The uncovering of the Great Sphinx

The monumental statue of the Great Sphinx of Giza still amazes the people to this day. But how did she looked in the past?

Even though by today the gargantuan statue with the head of a human, and the body of a lion is now fully uncovered, it wasn’t always so. For a long time it was covered in sand, with only it’s head sticking out in the open. It looked like this during the conquest of Napoleon in 1798, and till now, no one can tell how long it was covered, or in matter of fact, how old the statue really is or what purpose did it served. From the beginning of the 19th century there has been multiple attempts to remove the tons of sand, but all of them failed and had to be abandoned. First successful excavations were between 1925 till 1936, under the leadership of the French engineer Emil Baraize, during witch was the enormous amount of sand removed and the whole body of the Sphinx set to sight.

It is still the largest monolith statue in the world, 73.5 m (241 ft) long, 19.3 m (63 ft) wide and 20.22 m (66.34 ft) high. The body and the head are made from stones of different hardness – the body if softer, and was more prone to erosion, while the head is harder, more durable. Some scientists assume, that it could have originally had a beard.

The Sphinx is one of the oldest known monumental statue in the world, even if the exact age is still unknown. It was assumed, that she was constructed in in the 4th Dynasty (2575 – 2467 BC) during the reign of the Pharaoh Khafre, the builder of the Second Pyramid at Giza.

There are no inscriptions on the Sphinx or the temples connected to it, and it’s original purpose, name, or constructions are mentioned nowhere in the Old Kingdom. In the New Kingdom it is referred as Hor-em-akhet (Horus of the Horizon) by the Pharaoh Thutmose IV (1401–1391 or 1397–1388 BC), who specifically referred it in his Dream Stele.

Several other theories from multiple researches were formulated on several occasions, pointing out that the statue could be a lot more older based on several presented facts:

– based of the Inventory Stele of a much later date (678–525 BC), the Sphinx was already covered in sand by the reign of Pharaoh Khufu (Cheops) 2589–2566 BC, who ordered the temples to be build around it

– Robert M. Schoch, a geologist suggested, that the erosion on the body of the Sphinx couldn’t have been caused by sand and wind, since the statue was covered in sand for almost 5000 years, but it is the cause of water. The documented flooding of Egypt would also predate the reign of Pharaoh Khafre.

– several forensic drawings and reconstructions should pointed out, that the face of the Sphinx does not match the face of Khafre.

In the modern Egyptology, the mentioned view still remains at large, that it was constructed around 2500 BC for the Pharaoh Khafre.

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