The Sphinx, a mythical creature with a lion's body and a human head, stands on the Giza Plateau on the west bank of the Nile in Giza, Egypt, near the Great Pyramids Orange box. Inset globe source: TUBS. At first glance the Great Sphinx and its surrounding enclosure walls at the Giza Plateau in Cairo appear to have been exposed to severe water erosion over a long period of time, in addition to the erosion caused by wind and sand. However, I recently visited the Sphinx enclosure to study the limestone rocks and came to a different conclusion; the rocks have clear signs of weathering and dissolution, much of it caused by rain water penetrating the fractured limestone long before the carving of the Sphinx. The role that water has played in erosion on the Sphinx itself is therefore ambiguous because its signature cannot be distinguished from the imprint from earlier weathering. The Great Sphinx is believed to be the largest ever man made stone sculpture constructed in the round.
Here is some historical information relevant to the Sphinx and its origins: Predynastic Egypt before the Pharoahs - great numbers of half-man half-lion amulets were found from this archaeological period. First Dynasty - ivory labels from tombs at Abydos show a large Sphinx half buried, with only head and paws visible. On these images the head is large but the face indistinct. Old Kingdom approximately - years ago - extensive restoration work was done on the Sphinx with large limestone blocks and plaster and some portions were recarved - the toes and possibly the head. New Kingdom - further brickwork restorations Ptolemaic period 2nd Century BC - section of flanks built up with stonework Roman period Marcus Aurelius - section of flanks further built up with smaller stonework and square 'fire pits' constructed on either side. Roman period - A small altar of red aswan granite from another structure at Giza was moved to a position between the paws. In - as reported by the Arab author Al Maqrizi - a man by the name of Saim el Dahr hacked off the monument's nose.
Few ancient monuments are as enigmatic as the Great Sphinx of Giza. To this day people debate its purpose, when it was built, and what it meant to its builders. And few ancient monuments have been so fixed as a target for fringe and New Age whimsy. One my own favorite examples of the latter is the fabled Hall of Records, a vast library of esoteric and forgotten wisdom stored in a stone-hewn cavern below the Sphinx.
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