The Great Sphinx:
Guardian of Giza
Probably the most recognized statue in the world, and one of the very oldest, the Sphinx sits near the edge of the Giza plateau as it sits near the edge of recorded human history. Conventional archaeology believes the Sphinx dates to the reign of Pharaoh Chephren (Khafre) (Fourth Dynasty, 2558-2532), builder of the Second Pyramid of Gisa, which stands behind it. The head of the Sphinx was carved from a natural hill, the body was excavated from the surrounding stone, and the stone blocks that were removed in that excavation were used in the construction of the Sphinx temple just to the east.
from "la Description de l'Egypte"
engraving from original drawing c.1801
There is much speculation about the Sphinx, a lot of it based on the predictions of the American psychic Edgar Cayce that a secret chamber would be found buried near the statue containing records of Atlantis.
Some say the human face is a addition, perhaps by Pharaoh Chephren, that the body is that of the Jackal god Anubis, traditional guardian of the dead, and not that of a lion as is generally supposed. It is unusual, perhaps otherwise unknown, to find a human head on a sphinx, although this monument was certainaly well known throughout most of Egypt's history.
Rene Schwaller de Lubicz and John Anthony West have advanced the theory that the Sphinx and the adjacent temple are relics of an earlier, otherwise forgotten, civilization. W.F. Petrie held similar views. There is some evidence to support that idea and those interested may wish to read a discussion of the origins of Egyptian civilization on our sister website AscendingPassage.com. Here, however, we are content to experience the grandeur of one of the most powerful and fascinating places on Earth - the ancient burial ground of the Pharaohs of Memphis: Giza.
Painting by Hector Horeau, 1841.
Edited Excerpts from
The Journal of Lt-Colonel George A. F. Fitzclarence,
Published in 1819
Adapted for PYMD.com, 2006
The Great Sphinx is about eight or nine hundred yards (meters) directly south of the Great Pyramid. At present (that is, in early 1818) more than 40 feet (12 meters) of it's height is buried, leaving only the head and chest above the sand. The entire statue is 66 feet (20 m) high from its base to the top of its head and 240 feet (70 m) long.
I have been most fortunate that my travel through Egypt was during a period of tranquility and security which has, within the last two years, permitted inquisitive and persevering explorers to clarify many points, and to make fresh discoveries. All the great objects which were now before me, the Sphinx and the Great and Second Pyramid, have been successfully explored, and much has been added to our knowledge of them. At a distance were workers employed by Giovanni Belzoni uncovering the Third Pyramid, and certainly, if we may judge from his former successes at Thebes and the Second Pyramid, it is to be hoped he will find fresh wonders there.
The face of the Sphinx has been often described, and I will therefore only repeat what I was told upon the spot by those who witnessed the removal of the sand, which has for ages hid the lower part of this colossal figure.
Captain Giovanni Caviglia and Mr. Henry Salt undertook to remove the sand that enveloped the Sphinx. This was accomplished by hiring workmen to carry it away in baskets, which, to any other than these persevering gentlemen, would have been regarded as an endless work.
They at last, however, cleared the drifts sufficiently to disclose the base of the chest, the left arm and paw, and the avenue or approach which led to the front of the figure. They discovered in that avenue, which is cut out of the limestone on which the Pyramids stand, two flights of steps, with an intermediate terrace, descending towards the Sphinx. On this terrace were two small Grecian style buildings. Between the paws of the Sphinx was a small altar. Among many ornaments found there were a most beautiful stone tablet, covered with hieroglyphics, which is now in the possession of Mr. Salt at his house in Cairo.
The back of the Sphinx, which extends to the westward, is just perceptible above the sand, and resembles the well trod path or limits of a sentry's walk. It is remarkable that in a mere year's time the sands have yet again engulfed the lower portion of the monument.
The Valley temple of Chephren.
Cheops' Pyramid is in the background.
Photograph by Henri Bechard, 1887
We proceeded to the remains of what is supposed to have been a portico, the mortuary temple of Chephren (Khafre), to the east of the Second Pyramid. The temple has three entrances, one to the east, one to the north, and, I think, another to the south, but at the moment this large building was so secondary an object in comparison with the wonder of the world before me, that I did not pay so much attention to it as I have since wished I had.
It is absolutely a horizontally built Stonehenge. Some of the blocks of limestone are of an immense size; and two which were particularly pointed out to me, one upon the other, on the east side, forming part of the north-east angle, Belzoni told me were 24 feet long (7 meters), 8 in breadth (2 1/2 meters), and the same in thickness (est. 70 tons / 63,500 kg). From their great age they are perfectly honeycombed and united together, though their original separation is distinctly seen from their sharp edges being rounded by time. The walls of this portico are not above twice, or at the utmost thrice, the breadth of these stones in height.
What may be under the ground I know not; but it appears to me that this temple either never was completed, or the finish of the building must have been of much lighter and less lasting materials than what is left.
The vastness of these works makes it possible that in an early age magnitude was the object aimed at by the builders. The Mortuary Temple of Chephren in the size of its stones will not yield to any other remains in Egypt. From its great antiquity, and its lack of sculpture, it is possible that ornamenting these immense masses may have been the addition of a subsequent age.
Belzoni now took us to a spot where he had opened the ground between this portico and the Pyramid, having dug down several feet until he met with a pavement of quite large blocks of well made flat stones. As it was much covered in, I cannot be a competent judge of all the attendant circumstances, but in one part there seemed to be a wall of low height, formed of stones upon the pavement.
Photograph by Henri Bechard, 1887
I trust it will be recollected that I only visited this place once, and although I wished to remain for weeks, nay months, and to clear away every atom of sand and rubbish from so classical a spot, I had not come through Egypt intending to make antiquarian researches.
Excerpts from:Published in 1819.
"Journal of a route across India,
through Egypt to England
in 1817 and 1818"
by Lt.-Colonel George Fitzclarence
Adapted and edited considerably for PYMD.com, 2006.
The Great Sphinx of Giza
For Beautiful Jewelry of Nepal and Tibet
Map of the Giza necropolis by Prisse de l'Avennes, 1878.
The Great Sphinx is quite small at this scale.
It is located near the far right (East) of the plateau,
approximately even with the South face of Chephren's Pyramid,
to the left and slightly below the word "Sphinx".
Ancient Egypt's Age of the Pyramids
Please click the sections:
Climbing the Great Pyramid
The Great Pyramid of Cheops
The Second Greatest Pyramid - Chephren
The Pyramid of Menkaure
The Great Sphinx
More About Giza
The Pyramids at Saqqara
The Pyramids of Sneferu
The Greatest Mystery of All.
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