Higher than a six-storey building, longer than a city block, and carved entirely from the natural bedrock, the Great Sphinx at Giza is one of the most enigmatic and ancient monuments in all of Egypt. It is also a complete mystery. As for the matter of its age, and who built it, this is one of the most hotly debated issues in science today. Below I have attempted to summarise the known facts, and put forward a few opinions.
“There is scarcely a person in the civilised world who is unfamiliar with the form and features of the great man-headed lion that guards the eastern approach to the Giza pyramids.”
Higher than a six-storey building, longer than a city block, and carved entirely from the natural bedrock, the Great Sphinx at Giza is one of the most enigmatic and ancient monuments in all of Egypt. It is also a complete mystery. As for the matter of its age, and who built it, this is one of the most hotly debated issues in science today. Below I have attempted to summarise the known facts, and put forward a few opinions. Dimensions and Construction From the tips of its paws to the base of its tail, the Great Sphinx measures 240 feet (73m) in length, and the top of the head reaches 66 feet (20m) from ground level. It is carved directly from the living limestone bedrock right on the edge of the Giza plateau, and is oriented precisely Due East, so that its gaze points directly at sunrise on the Spring and Autumn equinoxes. As mentioned in an earlier section, its construction began with the excavation of a large trench around the outcrop of rock, and the collosal stones removed in this process were used to construct the Valley and Sphinx temples nearby – this has been proved by rock strata analysis. The shape and features of the monument were then carved from the exposed rock. The monument is also completely anonymous – it bears no inscriptions of any kind from which to establish who built it, and when. And because it is carved from natural rock, modern techniques like Carbon 14 dating are useless in establishing its antiquity. It is also worth noting that there is at least one tunnelinside the body of the Sphinx, possibly leading to a chamber, but I found very difficult to get hold of detailed information on this subject, and needless to say, this area is not open to the public. Who built the Sphinx?
There are two schools of thought when it comes down to who was responsible for the construction of the Sphinx. Firstly I shall explain the “orthodox” view, and the reasons behind it; this view amounts to an accepted consensusamoung orthodox Egyptologists.
The orthodox view, and the view that you will find described as fact in numerous textbooks, is that the Sphinx was carved by the pharaoh Khafre of the 4th Dynasty, sometime between 2520 and 2494 BC. The “proof” that Egyptologists cite for this is summarised as follows;
- Between the front paws of the Sphinx sits a carved limestone plaque called the Dream Stele. It was placed there by the pharaoh Thutmose IV in around 1400 BC, to commemorate his clearing all the sand from the Sphinx enclosure, and repair works. This stele mentions the name of Khafre, although in what context has never been established – the line in which Khafre’s name appears was worn and flaking when it was re-excavated earlier this century, and has now completely flaked away. However, the orthodox camp take this to mean Khafre carved the Sphinx himself, whereas it could equally mean Khafre excavated and restored the Sphinx, just as Thutmose did.
- As mentioned elsewhere, a black diorite statue of Khafre was found buried upside-down in a pit in the Valley Temple, next to the Sphinx. As these two structures are contemporary, this has been taken to imply the Khafre was the builder of the Valley Temple, and therefore the Sphinx. This logic is tenuous to say the least; at the very most it suggests an association of Khafre with these structures, not an attributiuon.
- The final argument of Egyptology is that the face of the Sphinx supposedly looks like that of Khafre. Well this is obviously down to opinion, and its interesting to note that a New York forensic artist was brought in to do a comparison of the Sphinx’s face and the face on the statue of Khafre, which emphatically concluded that they are not the same person.
How old is the Sphinx?
As we have seen, the orthodox view as to the construction of the Sphinx puts its age at around 4,500 years, (around 2500 BC). However, there is scientific and contextual evidence to suggest that it is much, much older.
This essentially is the “crunch” question of archaeology because, if the Sphinx is much older than Egyptologists maintain, then it would necessitate to a complete re-writing of the history of our civilisation.
The most compelling evidence for a much earlier dating of the Sphinx is geological. In a 1979 book Serpent in the Sky, the author John Anthony West, picking up on a passing comment by French scholar Rene Schwaller de Lubicz, mentions the astounding fact that the Sphinx, and the rock walls of its enclosure, appear to have been weathered and eroded by water. Following up from this, West persuaded a geologist from Boston University, Dr Robert Schoch, to come to Egypt and examine the weathering first hand. Schoch’s conclusions were astounding. The weathering, he noticed, forms a rolling and undulating profile, with deep vertical fissures, not characteristic of weathering by wind and sand, but by heavy and prolonged precipitation.
Climatologists confirm that, not only was the Egyptian climate as arid and bone-dry in 2500 BC, but the last time Egypt experienced a rainy period capable of producing such weathering effects was the Neolithic Subpluvial, between 5000 and 7000 BC. It is also worth noting that, since the Sphinx sits in the hollow of its enclosure, it has spent most of the time between 2500 BC and the present day buried up to its neck in sand, blown in from the adjacent Sahara desert, a fact which effectively eliminates the likelihood of any significant erosion.
The body of the Sphinx nowadays looks in considerably better shape than it did a century ago, and a lot of the erosional evidence has been covered up by modern repair blocks but, as the photos below show clearly, this erosion can be quite clearly seen on the enclosure walls by all who visit the site.
The contextual evidence regarding the Sphinx ties in with Robert Bauval’s Star correlation theory, mentioned earlier. The fact that the Sphinx is exactly oriented due East means that it faces the rising sun on the vernal and autumnal equinoxes, and this presents us with a rather interseting ground/sky duality. We have already seen that the 3 Giza pyramids mirror the 3 stars of Orion’s belt as they would have looked around 10,500 BC. Due to the effects ofprecession, this means that at that time, the constellation facing the Sphinx just before sunrise would not have been Aquarius, as it is now, but the constellation of Leo, the lion. Coincidence again?
I will leave my conclusions regarding the Sphinx to a later section, suffice it to say we are presented here with a historical anomily which simply can be neither explained, nor ignored.