History of the Egyptian Sphinx



  • 1. Mystical beast portrayed with the head of a man and the body of a lion.
  • 2. It is shown wearing the royal head cloth. (nemes)
  • 3. The ancient Greek word sphinx means; strangler. The arabs call it, 'Abu Hol', meaning; The Father of Terror. However some believe that the name may come from the Egyptian phrase 'shesep ankh', which means living image.
  • 4. The Great Sphinx sits in front of the pyramid of Khafra, next to the funerary causeway. And its face probably represents the 4th Dynasty ruler.
  • 5. However, other scholars believe it is older, dating back to the reign of Khufu. Whilst some even believe it may be 10,000 years old. (Again - who knows?)
  • 6. The sphinx is associated with both pharaoh and the sun-god, Ra. And is considered to be the; Guardian of the Necropolis of Giza.
  • 7. It measures 73m long and has a maximum height of 20m.
  • 8. The Sphinx has no markings (epigraphic documentation) to help date it.
  • 9. It was carved from a single knoll of stone, probably what was left behind after quarrying.
  • 10. It has been buried by sand on several occasions and has had to be uncovered.
  • 11. One such incident is recorded on the Dream Stele which stands between the paws of the Sphinx. This tells how Prince Tuthmoses (1400-1390 BC) described how in a dream he was promised that if he cleared the Sphinx of sand, he would become King. He became Tuthmoses IV.
  • 12. Much reconstruction work has been carried out on the sphinx in the form of limestone cladding.
  • 13. The gradual deterioration of the sphinx, caused by increased humidity, water infiltration and air pollution, has caused much concern.
  • 14. Over the years, the sphinx has lost its nose, royal beard, cobra emblem, and various other pieces of masonry. Part of the beard is in the British Museum, London
  • 15. Further damage was done when Mamluke and Napoleonic troops used it as target practice.
  • 16. In ancient times the Sphinx would have been brightly coloured. Remains of which can be seen on the side of its face.
  • 17. The Sphinx, in the New Kingdom, was also identified with Horem akhet, Horus in the Horizon'. (Horus is often seen as the son of Ra.)
  • 18. Herodotus, the Greek historian, never mentions the Great Sphinx, most likely because at the time he collected his information in Egypt, the Sphinx was once again covered by sand.
  • 19. The most comprehensive exploration of the sphinx was carried out by Giovanni Battista Caviglia in 1816. He discovered fragments of the royal beard which were given to the British Museum.
  • 20. The Sphinx faces east.
  • 21. The Sphinx plays the role of narrator in the Sound and Light shows that are carried out every evening for tourists.
  • 22 Three tunnels have been discovered in the Sphinx. Behind the head, in its tail and in its north side. None lead anywhere.

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