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One Giza Hall of Records or Four?
- Taking the Sphinx Mystery to the Next Level

by Joseph Robert Jochmans 

Recently, author-researcher Robert Temple released a landmark book entitled The Sphinx Mystery, published through Inner Traditions (2009).  The weighty work of over five hundred pages is a virtual gold mine of information - augmented by a spectacular collection of rare photographs and illustrations - about the enduring enigma of the Sphinx monument situated on the Giza plateau.  This is a highly recommended volume for anyone who has even a slightly curious interest in the greatest of all Egyptian mysteries.  The book will prove to be an important reference resource for many years to come  

However, while the ocean of information Temple supplies us with is second to none, there are a number of conclusions he attempts to demonstrate that need closer examination.  

One of the major controversial ideas introduced by the author is his belief that the Sphinx monument was never a recumbent lion but instead had been a guardian jackal or dog.  This radical concept is emphasized in the book’s subtitle, The Forgotten Origins of the Sanctuary of Anubis, as well as by the accompanying front cover illustration.  It shows a modern artist’s reconfiguration of the present-day Sphinx into a more jackal-like beast having a much larger head, with the tell-tale protruding snout and upward pointing ears of the ancient god Anubis.  


Today, if one travels to the land of the Nile and views the Sphinx, especially from a profile perspective, it is very obvious that its present head is much too small in proportion to the rest of its body, when compared with other traditional sphinx sculptures still to be see either among the Egyptian sanctuaries or in the Cairo Museum.  

The Cairo Museum

Several contemporary Egyptologists are of the opinion that, at some point in the distant past when the human face of a Dynastic Pharaoh was added to the Sphinx, the entire head had indeed been recarved and downsized, possibly from that of an older animal image, matching that of the rest of the body.  But was that animal a lion or was it really a jackal, as the author insists?  

The primary evidence for the Sphinx being a leonine figure comes from the overwhelming testimony of Egyptian, Ptolemaic, Greek, Roman, early Christian and medieval Arabic historical records, as well as the eye-witness accounts of numerous European travelers and scholars who journeyed to Egypt over the course of the past five centuries.  

At one point Temple expresses his amazement of how old stories and legends passed down through many generations and by many diverse sources managed to preserve their kernels of historical facts.  He gives several examples of such instances to prove his case. And yet only a few chapters away, when confronted by the vast majority agreement among these very same sources concerning the Sphinx being a lion, he immediately dismisses such testimony as an age-old misconception, the error of which was perpetuated over the millennia.  If the information instilled in one set of stories can be accepted as truthful, then why cannot the near consensus observations made throughout time regarding the nature of the Sphinx monument likewise be just as equally trustworthy.  

Temple further states his belief that the body of the Sphinx could not have been a feline because it is generally too narrow in shape - and its stony back is too horizontally straight - to have been anything but the sleek form of a jackal.  But the real answer to the problem had to have been based on what artistic limitations the original sculptors were forced to contend with.  

Very likely the Sphinx was shaped out of a gebel, a nobby rock protrusion one finds in many places in the Sahara-Libyan desert, of which the Giza plateau is only a small extension.  Just south of the Sphinx is a good example of a gebel still in existence - a large high-standing shapeless mound of limestone well-worn through the ages by the surrounding wind-blown sands.  No doubt this is what the Sphinx began as, before being sculpted down into a definite animal form.  

Image Source: http://www.gutenberg.org/files/17325/17325-h/17325-h.htm

However, we do not know what the ancient gebel’s original contours were.  It may have been that fashioning the arched back of a lion figure was not possible, because the top surface of the gebel was already flat.  What we do know is that in the middle of the Sphinx’s present back there is a vertical tomb shaft, and at least one of the early European explorers of the Sphinx was of the opinion that this tomb may have been very old, even Predynastic.  In other words, it was already present when the monument was first carved, and the tomb had been excavated when the gebel was still intact.  This would indicate that, in order to be accessible, the tomb had been made in an already existing flat-surfaced environment.  

The fact is, the dimensions of the original gebel outcropping were probably the main determining factor in how the Sphinx’s upper layers were shaped.  As the sculptors then cut down and removed the rock around the sides of the beast to its base, its fashioning would still have been continually dictated by the size of the gebel in its top layers, in order to maintain the proportional wholeness of its dimensions throughout.  If the configuration of the whole gebel had been narrow to begin with, then the entire monument would also have had the same limiting shape.  The intended image was still that of a lion, only a slender-looking one.  

Perhaps the greatest objection to Temple’s idea of the Sphinx having been a statue dedicated to Anubis is the fact that the existing geology of the monument would have prevented it.  The reason why the original stony Sphinx body has a definite layered look with slightly different colorations is because the limestone out of which the monument was originally carved does not have a consistent stratification.  The base of the Sphinx is composed of a soft stone classified as type Member I, and the reclining body of the statue is made up of an equally soft type Member II.  Such limestone is porous, light-weight, flakable, and very susceptible to weathering.  It is for this reason that, over the ages, the ongoing deterioration of the Sphinx body caused a series of succeeding Dynastic, Ptolemaic, Roman and modern-day restorers to continually add brickwork to the base of the original carved figure, in an attempt to preserve the monument from further severe erosion.  

In contrast, the head of the Sphinx consists of a much harder, more compact and heavier form of limestone with a noticeable darker appearance, designated as type Member III.  The advantage of such a stone is that, when carved, it better retains its shape and for a much longer time - which is precisely why the ancient sculptors chose it to enhance their artistry.  But the major disadvantage, especially in the situation of the Sphinx, is that such a layer, from which the entire existing head was fashioned, is very heavy.  Even the present greatly downsized head is slowly crushing the softer limestone of its neck and chest.  Modern Egyptian restoration experts are constantly in fear of the unbalanced weight of the head finally causing the supporting limestone below it to crumble, eventually dislodging the heavier stone cranium.  

This is the reason why several Sphinx excavators in the past two centuries added cement collars around the neck, because as ugly in appearance as they are, they have nevertheless helped the beast from “nodding off” and losing its perpetual sunrise gaze.  Likewise, when it was recently suggested that the Sphinx’s beard be re-attached - pieces of which were unearthed at the base of the monument and are presently being kept in both the Cairo and British Museums - the Egyptian Department of Antiquities refused the idea on account of the fastened beard would have pulled the head too far forward, and the added imbalance might very well have broken off the head.  

A statue found in the so-called Treasury of the tomb of Tutankhamun
shows Anubis as a crouching dog.


Looking at Temple’s reconstruction of the Sphinx with the proposed head and countenance of Anubis, it becomes immediately apparent that such a configuration would have been impossible, even self-destructive.  Because of its strata positioning, the much larger jackal head would have been mostly composed of type Member III limestone which, because of its resulting far greater weight, would have more quickly crushed and disintegrated the body’s softer rock underlying it.  Plus, in trying to reproduce the most distinctive feature of Anubis’ face - his long protruding snout - such an elongated extension of the hard limestone could only have resulted in pulling the entire weight of the head far forward, causing it to immediately break and separate.  

If, on the other hand, the original Sphinx had been a full-bodied lion with a feline head, a larger cranium would have been far more possible.  A series of small ivory carvings from the earliest Dynasties depict the traditional imagery of a lion having a large head protruding out much lower down off the front of the body just above its paws, with its muscular upper front legs on either side being more massive in size.  

Translating this onto the Sphinx monument, the lion’s head would have been positioned forward of where the beast’s chest now is, and composed of less weighty type Member II rock, as would the thicker upper front legs that would have served as structural side supports for the head.  The heavier type Member III stone in such a leonine configuration would have been part of the lion’s mane, far better attached to the underlying strata over a wider area, and its weight more evenly distributed across the top of the feline cranium.  

When at a later time the Sphinx was recarved down, the lion head was removed and the rock surface sculpted back to its present chest, the upper front legs were likewise greatly reduced, while the newer human head emerged more on top of the body, out of the Member III stratum.  Because there probably was not much of this stratum to begin with, the artists had to make a severe compromise of creating the new head proportionally smaller.  Unfortunately, this refashioning began the unbalanced state of affairs for the Sphinx’s human stone cranium which has been a problem ever since.  

Very significantly, we also find among the Pharaonic remains from the First through the Third Dynasties royal tablets which show very prominently the repeated figure of a lion’s head with mane, and just its front paws, suggesting the rest of the leonine form was either unfinished or half-buried in sand.  What is more, the face of the lion is blank, with no eyes or mouth shown, as if its countenance had been worn away by a long period of wind erosion.  If this was the actual image of the original Sphinx at Giza at a time when Egypt was just beginning, the signs of it already being well-weathered would indicate that the monument itself is really much older in age, possibly dating back far into the Predynastic era.  

No doubt the early Dynastic Egyptian artisans would not have left such an important statue in such a deteriorated state for very long, and would have made attempts to repair it in some way, giving it new features.  At Abu Roash, situated within sight of Giza to the north, a small sphinx statue was found that some believe dates to the Fourth Dynasty.  It has the body of a lion, but its feline face was replaced with that of a woman.  The head and mane are maintained in proportional size to the body, but its countenance has very human feminine eyes, nose, mouth and lips.  Again, if this is a possible reflection of a parallel transformation the Sphinx itself may have undergone, then this fulfills the many legends and stories which recount that at one time the reclining lion at Giza was also half woman.  We recall the ancient Greek tale of Oedipus encountering the female sphinx creature in the desert and solving its deadly riddle.  

So when did the Sphinx receive its present face-lift we are so familiar with today?  Temple, basing his conclusions on the extensive research work of turn-of-the-last century German archaeologist Ludwig Borchardt, makes a convincing argument that the Pharaoh who instigated the last known cosmetic alterations was either Amenemhet II or Amenemhet III, who were the third and sixth rulers of the Middle Kingdom, over 3,800 years ago.  Actually, the entire ruling Amenemhet lineage may have been involved, transforming the Sphinx complex into a private family shrine.  The clearcut evidence is seen in the style of eye-liner and the specific striped pattern portrayed on the nemes or head covering of the Sphinx, both of which only matches the Pharaonic fashions exhibited in the earlyt Middle Kingdom.  

Temple notes that, whatever previous form the Sphinx may have had in the Old Kingdom, it was totally lost at the end of the Sixth Dynasty and the beginning of the First Intermediate Period, when the central power of the Pharaohs collapsed and all the religious mouments at Giza were ransacked and heavily damaged.  The Amenemhet rulers, who helped stabilize Egypt in the succeeding Middle Kingdom, were merely restoring and reshaping for their own personal use what had been in ruins for centuries.  

Despite the fact that Temple’s assertion does not work for the Sphinx having once been an  image of Anubis, he nevertheless offers intriguing evidence that, somewhere on the Giza plateau, there was indeed a cult shrine dedicated to the jackal god capped with a large statue which at one time may have matched the size of the Sphinx.  He notes, for example, that several of the more prominent royal mastabas or burial sites from the Fourth and Fifth Dynasties, which look out toward the southern portion of the Giza plateau, have tomb artwork portraying an oversized image of Anubis reclining on top of a sanctuary.  The author mistakingly assumes this statue and sanctuary was the Sphinx and accompanying Sphinx Temple.  But in actuality the Sphinx is situated more toward the eastern end of the plateau, much lower down and in its own valley, which could not have been easily seen from the mastabas in question.  The actual statue figure of Anubis more than likely was located higher up on the plateau, closer to due south and west of the mastabas, where its view would have been more predominant and unobstructed.  

Temple quotes quite extensively from the Pyramid Texts, the Coffin Texts, and other ancient funerary inscriptions regarding what was described as the mythical Land of Restau of the Necopolis, which many interpreters feel was very real and was once located long ago in the Giza area.  Several of the sacred Utterance texts refer to Restau having a sanctuary of Anubis that was situated near a “causeway” and was surrounded by a small body of water called “Jackal Lake.”  Temple, in his excellent extensive first-hand observations of the immediate Sphinx environment, demonstrates that in olden times when the Nile river annually overflowed its banks, the flood plain reached to the very front of the Sphinx precincts, and that a still-existing narrow channel once equipped with sluice gates allowed these waters to surround the Sphinx itself in a small moat that was used for ritualistic purposes.  

However, Temple, in his claim that the Sphinx was once Anubis, mistakingly identifies the “causeway” referred to in the ancient texts as the Chephren Pyramid causeway that straddles the southern side of the Sphinx, and the Sphinx moat as having been “Jackal Lake.”  What he ignores are those Utterance texts  which speak of “causeways” and “lakes” in the plural, so there was more than one location being described.  Looking at all the relevant funerary texts as a whole, we find there were in fact several major cult centers flourishing at Giza from a very early period of time, the now lost Anubis shrine being only one of them.  

Temple makes the major erroneous assumption that all these cult centers were somehow coalesced together into one, and that one single place was around the Sphinx.  This directly contradicts the various funerary texts which give very distinctive, even unique descriptions for each center.  By the very nature of what was being portrayed, these centers could never have been combined all together by any stretch of the imagination.  

The various funerary tomb wall texts and papyri writings that have come down to us have depicted in somewhat cryptic yet understandable language the forgotten existence of four individual locations at Giza where there was not only a prominent sanctuary located near its own causeway and a lake, but also sacred precincts protecting the entrances to their own separate hidden underground Halls of Records.  

The four Giza centers were dedicated to: 

  1. the suterranean deities of Sokar-Ptah-Osiris,
  2. the protector of souls, Anubis,
  3. the creator gods and keepers of cosmic wisdom, Atum-Ra-Harakhty-Thoth, and
  4. the primordial ruler of the Earth, the god Geb.  

The Sokar center at Giza was associated with the fourth or unrecognized causeway, designated as such because it has no accompanying Pyramid as its origin point.  Its ruins are clearly portrayed on Charles Piazzi Smyth’s 1874 Giza map, which he labeled the “Southern Causeway” and today is identified as the “Wall of the Crow” by modern archaeologists who are doing excavations in its vicinity.  This mysterious causeway extends up to the base of the limestone gebel described earlier, located just south of the Sphinx, and which several researchers suspect may be hiding a secret underground shrine to Sokar.  Unfortunately, the gebel is presently surrounded by a modern Muslim cemetery, so that there is presently no way the area can be more thoroughly explored.  

The Anubis shrine that Temple is looking for was more than likely associated with the causeway of the Mycerinus or Third Pyramid of Giza.  The author notes that the only sculpture of Anubis found throughout the plateau was a small green diorite statue of the god unearthed among the ruins of the Mycerinus funerary sanctuary just to the east of the Third Pyramid.  In his book, Temple reproduces a NASA photo of the entire Giza plateau which shows at its southern extremity, very near the Mycerinus causeway, the tell-tale signs of numerous buried walls and other structures not yet excavated.  

During those ancient times when the Nile seasonally overflowed, the flood plain once reached all the way around the southern end of the plateau to the very edge of the Mycerinus complex.  Is this where “Jackal Lake” could have been situated?  The funerary writings also described Anubis as the god “at the top of his hill” - and if a large statue of the jackal god had indeed been placed here, then it could have been seen across the entire plateau to the north, and for a far distance by water approach during the Nile flood season from the south.  

Most likely, the now missing Anubis sanctuary and statue, instead of having been carved out of a gebel like the Sphinx, was constructed from local stonework that was later dismantled or buried in the surrounding sands when Giza was heavily damaged during the chaos that ended the Old Kingdom.  

The third major cult center at Giza is unquestionably its most famous.  It is universally recognized by most scholars and investigators that the Sphinx and Sphinx sanctuaries located alongside the Khephren or Second Giza Pyramid causeway was the focus for the Initiation Mysteries of Ra-Harakhty and Atum-Ra, as well as being the traditional location for the hidden “books of Thoth” described in the Westcar Papyrus and other historical sources.  The Sphinx has always been considered the secret entranceway into the more deeply esoteric aspects among all the Halls of Records, both in Egypt and around the world.  

The last Giza cult center is probably the oldest among the four, and perhaps the most enigmatic.  It was dedicated to one of the most remotely primordial beings among the Egyptian deities, the Earth god Geb.  Its lost sanctuary was probably connected with the still unexcavated causeway that once extended eastward from the Khufu or Great Pyramid.  Significantly, it is the Great Pyramid whose inherent measurements are commensurate to the size of our planet—an appropriate tribute to Geb.  Some students of the most ancient mysteries envision that there is yet to be found a hidden entranceway somewhere at the foot of the plateau where it drops off just east of the Great Pyramid, and where the waters of the yearly Nile flood also used to reach.  Here one day may be found a portal into a Hall of Planetary Mysteries.  

These four mystery gods and their Giza centers were from the earliest periods commemorated in all royal funerals by the four entities portrayed atop the canopic burial jars containing the preserved remains of the key organs considered necessary for resurrection into the afterlife.  The four canopic entities were shown with the heads of a hawk, a jackal, a baboon and a man.  Sokar was hawk-headed, the jackal is of course Anubis, the baboon was sacred to Thoth, and the man represented Geb, one of the very few deities depicted with an exclusively human head.  

One of the major contributions Temple makes to the study of the enigmas of the Giza plateau is his discovery of the underlying sacred geometry used by the designers of its various monuments that unites them all into one single cohesive master plan. The author found that everywhere he looked, the predominating geometric link that was repeated time and time again - far beyond what the laws of coincidence would have allowed - was what he calls the golden angle.  This is a foundational geometry whose construction is based on the Fibonacci series of number progressions and the universal proportion known as the Golden Section - the ratio of 1 to 1.618.  This precise proportion can be found in the expanding wheels of galaxies, the spiral of the nautilus shell, the growth pattern of plants, every proportion within the human body, and in most of the sacred art and architecture among all major civilizations past and present.  

Temple further discovered that the golden angle defines not only the positioning of every pyramid and sanctuary at Giza, including the Sphinx, but also their sizes and dimensions.  Not only this, but where the angles intersect at specific locations along the faces of the three Pyramids, and along the sides and interiors of the various Giza sanctuaries, these may yet serve as location markers where secret entrances may one day be brought to light.  

The author admits that his preliminary research into defining these golden angles has only just begun, that the potential exists for generating still more angles farther out than the areas he has so far concentrated on.  One location so far not thoroughly explored geometry-wise is south of the Mycerinus Pyramid, where suspected ruins may hold the keys to more mysteries yet to be revealed.  When Temple will finally delve into this region, his golden angles may one day aid him in defining the location and dimensions of the real statue of Anubis he has been searching for.  

Copyright 2009.  Joseph Robert Jochmans.  All Rights Reserved.

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