Carved out of a natural limestone outcrop, the Sphinx is 19.8
metres (65 feet) high and 73.2 metres (240 feet) long. It is located
a short distance from the Great Pyramid.
The main body sits along an east-west axis facing east. An
enclosure of open floor surrounds the monument, narrowing somewhat
in the western back end. There is an unfinished shelf along the
western back wall slightly elevated from the rest of the enclosure
floor. Large and small blocks of harder limestone, applied at
different times in the past, form a protective covering or facing
over the lower parts of the monument.
Click to view
The rectangular structure known as the Sphinx Temple lies
directly east of the statue. Adjacent and south of the Sphinx Temple
lies a structure known as the Khafra Valley Temple. This is linked
to a causeway that goes west-northwest to the second or Khafra
Pyramid. The causeway runs above and along the south wall of the
Sphinx enclosure. A Khafra Mortuary Temple stands east of the Khafra
Pyramid on the upper plateau behind the Sphinx.
Plan of Khafre's causeway and the Sphinx
Plan after Lehner, 1991
three of the big pyramids at Giza (Khufu, Khafra, and Menkaura) had
causeways, valley temples, and mortuary temples. These structures
were originally faced with smoother and harder limestone or granite
that was partly or entirely stripped in ancient and medieval times,
leaving limestone core blocks that have weathered over the
The Tuthmosis IV Dream Stele
Between the enormous paws is a stele that records a dream
Tuthmosis IV had when he was a prince. He dreamt that he stopped to
rest in the shadow of the Sphinx during a hunting expedition in the
desert. While asleep, the Sphinx spoke to him, saying that he would
become king if he cleared away the sand that all but buried the
Sphinx. When he became king, Tuthmosis IV cleared the sand and
erected a stele that tells the story of his dream. After the work
was completed, a chapel was built next to the Sphinx to venerate
this sun god.
Tuthmosis IV Dream Stele located
between Sphinx's Paws
Here is more detailed version of this story:
"On one of these days it happened, when the king's son
Tuthmosis had arrived on his journey about the time of mid-day, and
had stretched himself to rest in the shade of this great god, that
sleep overtook him.
He dreamt in his slumber at the moment when the sun was at the
zenith, and it seemed to him as though this great god spoke to him
with his own mouth, just as a father speaks to his son, addressing
' Behold me, look at me, thou, my son Tuthmosis. I am your father
Horemkhu, Kheper, Ra, Tmu. The kingdom shall be given to you ....
and you shall wear the white crown and the red crown on the throne
of the earth-god Seb, the youngest (among the gods). The world shall
be yours in its length and in its breadth, as far as the light of
the eye of the lord of the universe shines. Plenty and riches shall
be yours; the best from the interior of the land, and rich tributes
from all nations; long years shall be granted to you as your term of
life. My countenance is gracious towards you, and my heart clings to
you; [I will give you] the best of all things.
'The sand of the district in which I have my existence has
covered me up. Promise me that you will do what I wish in my heart;
then shall I know whether you are my son, my helper. Go forward let
me be united to you. I am . . . '
After this [Tuthmosis awoke, and he repeated all these speeches,]
and he understood (the meaning) of the words of the god and laid
them up in his heart, speaking thus with himself: 'I see how the
dwellers in the temple of the city honour this god with sacrificial
gifts [without thinking of freeing from sand the work of King] Khaf-Ra,
the statue which was made to Tmu-Horemkhu.' ......
The remaining lines of text have been lost - but as Tuthmosis
became Tuthmosis IV is, perhaps, not difficult to tell what
The Tuthmosis IV Dream Stele reads:
"Now the statue of the very great
Khepri (the Great Sphix) restin in this place, great of fame, sacred
of respect, the shade of Ra resting on him. Memphis and every city
on its two sides came to him, their arms in adoration to his face,
bearing great offerings for his ka. One of these days it happened
that price Tuthmosis came travelling at the time of midday. He
rested in the shadow of the great god. (Sleep and) dream (took
possession of me) at the moment the sun was at zenith. Then he found
the majesty of this noble god speaking from his own mouth like a
father speaks to his son, and saying, 'Look at me, observe me, my
son Tuthmosis. I am your father, Horemakhet-Khepri-Ra-Atum. I shall
give to you the kingship (upon the land before the living)...
(Behold, my condition is like one in illness), all (my limbs being
ruined). The sand of the desert, upon which I used to be, (now)
confronts me; and it is in order to cause that you do what is in my
heart that I have waited."
The Mystery of the Sphinx Revealed
Our exclusive article about the meaning of this ancient
The image and quotations suggested by B. De la Roche-Colombe
Republic, Boox IX reads:
"Let us make an image of the soul, that may
have his own words presented before his eyes.
Of what sort?
An ideal image of the soul, like the composite creations of ancient
mythology, such as the Chimera or Scylla or Cerberus, and there are
many others in which two or more different natures are said to grow
There are said of have been such unions.
Then do you now model the form of a multitudinous, many-headed
monster, having a ring of heads of all manner of beasts, tame and
wild, which he is able to generate and metamorphose at will.
You suppose marvellous powers in the artist; but, as language is
more pliable than wax or any similar substance, let there be such a
model as you propose.
Suppose now that you make a second form as of a lion, and a third of
a man, the second smaller than the first, and the third smaller than
That, he said, is an easier task; and I have made them as you say.
And now join them, and let the three grow into one.
That has been accomplished.
Next fashion the outside of them into a single image, as of a man,
so that he who is not able to look within, and sees only the outer
hull, may believe the beast to be a single human creature. I have
done so, he said.
And now, to him who maintains that it is profitable for the human
creature to be unjust, and unprofitable to be just, let us reply
that, if he be right, it is profitable for this creature to feast
the multitudinous monster and strengthen the lion and the lion-like
qualities, but to starve and weaken the man, who is consequently
liable to be dragged about at the mercy of either of the other two;
and he is not to attempt to familiarize or harmonize them with one
another-- he ought rather to suffer them to fight and bite and
devour one another."
Source: Plato, The
Republic, Boox IX
In the Liber
Aleph, part ,7 by Aleister Crowley we read:
DE DRACONE, QUAE EST AQUILA, SERPENS, SCORPION.
Threefold is the Nature of Life, Eagle, Serpent, and Scorpion. And
of these the Scorpion is he that, having no Lion of Light and of
Courage within him, seemeth to himself encircled by Fire, and,
driving his Sting into himself, he dieth. Such are the Black
Brothers, that cry: I am I, they hat deny Love, restricting it to
their own Nature. But the Serpent is the secret Nature of Man, that
is Life and Death, and maketh his Way through the Generations in
Silence. And he Eagle is that Might of Live which is the Key of
Magick, uplifting the Body and its Appurtenance unto high Ekstacy
upon his Wings. It is by Virtue thereof that the Sphinx beholdeth he
Sun unwinking, and confronteth the Pyramid without Shame. Our
Dragon, therefore, combining the Natures of the Eagle and he
Serpent, is our Love, the Organ of our Will, by whose Virtue we
perform the Work and Miracle of the One Substance, as saith thine
Ancestor Hermes Trismegistus, in his Tablet of Smaragda. And this
Dragon, is called thy Silence, because in he Hour of his Operation
that within thee which saith "I" is abolished in its
Conjunction with the Beloved. For this Cause also is its Letter Nun,
which in our Rota is the Trump Death; and Nun hath the value of
Fifty, the Number of the Gates of Understanding.
DE QUATTUOR VIRTUTIS
See now our Sphinx, with what Subtility and Art is She made Whole! Here is thy Light, the Lion, the Necessity of thy Nature, fortified
by thy Life, the Bull, the Power of Works, and guided by thy
Liberty, the Man, the Wit to adapt Action to Environment. These are
three Virtues in One, necessary to all proper Motion, as I may say
in a Figure, the Lust of the Archer, the propulsive Force of his
Arm, and the equilibrating and directing Control of his Eye. Of
these three if one fail, he Mark is not hit. But hold! Is not a
Fourth Element essential in the Work? Yea, soothly, all were vain
without he Engine, Arrow and Bow. This Engine is thy Body, possessed
by thee and used by thee for thy Work, yet not Part of thee, even as
are his Weapons to this Archer in my Similitude. Thus is thy Dragon
to be cherished of thy Lion, but if thou lack Energy and Endurance
of thy Bull, thy Tools lie idle, and if Cunning and Intelligence,
with Experience also of thy Man, thy Shaft flieth crooked. So then,
o my son, do thou perfect hyself in these Four Powers, and that with
DE LIBRA, IN QUA GUATTUOR VIRTUTES AEQUIPOLLENT.
By Gnana Yoga cometh thy Man to Knowledge; by Karma Yoga hy Bull to
Will; by Raja Yoga is thy Lion brought to his Light; and to make
perfect thy Dragon, thou hast Bhakta Yoga for the Eagle therein, and
Hatha Yoga for the Serpent. Yet mark thou well how all these
interfuse, so that thou mayst accomplish no one of the Works
separately. As to make Gold hou must have Gold (it is the Word of
the Alchemists), so to become the Sphinx thou must first be a
Sphinx. For naught may grow save to the Norm of its own Nature, and
in the Law of its own Law, or it is but Artifice, and endureth not.
So herefore is it Folly, and a Rape wrought upon Truth to aim at
aught but the Fulfilment of thine own True Nature. Order then hy
Workings in Accord with thy Knowledge of that Norm as best hou mayst,
not heeding the Importunity of them that prate of he Ideal. For this
Rule, this Uniformity, is proper only to a Prison, and a Man Liveth
by Elasticity, nor endureth Rigor save in Death. But whoso groweth
bodily by a Law foreign to his own Nature, he hath a Cancer, and his
whole Oeconomy shall be destroyed by that small Disobedience.
Now then at last art thou made ready to confront the Pyramid, if
thou art established as a Sphinx. For It also hath he foursquare
Base of Law, and the Four Triangles of Light, Life, Love and Liberty
for its Sides, that meet in a Point of Perfection that is Hadith,
poised to the Kiss of Nuith. But in this Pyramid there is no
Difference of Form between the Sides, as it is in thy Shinx, for
these are wholly One, save in Direction. Thou art then an Harmony of
the Four by Right of thy Attainment of Adeptship, the Crown of thy
Manhood, but not an Identity, as in Godhead. Therefore may it be
said from one Point of Sight that thine Achievement is but a
Preparation, an Adornment of the Bride for the Temple of Hymen, and
his Rite. Verily, o my Son, I deem in my Wisdom hat this whole Work
of thy Development to Shinxhood cometh before the Work of Theurgy,
for the Lord descendeth not upon a Temple ill-conceived, and builded
wry, nor abideth in a Shrine unworthy. Accomplish then this Task in
Patience, with Assiduity, not hasting furiously after Godliness. For
this is most sure, that to the Beauty of a Maiden answereth the Lust
of her Lord, spontaneous and without Effort or Appeal of her
Aleph part 7 by Aleister Crowley
Related Link?: http://www.world-mysteries.com/awr_1_6.htm
The Age of Sphinx Controversy
Anthony West and Boston University geologist
Robert Schoch contend that weathering of the Member II layers
indicates that the Sphinx was built between 5000 and 7000 BC.
A problem with the age of the Sphinx may be dated to the report
of a photogrammetric survey conducted in 1979 by Dr. Mark Lehner,
director of the American Research Center in Egypt in the 1980s, and
Dr. K. Lal Gauri, director of the Stone Conservation Laboratory at
the University of Louisville, Kentucky, USA. With the help of an
archaeological photographer, Lehner and Gauri identified and
recorded the exposed surface of the monument and the stone blocks
that still faced it. Lehner's 1980 report noted an anomaly about the
main body on pp. 17-18:
"Except for the prominent boss on the chest, we have nowhere
observed any kind of working marks on the core-body, either in the
way of tool marks or of surfaces that would seem to have been left
by rough quarrying activity. Neither have we found any profile on
the core that would appear to be of finished sculpture. This might
easily be explained by saying that the part of the core-body now
showing - almost entirely of the very soft Bed 2 stone - has been
eroded so badly that all such traces have disappeared. Even so, in
the cross-sections showing through the successive layers of masonry
added to the core, one would expect such traces to show under the
earliest level of stonework had it been added soon after the core
was formed, thereafter protecting the profile of the parent rock.
But on the face and profile of the core in such cases (Figs. 3,4)
[supplied in original report] there are no observable indications of
parts of a finished profile or of working marks. Rather, the profile
of the core seems in all cases to be one of severe erosion, leaving
the softer yellowish bands and harder intermediate strata showing a
profile of successive rolls and undulations. These considerations
would seem to indicate that the core-body of the Sphinx was already
severely eroded when the earliest level of large-block masonry was
added to it."
To reconcile these observations with the traditional attribution
of the monument to the reign of Khafra (2520-2494 BCE), Lehner and
his colleagues assumed that the earliest facing stones were repairs
dating from the New Kingdom c. 1440 BCE. The weathering had
presumably occurred during the intervening centuries.
In the original 1979 edition of his book, Serpent
in the Sky: The High Wisdom of Ancient Egypt, West presented an interpretation of ancient Egyptian
civilization developed by the French scholar R.A. Schwaller de
Lubicz (1887-1961). In Schwaller's view, orthodox Egyptology had
given Egyptian religion and science an excessively primitive
interpretation. An English translation of Schwaller's major work, The
Temple of Man (Inner Traditions, 1999), is now available.
Schwaller speculated that ancient Egypt owed its core knowledge
to an earlier lost civilization, or lost stage of its own
civilization, that dated back to prehistoric times. He suggested
that the weathering of the Sphinx was caused by water, not wind and
sand. If true, this meant that the monument may have predated the
onset of the current arid regime and may be a surviving structure
from that earlier culture. During the transition from the last ice
age to the present desert environment, Egypt experienced rainfall
heavier than any that has fallen in historic times. These rains fell
in intervals between 10,000 and 3000 BCE and then tapered off to
their current level of about 20 cm per year by about 2200 BCE.
West invited Boston University geologist Dr. Robert Schoch to
examine the Sphinx for evidence of water weathering. The two visited
the monument in 1990 and again in 1991. On the second visit, Dr.
Thomas Dobecki, a geophysicist, helped Schoch conduct soundings to
determine whether the rock underneath the Sphinx enclosure had
In his two 1992 articles (Robert M. Schoch,
"Redating the Great Sphinx of Giza," KMT: A Modern
Journal of Ancient Egypt, Vol. 3, No. 2 (Summer 1992), pp.
52-59, 66-70 and Thomas L. Dobecki and Robert M. Schoch, "Seismic
Investigations in the Vicinity of the Great Sphinx of Giza,
Egypt," Geoarchaeology, Vol. 7, No. 6 (1992), pp. 527-544), Schoch reported two groups of
observations that suggested to him a late prehistoric date for the
The Giza plateau contains a number of natural faults and
fractures that occurred millions of years ago. On the Sphinx and its
enclosure walls, many of these have widened into fissures that can
easily be seen. Schoch argued that the fissuring visible on the
Sphinx and its walls is the kind of weathering produced by rainfall
Although Nile river flooding reached the base of the
Sphinx on occasion, flood levels were not normally high enough in
ancient times to produce this weathering. Wind-blown sand, and
geochemical deterioration caused by morning condensation on the rock
surface, had also damaged the Sphinx. But the impaction patterns on
the monument and its walls more strongly suggested to Schoch a long
period of rainfall and runoff, such as occurred in the millennia
from 10,000 to 3000 BCE.
This image is based on information from David Jeffreys,
Institute of Archeology, University College, London; Oriental
Institute Computer Laboratory, University of Chicago and
Archeological Graphic Services. NOTE: Vertical scale exaggerated to
show ancient Nile river channel (on the left).
By themselves, these observations did not specify a date.
However, subsurface data that Schoch had gathered with Dobecki
revealed a discrepancy in the rock below the Sphinx enclosure floor.
From this evidence Schoch inferred a datespan.
Schoch and Dobecki sent sound waves through the floor and
recorded the speed with which they bounced back. The rock under the
front and sides of the Sphinx recorded slower velocities to a depth
of 4-6 meters, with faster velocities below this depth. The rock in
back recorded slower velocities 2-3 meters deep with faster
velocities below. Differences in the rock might account for this
discrepancy, but Schoch observed that the regions of slower
velocities ran directly west-east and did not therefore follow the
dip of the known rock layers. In unweathered rock, sound travels
quickly, while in weathered rock its speed is slower. Schoch
interpreted the differences in sound velocities to be the result of
This interpreted weathering would have resulted, not from water
damage, but from changes in the rock that occur with prolonged
exposure to air (sand cover would not insulate the rock from these
changes). Schoch took the back of the Sphinx enclosure to date from
2500 BCE, the traditional date of the Sphinx. The sides and front
had to have been exposed at a much earlier time, then, in order to
have weathered twice as deeply.
Assuming a linear rate of weathering, Schoch concluded that the
front and sides of the Sphinx dated to somewhere between 7000 and
4750 BCE (he rounded the latter year to 5000 BCE). Assuming a
non-linear rate of weathering, in which weathering took longer to
penetrate as the depth of rock increased, the Sphinx could have
dated substantially earlier than 7000 BCE.
Schoch ventured two further observations. First, he compared the
weathering on the Sphinx to the weathering on the outside of the
rock-cut tomb of Debehen, a few hundred yards outside the Sphinx
enclosure. Schoch identified this tomb face with the same bedrock
layer as the main body of the Sphinx. On the Sphinx, deep rounding
of the rock could be seen, while the outside of Debehen's tomb
showed a more jagged and angular profile that Schoch attributed to
the effects of wind-blown sand.
Second, the interior of the Khafra Valley Temple was faced with
smooth granite. Schoch observed that some of the limestone core
blocks were eroded behind these harder facing stones. If the core
blocks had been eroded at the time of the facing, this would imply
that the temples were constructed before the Old Kingdom. To Schoch,
the facing stones appeared to have been form-fitted to
already-eroded core blocks.
In an appendix to the reissued 1993 edition of Serpent
in the Sky: The High Wisdom of Ancient Egypt, West pointed out that the age of the facing stones
on the Sphinx was a crucial uncertainty about the monument. If the
earliest facing stones on the Sphinx dated from the Old Kingdom, the
weathering of the Sphinx that Lehner and Gauri observed in 1979
would have had to predate 2500 BCE. West and Schoch did not focus
their attention, however, on the age of the facing stones. They
stressed instead the apparent anomalies indicated by their
Schoch and West defended their findings initially before two
professional gatherings. At the October 1991 meeting of the
Geological Society of America, the two conducted a "poster
session" in which they sat at a table in a hall (with other
scientists holding poster sessions of their own) and explained their
work to interested GSA members who passed by. The response of the
scientists who stopped at the West-Schoch table was encouraging,
although no one formally endorsed their findings.
At a meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of
Science in February 1992, Schoch and Dobecki debated Lehner and
Gauri before an audience of several hundred. Lehner pointed to the
evidence linking the monument to the other structures at Giza
associated with the Pharaoh Khafra (2520-2494 BCE) and he noted the
absence of any other evidence of civilization or complex society in
Egypt at the time of Schoch's estimated datespan of 5000-7000 BCE.
In a 1993 hour-long television documentary, The
Mystery of the Sphinx, broadcast on the American NBC
Network on November 10, 1993, West and Schoch presented their
evidence to an audience of about thirty million people. The program
received an Emmy award for research and public controversy
Redating the Sphinx: Criticisms
Scholars began to respond in print to West and Schoch in a series
of articles and books that appeared between 1994 and 1998. These
criticisms dealt with two kinds of evidence, geological and
The Geology of the Sphinx
Scientific critics have proposed mechanisms other than rainfall
to explain the weathering of the Sphinx. The monument weathered in
somewhat different ways depending on whether it was exposed to the
atmosphere or buried in sand. A geochemist, K. Lal Gauri, has argued
that when exposed to the air, the monument deteriorated as a result
of chemical effects associated with morning condensation on the
rock. A geologist, James Harrell, has argued that when buried in
sand, the same chemical effects occurred from contact with moisture
absorbed into the sand from intermittent rainfall and occasional
flooding. The scientists proposing these mechanisms believe them
sufficient to explain the deterioration of the statue and its walls
within the timeframe of the last 4500 years.
James A. Harrell,
Sphinx Controversy: Another Look at the Geological Evidence,
KMT: A Modern Journal of Ancient Egypt, Vol. 5, No. 2 (Summer
1994), pp. 70-74; Vol. 5, No. 3 (Fall 1994), pp. 3-4.
Dr. James Harrell is a professor of geology at the University of
Toledo, Ohio, USA. In this article, he acknowledges that rainfall
could have produced the erosion features that Schoch observed. But
Harrell argues that this erosion was more likely caused by wet sand
in historic times. The Sphinx enclosure has been filled with sand
for most of its known existence. In Harrell's view, this sandfill
could have been wetted by intermittent rainfall and runoff from the
Giza plateau. It could also have been wetted from the occasional
Nile flooding that has occurred in historic times (or from capillary
action in which flood water that did not reach the monument seeped
upward). In Harrell's view, this wetness could have caused the kind
of chemical weathering that Dr. K. Lal Gauri believed (see below)
was the principal cause of erosion on the Sphinx.
K. Lal Gauri, John J. Sinai, and Jayanta K. Bandyopadhyay,
"Geologic Weathering and Its Implications on the Age of the
Sphinx," Geoarchaeology, Vol. 10, No. 2 (April 1995),
Dr. Gauri is on the faculty at the University of Louisville,
Kentucky, USA. He and his colleagues argue that the principal
mechanism of weathering on the Sphinx has been atmospheric
condensation. There is some atmospheric moisture even in the arid
environment at Giza. As morning dew condenses on and in rock pores,
it dissolves natural salts present in the rock. As the water
evaporates during the day, the salts crystallize (ie. expand). In
larger pores, some space remains and the crystals do not press
against the pore walls and weaken them. In small pores, however, the
crystals press against pore walls and cause the surface rock to
The main body of the Sphinx has more of these salts than the
harder rock of the head. Gauri correlates the erosional profile of
the Sphinx body to the relative distribution of larger and smaller
pore sizes in sub-layers (gradients) of the rock. As part of
Lehner's 1979 survey of the Sphinx, Gauri documented how sub-layers
with smaller pore sizes alternate with those of larger pore size.
The sub-layers of small-pore rock have weathered back more severely,
creating the horizontal rolls across the Sphinx.
Tectonism and other geological changes over millions of years
caused fracturing and jointing of the bedrock. A deep fissure across
the back of the Sphinx (known as the "Major Fissure")
probably began as a fracture millions of years ago. The authors
concede that rainfall could have widened exposed joints and
fractures, but they also attribute this widening to fluctuations in
the water table over millions of years.
According to Gauri, the difference between rain and wind
weathering that Schoch observed resulted from gradient differences
in the rock. In rock that grades gradually between harder and softer
sub-layers, smooth horizontal rounding occurs with weathering by
either wind or rain, while in rock that grades sharply between hard
and soft, the jaggedness that Schoch attributed to wind appears.
Gauri believes that this is why the rock face of Debehen's tomb
shows angularity and he notes that the tomb also shows roundedness
along its top.
Gauri agrees that Schoch's subsurface data could indicate a
two-stage sequence of excavation but he notes that the readings do
not in themselves give an absolute date.
The Archaeology of the Sphinx
Archaeologists have defended the traditional date of the Sphinx
by pointing to architectural evidence linking the monument and its
temples to the rest of the Giza site. A more direct link to the Old
Kingdom can be inferred from the leading authority on Giza, Dr. Zahi
Hawass, who has argued that the oldest facing stones on the Sphinx
dated from the Old Kingdom. Some of these Old Kingdom blocks
protected portions of the core body from weathering. If these
protected surfaces consist of unweathered rock of the same type that
has weathered severely with exposure, then the Sphinx was no earlier
than the age of the blocks that protected them.
Zahi Hawass and Mark Lehner, "The Sphinx: Who Built
It and Why?" Archaeology, Vol. 47, No. 5
(September/October 1994), pp. 30-41.
Dr. Zahi Hawass is under-secretary of state and director-general
of the Giza monuments. Dr. Mark Lehner was at the time a scholar
with the Oriental Institute at the University of Chicago, Illinois,
USA. In this article, the authors recount the accepted history of
the Sphinx and some of the reasons for attributing it to Khafra.
No literary evidence directly ties the Sphinx to Khafra but
architectural evidence supports treating the Sphinx as part of the
Khafra funerary complex. The Khafra Valley Temple is built into a
causeway leading to the Khafra Pyramid, and the center court of the
Sphinx Temple is nearly identical to the center court of the Khafra
Mortuary Temple. The core blocks of the Sphinx Temple match some of
the strata of bedrock in the Sphinx enclosure and show that the
Temple was built as the enclosure was being excavated. It may be
inferred that if other Khafra structures and the Sphinx Temple dated
to the same time, then the excavation of the Sphinx itself dated to
that time as well.
Hawass and Lehner observe that the harder Member I limestone
around the base of the Sphinx has not weathered appreciably and
shows tool marks that the authors identify with the original
builders (p. 33). The front paws also had claws carved into the
harder Member I body rock. These markings appear to supersede
Lehner's 1980 report finding no evidence of tool marks or signs of
workmanship anywhere on the core body, unless Lehner meant in 1980
to refer only to the Member II layer of the body.
But Hawass and Lehner are less clear about when the earliest
stone facing blocks were applied. On one page (p. 37), they imply
that the original body was finished with casing stone: "The
bedrock surface is rough and uneven but against its surface there is
an inner casing of large blocks of fine quality limestone, quarried
from places like Turah, across the Nile Valley, which was used for
finishes of stone buildings." But on the next page (p. 38),
they observe: "Unless we get better exposures of the lower part
of the core body, there is just not enough evidence to determine
whether the 4th Dynasty builders began, or how far along they had
progressed, filling in and building up with masonry the weak spots
in the Sphinx."
The authors prefer to date the oldest limestone facing blocks,
which they consider the first repair campaign, to the New Kingdom.
"Phase I filled in the body after the surface formed from
Member II bedrock had eroded drastically into a profile of deep
recesses and rounded protrusions." The Old Kingdom appearance
of these earliest facing stones, which resemble the blocks lining
the Khafra causeway, suggests to Lehner that the New Kingdom
restorers used causeway blocks for the restoration (p. 41).
Zahi Hawass and Mark Lehner Remnants
of a Lost Civilization? Archaeology, Vol. 47, No. 5
(September/October 1994), pp. 44-47.
In another article to appear in the same issue of Archaeology,
Hawass and Lehner restate the arguments by Gauri against the West-Schoch
hypothesis. They also assert that Debehen's tomb belongs to a
different layer of bedrock than the Sphinx main body. Finally, they
observe that the back wall of the Sphinx enclosure is as eroded as
the side walls, which is inconsistent with Schoch's argument that
the rear of the enclosure was excavated much later than the front
Mark Lehner, "Notes and Photographs on the West-Schoch
Sphinx Hypothesis," KMT: A Modern Journal of Ancient Egypt,
Vol. 5, No. 3 (Fall 1994), pp. 40-48.
In this follow-up article, Lehner argues that the core blocks and
facing stone of the Khafra and Sphinx Temples were built
concurrently, as was the custom in Old Kingdom architecture. Core
blocks behind intact facing stone in the Khafra Valley temple
appeared to Lehner to have been protected from erosion. The
outward-sloping walls of the Sphinx enclosure cited by Schoch as
evidence of erosion were in fact built with a slope, as less
weathered portions at the southeastern end show. Lehner notes that
the geologists referenced in Schoch's own sources are very cautious
about dating rock.
Zahi Hawass, The Secrets of the Sphinx: Restoration
Past and Present (American University in Cairo Press, 1998), 34
In his 1998 booklet, Dr. Hawass argues that the Sphinx was carved
in the rough and that the oldest facing stones of better-quality
Tura limestone were applied as part of the original monument and not
as later repairs. The underlying rock was not suitable for fine
modeling and was simply cut in a rough way and then faced with stone
blocks. Only the head, neck, and beard were cut from the original
rock and left exposed.
"At the very base of the Sphinx," Dr. Hawass writes in
his 1998 booklet (p. 10), "where we have been able to examine
the mother rock closely, there are extremely large Tura-quality
limestone blocks that cover the bedrock and form a casing. Since the
hard part of the mother rock could not have weathered after the
casing was applied, its rough surface underneath these large blocks
must have been left as we see it by the original Sphinx
It is not clear that Hawass intended the remarks above to prove a
point about the age of the Sphinx. The survival of unweathered stone
behind intact core blocks argues for an Old Kingdom origin of the
entire monument, though, if the facing stones can be dated to the
Old Kingdom and if the protected surfaces belong to a quality of
rock that has weathered with exposure over the last 4500 years.
Proceeding with the argument of Dr. Hawass, weathering of the
Sphinx since Old Kingdom times must then have occurred where the
original facing stones fell away, as many of them did. Hawass
rejects the idea that the facing stones were repair blocks stripped
from the Khafra causeway, although he allows that New Kingdom
restorers may have commissioned some new blocks cut in the Old
Kingdom style (p. 26).
In the remainder of his discussion, Dr. Hawass reiterates the
arguments against an earlier Sphinx made in his 1994 articles with
Lehner. On his website, Dr. Hawass describes the restoration
history of the Sphinx, although he does not mention any
Redating the Sphinx: Responses to Critics
John Anthony West and Robert Schoch have responded to criticism,
mainly in the form of letters to the editors of various magazines.
Schoch has also written a short book, Voices
of the Rocks (Harmony Books, 1999), that briefly
recapitulates his arguments.
Principally, West and Schoch maintain that their critics have
identified alternative weathering mechanisms that are really
complementary processes that do not explain key features, such as
the vertical weathering profiles and where they are.
John Anthony West, Letter to the Editor, KMT: A Modern
Journal of Ancient Egypt, Vol. 7, No. 1 (Spring 1996), pp. 3-6.
West notes that the BBC Timewatch series, for a documentary
broadcast in the United Kingdom on November 27, 1994, had an
Egyptian geologist check the claim that Debehen's tomb is not the
same rock as the Sphinx. The geologist observed that the tomb
belongs to the same layer as the Sphinx body. The weathering of the
Sphinx and Debehen's tomb should have been similar if they dated
from the same time.
Robert M. Schoch, Letter to the Editor, KMT: A Modern
Journal of Ancient Egypt,
Vol. 5, No. 2 (Summer 1994), pp. 1-2.
Response to Harrell.
Robert M. Schoch, Letter
to the Editor, KMT: A Modern Journal of Ancient Egypt,
Vol. 5, No. 3 (Fall 1994), pp. 4-5. Response to Harrell.
Robert M. Schoch, Letter
to the Editor, Archaeology,
Vol.48, No. 1
(January-February 1995), pp. 10-12. Response to Hawass and Lehner.
Robert M. Schoch, Voices
of the Rocks: A Scientist Looks at Catastrophes & Ancient
(Harmony Books, New York, 1999) with Robert Aquinas
Schoch's letters and book may be summarized in relation to one
general problem and several particular ones related to his rainfall
The general problem is that we do not know the weathering rate of
rock over time and this uncertainty makes estimating the age of
weathered rock unavoidably speculative. Schoch contends, however,
that different types of weathering can be identified on the Sphinx
complex and correlated with periods of climate that can be dated
The particular problems involve four issues of geology and four
of archaeology. The geological issues are:
Wet sand. The Sphinx has been buried in desert sand for
much of its known existence and floodwater reached it on occasion.
Most scholars believe, however, that Nile flood levels have not
changed significantly since Old Kingdom times and that flood damage
was only occasional. Schoch points out that if Nile floodwater was
severe enough to weather the Sphinx directly, it would have undercut
the monument, which does not show undercutting. Until recent
decades, the water table was too far down to have wetted the sand
Rainfall and some floodwater could still have wetted the sand.
The Member II body of the Sphinx becomes more durable as it rises.
According to Harrell, the less durable lower strata therefore should
have weathered more severely as a result of wet sand. Schoch notes
that damage was greater to the more durable upper strata of the main
body. This is more consistent with the physical action of rainfall
than with the chemical effects Harrell and Gauri describe.
Atmospheric condensation. Schoch acknowledges that all
three types of weathering (rain, wind, and exfoliation by morning
dew) are present on the Sphinx and its walls. But he maintains that
atmospheric condensation is the least aggressive of the three types
and is not adequate to explain the depth of weathering, particularly
on the walls.
Faults and fissures. Schoch points out that there is a
difference between natural faulting in the bedrock and the opening
up of these faults to create fissures. Faulting in the rock
undoubtedly dates back millions of years. But he maintains that
neither the rising and falling of water tables, nor any other
sub-surface process taking millions of years, normally produces the
kind of profile visible on the walls. This kind of profile is in his
view normally associated with weathering by the physical action of
Different gradients. In addition to the differences
between layers, gradient differences within layers of rock affect
weathering profiles. Although the horizontal rolls on the Sphinx
reflect the varying durability of the sub-layers in the main body,
the tendency of these sub-layers to get more durable as they rise
should have produced a less weathered overall profile as the
monument and walls rise. Instead, Schoch notes, the walls and body
show a more deeply weathered profile in the upper part of the Member
II limestone bed.
The archaeological issues are:
The sides and back. The 1993 "Mystery of the
Sphinx" program implied that the slope of the enclosure walls
was the result of erosion. This was an error in the program and in
his published work Schoch did not maintain that this was the case.
But he notes that the deeper fissuring and rounding of the rock
toward the western end and not the eastern end actually strengthen
the case for weathering as a result of rainwater runoff from the
plateau. Responding to the apparent inconsistency between his
two-stage dating and the eroded back wall of the Sphinx enclosure,
Schoch agrees that the back and side walls are the same age. He
argues instead that the back floor was not reduced to the level of
the front until later. The platform at the foot of the western
enclosure wall may be evidence of this.
The problem of the facing stones. Schoch has not responded
to the argument that the facing stones on the Sphinx body were part
of the original Sphinx. He accepts an Old Kingdom date for them and
assumes that they were repairs to a monument that had been carved
much earlier. He maintains that some of the limestone core blocks in
the two temples show erosion behind their facing stone.
Integration of the Sphinx and Khafra Complex. The
resemblance between the Sphinx Temple court and the Khafra Mortuary
Temple court, and the other arguments for treating the Sphinx as
part of the Khafra complex, do not in Schoch's view preclude the
possibility of two stages in the construction of the Sphinx, the
Sphinx temples, and also the Khafra Mortuary Temple. The eastern
half of the Khafra Mortuary temple shows the kind of megalithic core
block architecture of the Valley temple.
Who Built the Sphinx? All of Schoch's critics ask where
was the civilization that built a much earlier Sphinx. As worded,
this question could be understood in two ways. The first is to
assume that only an advanced civilization can build large monuments.
Such a civilization is clearly absent from prehistoric Egypt. But
the people of Neolithic Britain built Stonehenge without such a
civilization. The second (and more restricted) way to ask the
question is to ask whether there is any evidence of a
Stonehenge-like culture in the vicinity of Giza.
In the mid-1990s, archaeologists published evidence of a
Neolithic culture at Nabta Playa, a site in what is now the southern
part of the Egyptian Western Desert. Megalithic remains at Nabta
Playa show that people in Egypt were building stone structures prior
to 5000 BCE. These remains bring a cultural context much closer
to prehistoric Giza than the examples of Jericho and Catal Huyuk
that Schoch had cited as context in his earlier publications.
Colin D. Reader, "Khufu
Knew the Sphinx," (unpublished, dated October 1997, revised
C. D. Reader, "A Geomorphological Study of the Giza
Necropolis, With Implications for the Development of the Site,"
Archaeometry, Vol. 43, No. 1 (2000), pp. 149-159.
A.J. Shortland, C.J. Doherty, "Comments on 'A
Geomorphological Study of the Giza Necropolis, With Implications for
the Development of the Site'," Archaeometry, Vol. 43,
No. 1 (2000), pp. 159-161.
T.A.H. Wilkinson, "Comments on C.D. Reader, 'A
Geomorphological Study of the Giza Necropolis, With Implications for
the Development of the Site'," Archaeometry, Vol. 43,
No. 1 (2000), pp. 161-163.
C. D. Reader, "A Response to Comments on 'A
Geomorphological Study of the Giza Necropolis, With Implications for
the Development of the Site," Archaeometry, Vol. 43, No.
1 (2000), pp. 163-165.
Colin Reader, a geological engineer, investigated the geological
evidence for an older Sphinx, principally by comparing the rock on
the Sphinx directly with the rock of the enclosure walls. This rock
inside the enclosure was well-documented by K. Lal Gauri as part of
Lehner's 1979 survey of the Sphinx and is not subject to the
questions surrounding comparisons with rock outside the enclosure.
Reader found that the rock strata on the Sphinx did not show the
same weathering as the continuation of these strata on the more
deeply eroded enclosure walls opposite them. The south wall shows
increasingly severe erosion as it moves from east to west and the
western wall displays the same deep erosion as the western end of
the south wall. The Sphinx does not show this lateral change. If
wind or chemical effects were the only cause of weathering to the
monument and the walls, they should have affected the same rock in
the same way on both the Sphinx and the walls.
The plateau just west of the Sphinx was a catchment for rainfall
and its runoff prior to the building of the three great Pyramids in
the 2500s and 2400s BCE. The excavation of the plateau for stone to
build the Khufu Pyramid drastically reduced this catchment area.
Reader argues that the excavation of the Sphinx enclosure must have
preceded the excavation of the plateau to build the Khufu Pyramid in
order for the enclosure walls to have eroded as they did from
plateau runoff. Unlike Schoch, he prefers to date the Sphinx only
three to six centuries before Khufu on the grounds that building in
stone did not appear to go back in Egypt any further. In his view
the Sphinx may have been a sacred site connected to an early solar
Reader also observes that the north terrace wall opposite the
north wall of the Sphinx Temple shows much less erosion than the
north terrace wall opposite the Sphinx. The Sphinx Temple is known
to have been constructed in two stages, the second involving an
enlargement of its north and south walls. The north terrace was cut
back to make room for the extension of the north temple wall and the
terrace face opposite this wall is the part that shows little
weathering. Reader argues that the first stage of the temple's
construction may have been contemporary with an earlier Sphinx.
Three commentators replied to the publication of Reader's views
in the January 2001 issue of Archaeometry. A.J. Shortland and
C.J. Doherty question whether the western exposures of the Sphinx
enclosure might have weathered more severely from thermal effects
combined with chemical effects, since they are exposed to the rising
sun every morning. The two commentators also ask (1) if there is
similar vertical fissuring in other monuments or natural stone
exposures subject to flash floods, and (2) if vertical fissuring is
absent from later buildings that were also exposed to runoff. T.A.H.
Wilkinson notes the paucity of pre-4th dynasty remains at Giza and
the evidence against sun worship predating that dynasty.
In reply to these commentators, Reader observes that the chest on
the Sphinx, made of the same stone as the western wall and facing in
the same direction (and thus subject to the same thermal effects),
does not show the deep vertical fissuring of the western enclosure
wall. He also notes that tombs cut into the other side of the
western wall during the 26th dynasty still show tool marks that
should have disappeared if chemical weathering alone was responsible
for the condition of the walls. He acknowledges the need for further
comparative work but notes that Shortland and Doherty do not contest
the evidence of the north terrace wall. Reader defends his argument
for an early solar cult by citing the work of Karl Kromer, who found
pre-4th dynasty remains.
Mysteries of the Sphinx (External Links)
When ancient architects completed construction on
the Great Pyramid at Giza, they left behind the greatest riddle of the
engineering world how did builders lift limestone blocks weighing an average
of two and a half tons, 480 feet up onto the top of the pyramid? For
centuries, adventurers and Egyptologists have crawled through every passageway
and chamber of the Great Pyramid, measuring and collecting data in an attempt
to determine how it was built. For the first time, a revolutionary theory
argues that the answer may be inside the pyramid. Architect Jean-Pierre Houdin
has devoted his life to solving this mystery by creating incredibly accurate
blueprints of the Great Pyramid, using cutting-edge 3-D software. Unlocking
the Great Pyramid follows Houdin and renowned Egyptologist Bob Brier in Giza
as they put Houdins theory to the test.
The Secret of the Great Pyramid: How One Man's Obsession Led to the Solution
of Ancient Egypt's Greatest Mystery (Hardcover) by Bob Brier (Author),
Jean-pierre Houdin (Author) -- Oct 2008
Based on the author's work in Egypt in the 1880s,
this unusual volume addresses one of history's greatest puzzles -how were the
pyramids of Gizeh built? Before Petrie undertook this study, the Great Pyramid
was a byword for paradox - something that was generally familiar, yet not
accurately known. No measurements or detailed examination had been performed.
Petrie set out to apply mathematical methods to the study of the pyramids and
surrounding temples, with the objective of understanding the methods and
abilities of the ancient workers. The result, presented in this volume, is
a complete set of measurements of the pyramids, both inside and outside.
These provide the foundation for the rest of the book, which deals with the
architectural ideas of the pyramid builders, the mechanical methods they used,
and a comparison of previous theories with the facts that Petrie had newly
Petrie, W. M. F. The
Pyramids and Temples of Gizeh. London. 1883
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