Great Sphinx of Giza (Abu al-Haul)

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The Great Sphinx of Giza, commonly referred to as the Sphinx, known in Arabic as the abu al-Haul (أبو الهول‎) literally meaning the "father of fear", is a limestone statue of a reclining or couchant sphinx that stands on the Giza Plateau on the west bank of the Nile in Giza, Egypt. The Sphinx is the oldest known monumental sculpture in Egypt and one of the most recognizable statues in the world. The archaeological evidence suggests that it was created by ancient Egyptians of the Old Kingdom (circa 2700–2200 BCE).

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The Great Sphinx, statue of a reclining sphinx, a mythical creature with the body of a lion and the head of a human, is one of the world's largest and oldest statues. The basic facts about it are still subject to debate, such as when it was built, by whom and for what purpose. Cut from the bedrock, the original shape of the Sphinx has been restored with layers of blocks.

It measures 73 metres (240 ft) long from paw to tail, 20.21 meters (66.31 ft) high from the base to the top of the head and 19 metres (62 ft) wide at its rear haunches. It is the oldest known monumental sculpture in Egypt and is commonly believed to have been designed, sculpted, and constructed by ancient Egyptians of the Old Kingdom during the reign of the pharaoh Khafre (circa 2558–2532 BCE).

Brief History

circa 2500 BCE

At some unknown time the Giza Necropolis was abandoned, and the Sphinx was eventually buried up to its shoulders in sand. The first documented attempt at an excavation dates to circa 1400 BCE, when the young Thutmose IV (1401–1391 or 1397–1388 BCE) gathered a team and, after much effort, managed to dig out the front paws, between which he placed a granite slab, known as the Dream Stele.

External Architecture

circa 2500 BCE

The face of the Sphinx appears to represent the pharaoh Khafre. From the 16th to the 19th centuries, European observers described the Sphinx having the face, neck and breast of a woman. Examples included Johannes Helferich (1579), George Sandys (1615), Johann Michael Vansleb (1677), Benoît de Maillet (1735) and Elliot Warburton (1844). Examination of the Sphinx's face shows that long rods or chisels were hammered into the nose area, one down from the bridge and another beneath the nostril, then used to pry the nose off towards the south, resulting in the one-metre wide nose still being lost to date. Residues of red pigment are visible on areas of the Sphinx's face and traces of yellow and blue pigment have also been found elsewhere on the Sphinx, leading Mark Lehner to suggest that the monument "was once decked out in gaudy comic book colours". Author Robert K. G. Temple proposes that the Sphinx was originally a statue of the jackal god Anubis, the god of funerals, and that its face was recarved in the likeness of a Middle Kingdom pharaoh, Amenemhet II. Temple bases his identification on the style of the eye make-up and style of the pleats on the headdress.

Internal Structures

circa 2500 BCE

Tunnels and Shafts
A number of shafts or tunnels are known to exist within or below the body of Great Sphinx at Giza. Zahi Hawass (pictured here) approaches a small square lid of a shaft, believed to have been dug by treasure hunters at some point in antiquity. At least three other shafts, one at the top of the Sphinx's head and two on it's flanks are known to exist.

circa 2500 BCE

Hypothetical Hall of Records
Hall of Records is an ancient library claimed by Edgar Cayce to lie under the Great Sphinx of Giza, which is in the Giza pyramid complex. The story of the Hall of Records is popular among those who hold alternative theories of Ancient Egypt. The phrase "Hall of Records" originated with Edgar Cayce, an American clairvoyant, although Lynn Picknett and Clive Prince say that the idea of the existence of lost Egyptian records "has a long pedigree". There is no evidence to indicate that the Hall of Records ever existed.

Dream Stela

circa 2500 BCE

The Dream Stele, is an epigraphic stele erected between the front paws of the Great Sphinx of Giza by the Ancient Egyptian Pharaoh Thutmose IV in the first year of the king's reign, 1401 BCE, during the 18th dynasty. As was common with other New Kingdom rulers, the epigraph makes claim to a divine legitimisation to pharaohship. At least two temples are known to have been associated with the Sphinx, one form the Old Kingdom and one from the New Kingdom of Egypt.

Sphinx Temples

circa 2500 BCE

Apart from the Causeway, the Pyramid and the Sphinx, the complex also includes the Great Sphinx Temple, from the Old Kingdom and Khafre's Valley Temple, both of which display similar design of their inner courts. The Sphinx Temple was built using blocks cut from the Sphinx enclosure, while those of the Valley Temple were quarried from the plateau, some of the largest weighing upwards of 100 tons. The complex also includes a Smaller Temple of Sphinx from the New Kingdom, built by Amenhotep II.

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