The Sphinx of Egypt – Giza Pyramids

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The Sphinx has been cleared by various people starting with the French engineers of Napoleon’s expedition. In 1816 Captain Caviglia excavated the Sphinx, starting on the N. He noted the double casing on the body and paws and the remains of red pigment with which one side had been painted, but he had great difficulty clearing the shifting sand from the front, where he found the stele of Tuthmosis IV. By the 18 Dyn. the small 4 Dyn. temple in front of the Sphinx was totally covered and had been forgotten while later, in the Roman period, a stairway and ramp were built over the whole thing. Mariette failed to clear it when dealing with the valley temple in the 1860s and the work was carried on by Maspero who again had neither the time nor the money to finish it. This activity led to many stories of hidden entrances, treasures and trapdoors, all without foundation. Nothing more was done until 1925 when Baraize was entrusted with the task of clearing away the sand which had again covered the Sphinx and he built large cotter—like walls (demolished by Selim Hassan in 1936-37) cleared the whole area and repaired the various holes that his predecessors had made in the monument, It is now more or less complete except that the beard and part of the ureaus and nose are missing.

The Sphinx

The Sphinx dates to the period of Khafre (4 Dyn.). Although it has his face, it does not represent him but rather a guardian deity of the necropolis, a god known variously as Hwron or Rwty. During the Middle Kingdom it was, with other sphinxes, known as seshep-ankh (the living statue) and by the New Kingdom it was associated with the sun god and regarded as a version of Hor—em-akhet or Hor—akhty (Horus of the Horizon), an appropriate name as the whole cemetery was called Akhet Khufu or the Horizon of Khufu. During the Ptolemaic period the Sphinx must have been freed from sand as a poem was found scratched, in Greek, on its toes; in part it reads:

Our ornaments are festive clothes,
Not the arms of War,
Our hands hold not the scimitar,
But the fraternal cup of the banquet;
And all night long while the sacrifices are burning
We sing songs to Harmakis (Hor-em-Akhet)
And our heads are decorated with garlands.
(from Selim Hassan, The Sphinx and its Secrets]

stele of Tuthmosis IV (1423—1417 BC).

The Sphinx, being made of soft stone, has suffered considerably from erosion. Blocks of limestone used for restoration, probably in the Ptolemaic period, may be seen on its paws, tail and flanks. It is now suffering great damage from the rising water—table and parts of it have become detached. In front of it is the granite stele placed there on the orders of Tuthmosis IV (1423—1417 BC).

He rested in the shade of the Sphinx one day while hunting in the Valley of the Gazelles and because he had a dream which promised him the throne if he cleared it of sand, did so. This stele was not the only one discovered in the area. It was apparently a standard practice to erect a stele worshipping the Sphinx and the other gods of the locality and it seems to a certain extent to have been a place of pilgrimage, particularly frequented in the 18 Dyn. The earliest of these stelae was one of Prince Amen-mes, a son of Tuthmosis I (c 1525—1512 BC). However, the most interesting is a series of stelae which may have been erected by the brothers of Tuthmosis IV, of whom he may have had to dispose before the prophecy of the Sphinx could be fulfilled, Amenhotep II is known to have built a temple here, and erected a large stele. The 19 Dyn. kings continued to erect monuments here, including Ramesses II.

Beyond the paws is the Temple of the Sphinx, a solid structure of limestone faced with granite, also of the 4 Dyn. In the facade are two entrances leading to a colonnaded court. The pillars must each have been fronted by a statue probably also of Khafre, and there was a large offering table in the middle of the Courtyard.

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