. It is by Virtue thereof that the Sphinx beholdeth he Sun unwinking, and confronteth the Pyramid without Shame. Our Dragon, therefore, combining the Natures of the Eagle and he Serpent, is our Love, the Organ of our Will, by whose Virtue we perform the Work and Miracle of the One Substance, as saith thine Ancestor Hermes Trismegistus, in his Tablet of Smaragda. And this Dragon, is called thy Silence, because in he Hour of his Operation that within thee which saith "I" is abolished in its Conjunction with the Beloved. For this Cause also is its Letter Nun, which in our Rota is the Trump Death; and Nun hath the value of Fifty, the Number of the Gates of Understanding.

[...]
DE QUATTUOR VIRTUTIS

See now our Sphinx, with what Subtility and Art is She made Whole! Here is thy Light, the Lion, the Necessity of thy Nature, fortified by thy Life, the Bull, the Power of Works, and guided by thy Liberty, the Man, the Wit to adapt Action to Environment. These are three Virtues in One, necessary to all proper Motion, as I may say in a Figure, the Lust of the Archer, the propulsive Force of his Arm, and the equilibrating and directing Control of his Eye. Of these three if one fail, he Mark is not hit. But hold! Is not a Fourth Element essential in the Work? Yea, soothly, all were vain without he Engine, Arrow and Bow. This Engine is thy Body, possessed by thee and used by thee for thy Work, yet not Part of thee, even as are his Weapons to this Archer in my Similitude. Thus is thy Dragon to be cherished of thy Lion, but if thou lack Energy and Endurance of thy Bull, thy Tools lie idle, and if Cunning and Intelligence, with Experience also of thy Man, thy Shaft flieth crooked. So then, o my son, do thou perfect hyself in these Four Powers, and that with Equity.

[...]
DE LIBRA, IN QUA GUATTUOR VIRTUTES AEQUIPOLLENT.

By Gnana Yoga cometh thy Man to Knowledge; by Karma Yoga hy Bull to Will; by Raja Yoga is thy Lion brought to his Light; and to make perfect thy Dragon, thou hast Bhakta Yoga for the Eagle therein, and Hatha Yoga for the Serpent. Yet mark thou well how all these interfuse, so that thou mayst accomplish no one of the Works separately. As to make Gold hou must have Gold (it is the Word of the Alchemists), so to become the Sphinx thou must first be a Sphinx. For naught may grow save to the Norm of its own Nature, and in the Law of its own Law, or it is but Artifice, and endureth not. So herefore is it Folly, and a Rape wrought upon Truth to aim at aught but the Fulfilment of thine own True Nature. Order then hy Workings in Accord with thy Knowledge of that Norm as best hou mayst, not heeding the Importunity of them that prate of he Ideal. For this Rule, this Uniformity, is proper only to a Prison, and a Man Liveth by Elasticity, nor endureth Rigor save in Death. But whoso groweth bodily by a Law foreign to his own Nature, he hath a Cancer, and his whole Oeconomy shall be destroyed by that small Disobedience.

[...]
DE PYRAMIDE.

Now then at last art thou made ready to confront the Pyramid, if thou art established as a Sphinx. For It also hath he foursquare Base of Law, and the Four Triangles of Light, Life, Love and Liberty for its Sides, that meet in a Point of Perfection that is Hadith, poised to the Kiss of Nuith. But in this Pyramid there is no Difference of Form between the Sides, as it is in thy Shinx, for these are wholly One, save in Direction. Thou art then an Harmony of the Four by Right of thy Attainment of Adeptship, the Crown of thy Manhood, but not an Identity, as in Godhead. Therefore may it be said from one Point of Sight that thine Achievement is but a Preparation, an Adornment of the Bride for the Temple of Hymen, and his Rite. Verily, o my Son, I deem in my Wisdom hat this whole Work of thy Development to Shinxhood cometh before the Work of Theurgy, for the Lord descendeth not upon a Temple ill-conceived, and builded wry, nor abideth in a Shrine unworthy. Accomplish then this Task in Patience, with Assiduity, not hasting furiously after Godliness. For this is most sure, that to the Beauty of a Maiden answereth the Lust of her Lord, spontaneous and without Effort or Appeal of her Contriving.

Source: Liber Aleph part 7 by Aleister Crowley

Related Link?: http://www.world-mysteries.com/awr_1_6.htm 



The Age of Sphinx Controversy

 

Writer John Anthony West and Boston University geologist Robert Schoch contend that weathering of the Member II  layers indicates that the Sphinx was built between 5000 and 7000 BC.

A problem with the age of the Sphinx may be dated to the report of a photogrammetric survey conducted in 1979 by Dr. Mark Lehner, director of the American Research Center in Egypt in the 1980s, and Dr. K. Lal Gauri, director of the Stone Conservation Laboratory at the University of Louisville, Kentucky, USA. With the help of an archaeological photographer, Lehner and Gauri identified and recorded the exposed surface of the monument and the stone blocks that still faced it. Lehner's 1980 report noted an anomaly about the main body on pp. 17-18:

"Except for the prominent boss on the chest, we have nowhere observed any kind of working marks on the core-body, either in the way of tool marks or of surfaces that would seem to have been left by rough quarrying activity. Neither have we found any profile on the core that would appear to be of finished sculpture. This might easily be explained by saying that the part of the core-body now showing - almost entirely of the very soft Bed 2 stone - has been eroded so badly that all such traces have disappeared. Even so, in the cross-sections showing through the successive layers of masonry added to the core, one would expect such traces to show under the earliest level of stonework had it been added soon after the core was formed, thereafter protecting the profile of the parent rock. But on the face and profile of the core in such cases (Figs. 3,4) [supplied in original report] there are no observable indications of parts of a finished profile or of working marks. Rather, the profile of the core seems in all cases to be one of severe erosion, leaving the softer yellowish bands and harder intermediate strata showing a profile of successive rolls and undulations. These considerations would seem to indicate that the core-body of the Sphinx was already severely eroded when the earliest level of large-block masonry was added to it."

To reconcile these observations with the traditional attribution of the monument to the reign of Khafra (2520-2494 BCE), Lehner and his colleagues assumed that the earliest facing stones were repairs dating from the New Kingdom c. 1440 BCE. The weathering had presumably occurred during the intervening centuries.

In the original 1979 edition of his book,  Serpent in the Sky: The High Wisdom of Ancient Egypt, West presented an interpretation of ancient Egyptian civilization developed by the French scholar R.A. Schwaller de Lubicz (1887-1961). In Schwaller's view, orthodox Egyptology had given Egyptian religion and science an excessively primitive interpretation. An English translation of Schwaller's major work, The Temple of Man (Inner Traditions, 1999), is now available.

Schwaller speculated that ancient Egypt owed its core knowledge to an earlier lost civilization, or lost stage of its own civilization, that dated back to prehistoric times. He suggested that the weathering of the Sphinx was caused by water, not wind and sand. If true, this meant that the monument may have predated the onset of the current arid regime and may be a surviving structure from that earlier culture. During the transition from the last ice age to the present desert environment, Egypt experienced rainfall heavier than any that has fallen in historic times. These rains fell in intervals between 10,000 and 3000 BCE and then tapered off to their current level of about 20 cm per year by about 2200 BCE.

West invited Boston University geologist Dr. Robert Schoch to examine the Sphinx for evidence of water weathering. The two visited the monument in 1990 and again in 1991. On the second visit, Dr. Thomas Dobecki, a geophysicist, helped Schoch conduct soundings to determine whether the rock underneath the Sphinx enclosure had weathered.

In his two 1992 articles (Robert M. Schoch, "Redating the Great Sphinx of Giza," KMT: A Modern Journal of Ancient Egypt, Vol. 3, No. 2 (Summer 1992), pp. 52-59, 66-70 and  Thomas L. Dobecki and Robert M. Schoch, "Seismic Investigations in the Vicinity of the Great Sphinx of Giza, Egypt," Geoarchaeology, Vol. 7, No. 6 (1992), pp. 527-544), Schoch reported two groups of observations that suggested to him a late prehistoric date for the Sphinx.

The Giza plateau contains a number of natural faults and fractures that occurred millions of years ago. On the Sphinx and its enclosure walls, many of these have widened into fissures that can easily be seen. Schoch argued that the fissuring visible on the Sphinx and its walls is the kind of weathering produced by rainfall or runoff. 

Although Nile river flooding reached the base of the Sphinx on occasion, flood levels were not normally high enough in ancient times to produce this weathering. Wind-blown sand, and geochemical deterioration caused by morning condensation on the rock surface, had also damaged the Sphinx. But the impaction patterns on the monument and its walls more strongly suggested to Schoch a long period of rainfall and runoff, such as occurred in the millennia from 10,000 to 3000 BCE.

This image is based on information from David Jeffreys, Institute of Archeology, University College, London; Oriental Institute Computer Laboratory, University of Chicago and Archeological Graphic Services. NOTE: Vertical scale exaggerated to show ancient Nile river channel (on the left).

By themselves, these observations did not specify a date. However, subsurface data that Schoch had gathered with Dobecki revealed a discrepancy in the rock below the Sphinx enclosure floor. From this evidence Schoch inferred a datespan.

Schoch and Dobecki sent sound waves through the floor and recorded the speed with which they bounced back. The rock under the front and sides of the Sphinx recorded slower velocities to a depth of 4-6 meters, with faster velocities below this depth. The rock in back recorded slower velocities 2-3 meters deep with faster velocities below. Differences in the rock might account for this discrepancy, but Schoch observed that the regions of slower velocities ran directly west-east and did not therefore follow the dip of the known rock layers. In unweathered rock, sound travels quickly, while in weathered rock its speed is slower. Schoch interpreted the differences in sound velocities to be the result of weathering.

This interpreted weathering would have resulted, not from water damage, but from changes in the rock that occur with prolonged exposure to air (sand cover would not insulate the rock from these changes). Schoch took the back of the Sphinx enclosure to date from 2500 BCE, the traditional date of the Sphinx. The sides and front had to have been exposed at a much earlier time, then, in order to have weathered twice as deeply.

Assuming a linear rate of weathering, Schoch concluded that the front and sides of the Sphinx dated to somewhere between 7000 and 4750 BCE (he rounded the latter year to 5000 BCE). Assuming a non-linear rate of weathering, in which weathering took longer to penetrate as the depth of rock increased, the Sphinx could have dated substantially earlier than 7000 BCE.

Schoch ventured two further observations. First, he compared the weathering on the Sphinx to the weathering on the outside of the rock-cut tomb of Debehen, a few hundred yards outside the Sphinx enclosure. Schoch identified this tomb face with the same bedrock layer as the main body of the Sphinx. On the Sphinx, deep rounding of the rock could be seen, while the outside of Debehen's tomb showed a more jagged and angular profile that Schoch attributed to the effects of wind-blown sand.

Second, the interior of the Khafra Valley Temple was faced with smooth granite. Schoch observed that some of the limestone core blocks were eroded behind these harder facing stones. If the core blocks had been eroded at the time of the facing, this would imply that the temples were constructed before the Old Kingdom. To Schoch, the facing stones appeared to have been form-fitted to already-eroded core blocks.

In an appendix to the reissued 1993 edition of  Serpent in the Sky: The High Wisdom of Ancient Egypt, West pointed out that the age of the facing stones on the Sphinx was a crucial uncertainty about the monument. If the earliest facing stones on the Sphinx dated from the Old Kingdom, the weathering of the Sphinx that Lehner and Gauri observed in 1979 would have had to predate 2500 BCE. West and Schoch did not focus their attention, however, on the age of the facing stones. They stressed instead the apparent anomalies indicated by their geological observations.

Schoch and West defended their findings initially before two professional gatherings. At the October 1991 meeting of the Geological Society of America, the two conducted a "poster session" in which they sat at a table in a hall (with other scientists holding poster sessions of their own) and explained their work to interested GSA members who passed by. The response of the scientists who stopped at the West-Schoch table was encouraging, although no one formally endorsed their findings.

At a meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in February 1992, Schoch and Dobecki debated Lehner and Gauri before an audience of several hundred. Lehner pointed to the evidence linking the monument to the other structures at Giza associated with the Pharaoh Khafra (2520-2494 BCE) and he noted the absence of any other evidence of civilization or complex society in Egypt at the time of Schoch's estimated datespan of 5000-7000 BCE.

In a 1993 hour-long television documentary, The Mystery of the Sphinx, broadcast on the American NBC Network on November 10, 1993, West and Schoch presented their evidence to an audience of about thirty million people. The program received an Emmy award for research and public controversy immediately began.

 

Redating the Sphinx: Criticisms

Scholars began to respond in print to West and Schoch in a series of articles and books that appeared between 1994 and 1998. These criticisms dealt with two kinds of evidence, geological and archaeological.

The Geology of the Sphinx

Scientific critics have proposed mechanisms other than rainfall to explain the weathering of the Sphinx. The monument weathered in somewhat different ways depending on whether it was exposed to the atmosphere or buried in sand. A geochemist, K. Lal Gauri, has argued that when exposed to the air, the monument deteriorated as a result of chemical effects associated with morning condensation on the rock. A geologist, James Harrell, has argued that when buried in sand, the same chemical effects occurred from contact with moisture absorbed into the sand from intermittent rainfall and occasional flooding. The scientists proposing these mechanisms believe them sufficient to explain the deterioration of the statue and its walls within the timeframe of the last 4500 years.

James A. Harrell, The Sphinx Controversy: Another Look at the Geological Evidence, KMT: A Modern Journal of Ancient Egypt, Vol. 5, No. 2 (Summer 1994), pp. 70-74; Vol. 5, No. 3 (Fall 1994), pp. 3-4.

Dr. James Harrell is a professor of geology at the University of Toledo, Ohio, USA. In this article, he acknowledges that rainfall could have produced the erosion features that Schoch observed. But Harrell argues that this erosion was more likely caused by wet sand in historic times. The Sphinx enclosure has been filled with sand for most of its known existence. In Harrell's view, this sandfill could have been wetted by intermittent rainfall and runoff from the Giza plateau. It could also have been wetted from the occasional Nile flooding that has occurred in historic times (or from capillary action in which flood water that did not reach the monument seeped upward). In Harrell's view, this wetness could have caused the kind of chemical weathering that Dr. K. Lal Gauri believed (see below) was the principal cause of erosion on the Sphinx.

K. Lal Gauri, John J. Sinai, and Jayanta K. Bandyopadhyay, "Geologic Weathering and Its Implications on the Age of the Sphinx," Geoarchaeology, Vol. 10, No. 2 (April 1995), pp. 119-133.

Dr. Gauri is on the faculty at the University of Louisville, Kentucky, USA. He and his colleagues argue that the principal mechanism of weathering on the Sphinx has been atmospheric condensation. There is some atmospheric moisture even in the arid environment at Giza. As morning dew condenses on and in rock pores, it dissolves natural salts present in the rock. As the water evaporates during the day, the salts crystallize (ie. expand). In larger pores, some space remains and the crystals do not press against the pore walls and weaken them. In small pores, however, the crystals press against pore walls and cause the surface rock to flake off.

The main body of the Sphinx has more of these salts than the harder rock of the head. Gauri correlates the erosional profile of the Sphinx body to the relative distribution of larger and smaller pore sizes in sub-layers (gradients) of the rock. As part of Lehner's 1979 survey of the Sphinx, Gauri documented how sub-layers with smaller pore sizes alternate with those of larger pore size. The sub-layers of small-pore rock have weathered back more severely, creating the horizontal rolls across the Sphinx.

Tectonism and other geological changes over millions of years caused fracturing and jointing of the bedrock. A deep fissure across the back of the Sphinx (known as the "Major Fissure") probably began as a fracture millions of years ago. The authors concede that rainfall could have widened exposed joints and fractures, but they also attribute this widening to fluctuations in the water table over millions of years.

According to Gauri, the difference between rain and wind weathering that Schoch observed resulted from gradient differences in the rock. In rock that grades gradually between harder and softer sub-layers, smooth horizontal rounding occurs with weathering by either wind or rain, while in rock that grades sharply between hard and soft, the jaggedness that Schoch attributed to wind appears. Gauri believes that this is why the rock face of Debehen's tomb shows angularity and he notes that the tomb also shows roundedness along its top.

Gauri agrees that Schoch's subsurface data could indicate a two-stage sequence of excavation but he notes that the readings do not in themselves give an absolute date.

 

The Archaeology of the Sphinx

Archaeologists have defended the traditional date of the Sphinx by pointing to architectural evidence linking the monument and its temples to the rest of the Giza site. A more direct link to the Old Kingdom can be inferred from the leading authority on Giza, Dr. Zahi Hawass, who has argued that the oldest facing stones on the Sphinx dated from the Old Kingdom. Some of these Old Kingdom blocks protected portions of the core body from weathering. If these protected surfaces consist of unweathered rock of the same type that has weathered severely with exposure, then the Sphinx was no earlier than the age of the blocks that protected them.

Zahi Hawass and Mark Lehner, "The Sphinx: Who Built It and Why?" Archaeology, Vol. 47, No. 5 (September/October 1994), pp. 30-41.

Dr. Zahi Hawass is under-secretary of state and director-general of the Giza monuments. Dr. Mark Lehner was at the time a scholar with the Oriental Institute at the University of Chicago, Illinois, USA. In this article, the authors recount the accepted history of the Sphinx and some of the reasons for attributing it to Khafra.

No literary evidence directly ties the Sphinx to Khafra but architectural evidence supports treating the Sphinx as part of the Khafra funerary complex. The Khafra Valley Temple is built into a causeway leading to the Khafra Pyramid, and the center court of the Sphinx Temple is nearly identical to the center court of the Khafra Mortuary Temple. The core blocks of the Sphinx Temple match some of the strata of bedrock in the Sphinx enclosure and show that the Temple was built as the enclosure was being excavated. It may be inferred that if other Khafra structures and the Sphinx Temple dated to the same time, then the excavation of the Sphinx itself dated to that time as well.

Hawass and Lehner observe that the harder Member I limestone around the base of the Sphinx has not weathered appreciably and shows tool marks that the authors identify with the original builders (p. 33). The front paws also had claws carved into the harder Member I body rock. These markings appear to supersede Lehner's 1980 report finding no evidence of tool marks or signs of workmanship anywhere on the core body, unless Lehner meant in 1980 to refer only to the Member II layer of the body.

But Hawass and Lehner are less clear about when the earliest stone facing blocks were applied. On one page (p. 37), they imply that the original body was finished with casing stone: "The bedrock surface is rough and uneven but against its surface there is an inner casing of large blocks of fine quality limestone, quarried from places like Turah, across the Nile Valley, which was used for finishes of stone buildings." But on the next page (p. 38), they observe: "Unless we get better exposures of the lower part of the core body, there is just not enough evidence to determine whether the 4th Dynasty builders began, or how far along they had progressed, filling in and building up with masonry the weak spots in the Sphinx."

The authors prefer to date the oldest limestone facing blocks, which they consider the first repair campaign, to the New Kingdom. "Phase I filled in the body after the surface formed from Member II bedrock had eroded drastically into a profile of deep recesses and rounded protrusions." The Old Kingdom appearance of these earliest facing stones, which resemble the blocks lining the Khafra causeway, suggests to Lehner that the New Kingdom restorers used causeway blocks for the restoration (p. 41).

Zahi Hawass and Mark Lehner Remnants of a Lost Civilization? Archaeology, Vol. 47, No. 5 (September/October 1994), pp. 44-47.

In another article to appear in the same issue of Archaeology, Hawass and Lehner restate the arguments by Gauri against the West-Schoch hypothesis. They also assert that Debehen's tomb belongs to a different layer of bedrock than the Sphinx main body. Finally, they observe that the back wall of the Sphinx enclosure is as eroded as the side walls, which is inconsistent with Schoch's argument that the rear of the enclosure was excavated much later than the front and sides.

Mark Lehner, "Notes and Photographs on the West-Schoch Sphinx Hypothesis," KMT: A Modern Journal of Ancient Egypt, Vol. 5, No. 3 (Fall 1994), pp. 40-48.

In this follow-up article, Lehner argues that the core blocks and facing stone of the Khafra and Sphinx Temples were built concurrently, as was the custom in Old Kingdom architecture. Core blocks behind intact facing stone in the Khafra Valley temple appeared to Lehner to have been protected from erosion. The outward-sloping walls of the Sphinx enclosure cited by Schoch as evidence of erosion were in fact built with a slope, as less weathered portions at the southeastern end show. Lehner notes that the geologists referenced in Schoch's own sources are very cautious about dating rock.

Zahi Hawass, The Secrets of the Sphinx: Restoration Past and Present (American University in Cairo Press, 1998), 34 pp.

In his 1998 booklet, Dr. Hawass argues that the Sphinx was carved in the rough and that the oldest facing stones of better-quality Tura limestone were applied as part of the original monument and not as later repairs. The underlying rock was not suitable for fine modeling and was simply cut in a rough way and then faced with stone blocks. Only the head, neck, and beard were cut from the original rock and left exposed.

"At the very base of the Sphinx," Dr. Hawass writes in his 1998 booklet (p. 10), "where we have been able to examine the mother rock closely, there are extremely large Tura-quality limestone blocks that cover the bedrock and form a casing. Since the hard part of the mother rock could not have weathered after the casing was applied, its rough surface underneath these large blocks must have been left as we see it by the original Sphinx builders."

It is not clear that Hawass intended the remarks above to prove a point about the age of the Sphinx. The survival of unweathered stone behind intact core blocks argues for an Old Kingdom origin of the entire monument, though, if the facing stones can be dated to the Old Kingdom and if the protected surfaces belong to a quality of rock that has weathered with exposure over the last 4500 years.

Proceeding with the argument of Dr. Hawass, weathering of the Sphinx since Old Kingdom times must then have occurred where the original facing stones fell away, as many of them did. Hawass rejects the idea that the facing stones were repair blocks stripped from the Khafra causeway, although he allows that New Kingdom restorers may have commissioned some new blocks cut in the Old Kingdom style (p. 26).

In the remainder of his discussion, Dr. Hawass reiterates the arguments against an earlier Sphinx made in his 1994 articles with Lehner. On his website, Dr. Hawass describes the restoration history of the Sphinx, although he does not mention any unweathered portions.

Redating the Sphinx: Responses to Critics

John Anthony West and Robert Schoch have responded to criticism, mainly in the form of letters to the editors of various magazines. Schoch has also written a short book, Voices of the Rocks (Harmony Books, 1999), that briefly recapitulates his arguments.

Principally, West and Schoch maintain that their critics have identified alternative weathering mechanisms that are really complementary processes that do not explain key features, such as the vertical weathering profiles and where they are.

John Anthony West, Letter to the Editor, KMT: A Modern Journal of Ancient Egypt, Vol. 7, No. 1 (Spring 1996), pp. 3-6.

West notes that the BBC Timewatch series, for a documentary broadcast in the United Kingdom on November 27, 1994, had an Egyptian geologist check the claim that Debehen's tomb is not the same rock as the Sphinx. The geologist observed that the tomb belongs to the same layer as the Sphinx body. The weathering of the Sphinx and Debehen's tomb should have been similar if they dated from the same time.

Robert M. Schoch, Letter to the Editor, KMT: A Modern Journal of Ancient Egypt,
Vol. 5, No. 2 (Summer 1994), pp. 1-2. Response to Harrell.

Robert M. Schoch, Letter to the Editor, KMT: A Modern Journal of Ancient Egypt,
Vol. 5, No. 3 (Fall 1994), pp. 4-5. Response to Harrell.

Robert M. Schoch, Letter to the Editor, Archaeology,
Vol.48, No. 1 (January-February 1995), pp. 10-12. Response to Hawass and Lehner.

Robert M. Schoch, Voices of the Rocks: A Scientist Looks at Catastrophes & Ancient Civilizations
(Harmony Books, New York, 1999) with Robert Aquinas McNally.

Schoch's letters and book may be summarized in relation to one general problem and several particular ones related to his rainfall hypothesis:

The general problem is that we do not know the weathering rate of rock over time and this uncertainty makes estimating the age of weathered rock unavoidably speculative. Schoch contends, however, that different types of weathering can be identified on the Sphinx complex and correlated with periods of climate that can be dated approximately.

The particular problems involve four issues of geology and four of archaeology. The geological issues are:

Wet sand. The Sphinx has been buried in desert sand for much of its known existence and floodwater reached it on occasion. Most scholars believe, however, that Nile flood levels have not changed significantly since Old Kingdom times and that flood damage was only occasional. Schoch points out that if Nile floodwater was severe enough to weather the Sphinx directly, it would have undercut the monument, which does not show undercutting. Until recent decades, the water table was too far down to have wetted the sand from below.

Rainfall and some floodwater could still have wetted the sand. The Member II body of the Sphinx becomes more durable as it rises. According to Harrell, the less durable lower strata therefore should have weathered more severely as a result of wet sand. Schoch notes that damage was greater to the more durable upper strata of the main body. This is more consistent with the physical action of rainfall than with the chemical effects Harrell and Gauri describe.

Atmospheric condensation. Schoch acknowledges that all three types of weathering (rain, wind, and exfoliation by morning dew) are present on the Sphinx and its walls. But he maintains that atmospheric condensation is the least aggressive of the three types and is not adequate to explain the depth of weathering, particularly on the walls.

Faults and fissures. Schoch points out that there is a difference between natural faulting in the bedrock and the opening up of these faults to create fissures. Faulting in the rock undoubtedly dates back millions of years. But he maintains that neither the rising and falling of water tables, nor any other sub-surface process taking millions of years, normally produces the kind of profile visible on the walls. This kind of profile is in his view normally associated with weathering by the physical action of surface water.

Different gradients. In addition to the differences between layers, gradient differences within layers of rock affect weathering profiles. Although the horizontal rolls on the Sphinx reflect the varying durability of the sub-layers in the main body, the tendency of these sub-layers to get more durable as they rise should have produced a less weathered overall profile as the monument and walls rise. Instead, Schoch notes, the walls and body show a more deeply weathered profile in the upper part of the Member II limestone bed.

The archaeological issues are:

The sides and back. The 1993 "Mystery of the Sphinx" program implied that the slope of the enclosure walls was the result of erosion. This was an error in the program and in his published work Schoch did not maintain that this was the case. But he notes that the deeper fissuring and rounding of the rock toward the western end and not the eastern end actually strengthen the case for weathering as a result of rainwater runoff from the plateau. Responding to the apparent inconsistency between his two-stage dating and the eroded back wall of the Sphinx enclosure, Schoch agrees that the back and side walls are the same age. He argues instead that the back floor was not reduced to the level of the front until later. The platform at the foot of the western enclosure wall may be evidence of this.

The problem of the facing stones. Schoch has not responded to the argument that the facing stones on the Sphinx body were part of the original Sphinx. He accepts an Old Kingdom date for them and assumes that they were repairs to a monument that had been carved much earlier. He maintains that some of the limestone core blocks in the two temples show erosion behind their facing stone.

Integration of the Sphinx and Khafra Complex. The resemblance between the Sphinx Temple court and the Khafra Mortuary Temple court, and the other arguments for treating the Sphinx as part of the Khafra complex, do not in Schoch's view preclude the possibility of two stages in the construction of the Sphinx, the Sphinx temples, and also the Khafra Mortuary Temple. The eastern half of the Khafra Mortuary temple shows the kind of megalithic core block architecture of the Valley temple.

Who Built the Sphinx? All of Schoch's critics ask where was the civilization that built a much earlier Sphinx. As worded, this question could be understood in two ways. The first is to assume that only an advanced civilization can build large monuments. Such a civilization is clearly absent from prehistoric Egypt. But the people of Neolithic Britain built Stonehenge without such a civilization. The second (and more restricted) way to ask the question is to ask whether there is any evidence of a Stonehenge-like culture in the vicinity of Giza.

In the mid-1990s, archaeologists published evidence of a Neolithic culture at Nabta Playa, a site in what is now the southern part of the Egyptian Western Desert. Megalithic remains at Nabta Playa show that people in Egypt were building stone structures prior to 5000 BCE.[1] These remains bring a cultural context much closer to prehistoric Giza than the examples of Jericho and Catal Huyuk that Schoch had cited as context in his earlier publications.

Colin D. Reader, "Khufu Knew the Sphinx," (unpublished, dated October 1997, revised August 1999).

C. D. Reader, "A Geomorphological Study of the Giza Necropolis, With Implications for the Development of the Site," Archaeometry, Vol. 43, No. 1 (2000), pp. 149-159.

A.J. Shortland, C.J. Doherty, "Comments on 'A Geomorphological Study of the Giza Necropolis, With Implications for the Development of the Site'," Archaeometry, Vol. 43, No. 1 (2000), pp. 159-161.

T.A.H. Wilkinson, "Comments on C.D. Reader, 'A Geomorphological Study of the Giza Necropolis, With Implications for the Development of the Site'," Archaeometry, Vol. 43, No. 1 (2000), pp. 161-163.

C. D. Reader, "A Response to Comments on 'A Geomorphological Study of the Giza Necropolis, With Implications for the Development of the Site," Archaeometry, Vol. 43, No. 1 (2000), pp. 163-165.

Colin Reader, a geological engineer, investigated the geological evidence for an older Sphinx, principally by comparing the rock on the Sphinx directly with the rock of the enclosure walls. This rock inside the enclosure was well-documented by K. Lal Gauri as part of Lehner's 1979 survey of the Sphinx and is not subject to the questions surrounding comparisons with rock outside the enclosure.

Reader found that the rock strata on the Sphinx did not show the same weathering as the continuation of these strata on the more deeply eroded enclosure walls opposite them. The south wall shows increasingly severe erosion as it moves from east to west and the western wall displays the same deep erosion as the western end of the south wall. The Sphinx does not show this lateral change. If wind or chemical effects were the only cause of weathering to the monument and the walls, they should have affected the same rock in the same way on both the Sphinx and the walls.

The plateau just west of the Sphinx was a catchment for rainfall and its runoff prior to the building of the three great Pyramids in the 2500s and 2400s BCE. The excavation of the plateau for stone to build the Khufu Pyramid drastically reduced this catchment area. Reader argues that the excavation of the Sphinx enclosure must have preceded the excavation of the plateau to build the Khufu Pyramid in order for the enclosure walls to have eroded as they did from plateau runoff. Unlike Schoch, he prefers to date the Sphinx only three to six centuries before Khufu on the grounds that building in stone did not appear to go back in Egypt any further. In his view the Sphinx may have been a sacred site connected to an early solar cult.

Reader also observes that the north terrace wall opposite the north wall of the Sphinx Temple shows much less erosion than the north terrace wall opposite the Sphinx. The Sphinx Temple is known to have been constructed in two stages, the second involving an enlargement of its north and south walls. The north terrace was cut back to make room for the extension of the north temple wall and the terrace face opposite this wall is the part that shows little weathering. Reader argues that the first stage of the temple's construction may have been contemporary with an earlier Sphinx.

Three commentators replied to the publication of Reader's views in the January 2001 issue of Archaeometry. A.J. Shortland and C.J. Doherty question whether the western exposures of the Sphinx enclosure might have weathered more severely from thermal effects combined with chemical effects, since they are exposed to the rising sun every morning. The two commentators also ask (1) if there is similar vertical fissuring in other monuments or natural stone exposures subject to flash floods, and (2) if vertical fissuring is absent from later buildings that were also exposed to runoff. T.A.H. Wilkinson notes the paucity of pre-4th dynasty remains at Giza and the evidence against sun worship predating that dynasty.

In reply to these commentators, Reader observes that the chest on the Sphinx, made of the same stone as the western wall and facing in the same direction (and thus subject to the same thermal effects), does not show the deep vertical fissuring of the western enclosure wall. He also notes that tombs cut into the other side of the western wall during the 26th dynasty still show tool marks that should have disappeared if chemical weathering alone was responsible for the condition of the walls. He acknowledges the need for further comparative work but notes that Shortland and Doherty do not contest the evidence of the north terrace wall. Reader defends his argument for an early solar cult by citing the work of Karl Kromer, who found pre-4th dynasty remains.


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National Geographic: Unlocking the Great Pyramid (2008)  Starring: Bob Brier DVD

When ancient architects completed construction on the Great Pyramid at Giza, they left behind the greatest riddle of the engineering world how did builders lift limestone blocks weighing an average of two and a half tons, 480 feet up onto the top of the pyramid? For centuries, adventurers and Egyptologists have crawled through every passageway and chamber of the Great Pyramid, measuring and collecting data in an attempt to determine how it was built. For the first time, a revolutionary theory argues that the answer may be inside the pyramid. Architect Jean-Pierre Houdin has devoted his life to solving this mystery by creating incredibly accurate blueprints of the Great Pyramid, using cutting-edge 3-D software. Unlocking the Great Pyramid follows Houdin and renowned Egyptologist Bob Brier in Giza as they put Houdins theory to the test.

Related Book: The Secret of the Great Pyramid: How One Man's Obsession Led to the Solution of Ancient Egypt's Greatest Mystery (Hardcover) by Bob Brier (Author), Jean-pierre Houdin (Author) -- Oct 2008

The Pyramids and Temples of Gizeh (Hardcover)  by PETRIE (Author), 
W. M. Flinders Petrie (Author)

Based on the author's work in Egypt in the 1880s, this unusual volume addresses one of history's greatest puzzles -how were the pyramids of Gizeh built? Before Petrie undertook this study, the Great Pyramid was a byword for paradox - something that was generally familiar, yet not accurately known. No measurements or detailed examination had been performed. Petrie set out to apply mathematical methods to the study of the pyramids and surrounding temples, with the objective of understanding the methods and abilities of the ancient workers. The result, presented in this volume, is a complete set of measurements of the pyramids, both inside and outside. These provide the foundation for the rest of the book, which deals with the architectural ideas of the pyramid builders, the mechanical methods they used, and a comparison of previous theories with the facts that Petrie had newly established.

Another Edition: Petrie, W. M. F. The Pyramids and Temples of Gizeh. London. 1883


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International explorer, archaeologist and author Jonathan Gray has traveled the world to gather data on ancient mysteries. He has penetrated some largely unexplored areas, including parts of the Amazon headwaters. The author has also led expeditions to the bottom of the sea and to remote mountain and desert regions of the world. He lectures internationally.

"Dead Men's Secrets" by Jonathan Gray is 373 pages of discovering ancient technology and lost secrets. 
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To order visit this page: Jonathan Gray


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The Great Sphinx of Giza near Cairo, Egypt