Great Sphinx of Giza

Great Sphinx of Giza

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The Great Sphinx of Giza ( , The Father of Terror), commonly referred to as the Sphinx, is a limestone
Limestone
Limestone is a sedimentary rock composed largely of the minerals calcite and aragonite, which are different crystal forms of calcium carbonate . Many limestones are composed from skeletal fragments of marine organisms such as coral or foraminifera....

 statue
Statue
A statue is a sculpture in the round representing a person or persons, an animal, an idea or an event, normally full-length, as opposed to a bust, and at least close to life-size, or larger...

 of a reclining or couchant sphinx
Sphinx
A sphinx is a mythical creature with a lion's body and a human head or a cat head.The sphinx, in Greek tradition, has the haunches of a lion, the wings of a great bird, and the face of a woman. She is mythicised as treacherous and merciless...

 (a mythical creature
Legendary creature
A legendary creature is a mythological or folkloric creature.-Origin:Some mythical creatures have their origin in traditional mythology and have been believed to be real creatures, for example the dragon, the unicorn, and griffin...

 with a lion
Lion
The lion is one of the four big cats in the genus Panthera, and a member of the family Felidae. With some males exceeding 250 kg in weight, it is the second-largest living cat after the tiger...

's body and a human head) that stands on the Giza Plateau
Giza Plateau
The Giza Plateau is a plateau that is located in Giza, Egypt. The famous Giza Necropolis is located in this geographical area, which is characterized by a sandy, desert climate and terrain with little vegetation....

 on the west bank of the Nile
Nile
The Nile is a major north-flowing river in North Africa, generally regarded as the longest river in the world. It is long. It runs through the ten countries of Sudan, South Sudan, Burundi, Rwanda, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Tanzania, Kenya, Ethiopia, Uganda and Egypt.The Nile has two major...

 in Giza, Egypt
Egypt
Egypt , officially the Arab Republic of Egypt, Arabic: , is a country mainly in North Africa, with the Sinai Peninsula forming a land bridge in Southwest Asia. Egypt is thus a transcontinental country, and a major power in Africa, the Mediterranean Basin, the Middle East and the Muslim world...

.

It is the largest monolith
Monolith
A monolith is a geological feature such as a mountain, consisting of a single massive stone or rock, or a single piece of rock placed as, or within, a monument...

 statue in the world, standing 73.5 metres (241 ft) long, 6 metres (20 ft) wide, and 20.22 m (66.34 ft) high. It is the oldest known monumental sculpture
Monumental sculpture
The term monumental sculpture is often used in art history and criticism, but not always consistently. It combines two concepts, one of function, and one of size, and may include an element of a third more subjective concept. It is often used for all sculptures that are large...

, and is commonly believed to have been built by ancient Egypt
Ancient Egypt
Ancient Egypt was an ancient civilization of Northeastern Africa, concentrated along the lower reaches of the Nile River in what is now the modern country of Egypt. Egyptian civilization coalesced around 3150 BC with the political unification of Upper and Lower Egypt under the first pharaoh...

ians of the Old Kingdom
Old Kingdom
Old Kingdom is the name given to the period in the 3rd millennium BC when Egypt attained its first continuous peak of civilization in complexity and achievement – the first of three so-called "Kingdom" periods, which mark the high points of civilization in the lower Nile Valley .The term itself was...

 during the reign of the pharaoh
Pharaoh
Pharaoh is a title used in many modern discussions of the ancient Egyptian rulers of all periods. The title originates in the term "pr-aa" which means "great house" and describes the royal palace...

 Khafra
Khafra
Khafra — also Khafre — was an Egyptian pharaoh of the Fourth dynasty, who had his capital at Memphis. According to some authors he was the son and successor of Khufu, but it is more commonly accepted that Djedefre was Khufu's successor and Khafra was Djedefre's...

 (c. 2558–2532 BC).

Origin and identity


The Great Sphinx is one of the world's largest and oldest statues, but basic facts about it, such as who was the model for the face, when it was built, and by whom, are still debated. These questions have resulted in the popular idea of the "Riddle of the Sphinx," although this phrase should not be confused with the original Greek legend of the Riddle of the Sphinx.



Names of the Sphinx


It is not known by what name the creators called their statue, as the Great Sphinx does not appear in any known inscription of the Old Kingdom, and there are no inscriptions anywhere describing its construction or its original purpose. In the New Kingdom
New Kingdom
The New Kingdom of Egypt, also referred to as the Egyptian Empire is the period in ancient Egyptian history between the 16th century BC and the 11th century BC, covering the Eighteenth, Nineteenth, and Twentieth Dynasties of Egypt....

, the Sphinx was called Hor
Horus
Horus is one of the oldest and most significant deities in the Ancient Egyptian religion, who was worshipped from at least the late Predynastic period through to Greco-Roman times. Different forms of Horus are recorded in history and these are treated as distinct gods by Egyptologists...

-em-akhet
Akhet (hieroglyph and season)
The Egyptian language word Akhet is both a hieroglyph and an Ancient Egyptian season.The two uses for akhet:* In ancient Egyptian, the place where the sun rises and sets; often translated as "horizon" or "mountain of light". It is included in names like "Akhet Khufu" and Akhetaten...

(Horus
Horus
Horus is one of the oldest and most significant deities in the Ancient Egyptian religion, who was worshipped from at least the late Predynastic period through to Greco-Roman times. Different forms of Horus are recorded in history and these are treated as distinct gods by Egyptologists...

 of the Horizon; Hellenized
Hellenization
Hellenization is a term used to describe the spread of ancient Greek culture, and, to a lesser extent, language. It is mainly used to describe the spread of Hellenistic civilization during the Hellenistic period following the campaigns of Alexander the Great of Macedon...

: Harmachis), and the pharaoh Thutmose IV (1401–1391 or 1397–1388 BC) specifically referred to it as such in his Dream Stele
Dream Stele
The Dream Stele of Thutmose IV was erected in the first year of his reign, 1401 BC. Also called the Sphinx Stele, it is claimed to be like other New Kingdom pharaohs, a divine legitimisation to pharaohship.-Text:Partial text:-Stele description:...

.

The commonly used name Sphinx
Sphinx
A sphinx is a mythical creature with a lion's body and a human head or a cat head.The sphinx, in Greek tradition, has the haunches of a lion, the wings of a great bird, and the face of a woman. She is mythicised as treacherous and merciless...

was given to it in Classical antiquity
Classical antiquity
Classical antiquity is a broad term for a long period of cultural history centered on the Mediterranean Sea, comprising the interlocking civilizations of ancient Greece and ancient Rome, collectively known as the Greco-Roman world...

, about 2000 years after the accepted date of its construction, by reference to a Greek mythological beast with a lion
Lion
The lion is one of the four big cats in the genus Panthera, and a member of the family Felidae. With some males exceeding 250 kg in weight, it is the second-largest living cat after the tiger...

's body, a woman's head and the wings of an eagle
Eagle
Eagles are members of the bird family Accipitridae, and belong to several genera which are not necessarily closely related to each other. Most of the more than 60 species occur in Eurasia and Africa. Outside this area, just two species can be found in the United States and Canada, nine more in...

 (although, like most Egyptian sphinxes, the Great Sphinx has a man's head and no wings). The English word sphinx comes from the ancient Greek
Ancient Greek
Ancient Greek is the stage of the Greek language in the periods spanning the times c. 9th–6th centuries BC, , c. 5th–4th centuries BC , and the c. 3rd century BC – 6th century AD of ancient Greece and the ancient world; being predated in the 2nd millennium BC by Mycenaean Greek...

 Σφίγξ (transliterated: ), apparently from the verb σφίγγω (transliterated: / to squeeze), after the Greek sphinx who strangled anyone who failed to answer her riddle.

The name may alternatively be a corruption of the ancient Egyptian
Egyptian language
Egyptian is the oldest known indigenous language of Egypt and a branch of the Afroasiatic language family. Written records of the Egyptian language have been dated from about 3400 BC, making it one of the oldest recorded languages known. Egyptian was spoken until the late 17th century AD in the...

 Ssp-anx (in MdC
Manuel de Codage
The Manuel de Codage is a standard system for the computer-encoding of transliterations of Egyptian hieroglyphic texts.-History:...

), a name given to royal statues of Dynasty IV
Fourth dynasty of Egypt
The fourth dynasty of ancient Egypt is characterized as a "golden age" of the Old Kingdom. Dynasty IV lasted from ca. 2613 to 2494 BC...

 (2575–2467 BC and later) in the New Kingdom ( 1570–1070 BC) to the Great Sphinx more specifically, although phonetically the two names are far from identical.

Medieval Arab
Arab
Arab people, also known as Arabs , are a panethnicity primarily living in the Arab world, which is located in Western Asia and North Africa. They are identified as such on one or more of genealogical, linguistic, or cultural grounds, with tribal affiliations, and intra-tribal relationships playing...

 writers, including al-Maqrīzī
Al-Maqrizi
Taqi al-Din Ahmad ibn 'Ali ibn 'Abd al-Qadir ibn Muhammad al-Maqrizi ; Arabic: , was an Egyptian historian more commonly known as al-Maqrizi or Makrizi...

, call the Sphinx balhib and bilhaw, which suggest a Coptic
Coptic language
Coptic or Coptic Egyptian is the current stage of the Egyptian language, a northern Afro-Asiatic language spoken in Egypt until at least the 17th century. Egyptian began to be written using the Greek alphabet in the 1st century...

 influence. The modern Egyptian Arabic
Egyptian Arabic
Egyptian Arabic is the language spoken by contemporary Egyptians.It is more commonly known locally as the Egyptian colloquial language or Egyptian dialect ....

 name is أبو الهول .

Builder and timeframe


Despite conflicting evidence and viewpoints over the years, the traditional view held by modern Egyptology at large remains that the Great Sphinx was built in approximately 2500 BC by the pharaoh Khafra
Khafra
Khafra — also Khafre — was an Egyptian pharaoh of the Fourth dynasty, who had his capital at Memphis. According to some authors he was the son and successor of Khufu, but it is more commonly accepted that Djedefre was Khufu's successor and Khafra was Djedefre's...

, the builder of the second pyramid
Pyramid
A pyramid is a structure whose outer surfaces are triangular and converge at a single point. The base of a pyramid can be trilateral, quadrilateral, or any polygon shape, meaning that a pyramid has at least three triangular surfaces...

 at Giza.

Selim Hassan
Selim Hassan
Selim Hassan was an Egyptian Egyptologist. He wrote the 16-volume Encyclopedia of Ancient Egypt in Arabic and supervised the excavation of many ancient Egyptian tombs under the auspices of Cairo University.-Giza:...

, writing in 1949 on recent excavations of the Sphinx enclosure, summed up the problem:
"Taking all things into consideration, it seems that we must give the credit of erecting this, the world's most wonderful statue, to Khafre, but always with this reservation: that there is not one single contemporary inscription which connects the Sphinx with Khafre; so, sound as it may appear, we must treat the evidence as circumstantial, until such time as a lucky turn of the spade of the excavator will reveal to the world a definite reference to the erection of the Sphinx."


The "circumstantial" evidence mentioned by Hassan includes the Sphinx's location in the context of the funerary complex surrounding the Second Pyramid, which is traditionally connected with Khafra. Apart from the Causeway, the Pyramid and the Sphinx, the complex also includes the Sphinx Temple and the Valley Temple, both of which display the same architectural style, with 200-tonne
Tonne
The tonne, known as the metric ton in the US , often put pleonastically as "metric tonne" to avoid confusion with ton, is a metric system unit of mass equal to 1000 kilograms. The tonne is not an International System of Units unit, but is accepted for use with the SI...

 stone blocks quarried out of the Sphinx Enclosure.

A diorite
Diorite
Diorite is a grey to dark grey intermediate intrusive igneous rock composed principally of plagioclase feldspar , biotite, hornblende, and/or pyroxene. It may contain small amounts of quartz, microcline and olivine. Zircon, apatite, sphene, magnetite, ilmenite and sulfides occur as accessory...

 statue of Khafra, which was discovered buried upside down along with other debris in the Valley Temple, is claimed as support for the Khafra theory.

The Dream Stele
Stele
A stele , also stela , is a stone or wooden slab, generally taller than it is wide, erected for funerals or commemorative purposes, most usually decorated with the names and titles of the deceased or living — inscribed, carved in relief , or painted onto the slab...

, erected much later by the pharaoh Thutmose IV (1401–1391 or 1397–1388 BC), associates the Sphinx with Khafra. When the stela was discovered, its lines of text were already damaged and incomplete, and only referred to Khaf, not Khafra. An extract was translated:
"... which we bring for him: oxen ... and all the young vegetables; and we shall give praise to Wenofer ... Khaf ... the statue made for Atum
Atum
Atum, sometimes rendered as Atem or Tem, is an important deity in Egyptian mythology.- Name :Atum's name is thought to be derived from the word 'tem' which means to complete or finish. Thus he has been interpreted as being the 'complete one' and also the finisher of the world, which he returns to...

-Hor-em-Akhet
Akhet (hieroglyph and season)
The Egyptian language word Akhet is both a hieroglyph and an Ancient Egyptian season.The two uses for akhet:* In ancient Egyptian, the place where the sun rises and sets; often translated as "horizon" or "mountain of light". It is included in names like "Akhet Khufu" and Akhetaten...

."
The Egyptologist Thomas Young
Thomas Young (scientist)
Thomas Young was an English polymath. He is famous for having partly deciphered Egyptian hieroglyphics before Jean-François Champollion eventually expanded on his work...

, finding the Khaf hieroglyphs in a damaged cartouche
Cartouche
In Egyptian hieroglyphs, a cartouche is an ellipse with a horizontal line at one end, indicating that the text enclosed is a royal name, coming into use during the beginning of the Fourth Dynasty under Pharaoh Sneferu, replacing the earlier serekh...

 used to surround a royal name, inserted the glyph ra to complete Khafra's name. However, the stela offers no indication of the relationship between the Sphinx and 'Khafra' – as its builder, restorer, worshipper or otherwise. When the Stela was re-excavated in 1925, the lines of text referring to Khaf flaked off and were destroyed.

Dissenting hypotheses


Some Egyptologists and geologists have disagreed with the mainstream theories of construction, and have proposed various alternative theories—about the builder or the dating—to explain the Sphinx's construction.

Early Egyptologists


Many of the early Egyptologists and excavators of the Giza pyramid complex
Giza pyramid complex
The Giza Necropolis is an archaeological site on the Giza Plateau, on the outskirts of Cairo, Egypt. This complex of ancient monuments includes the three pyramid complexes known as the Great Pyramids, the massive sculpture known as the Great Sphinx, several cemeteries, a workers' village and an...

 believed the Great Sphinx and other structures in the Sphinx Enclosure predated the traditional date of construction (the reign of Khafra
Khafra
Khafra — also Khafre — was an Egyptian pharaoh of the Fourth dynasty, who had his capital at Memphis. According to some authors he was the son and successor of Khufu, but it is more commonly accepted that Djedefre was Khufu's successor and Khafra was Djedefre's...

 or Khephren, 2520–2492 BC).

In 1857, Auguste Mariette
Auguste Mariette
François Auguste Ferdinand Mariette was a French scholar, archaeologist and Egyptologist, the designer of the rebuilt Egyptian Museum under Maximilian of Austria orders when the later had gained control of the artifacts collected to that point.-Early career:Born at Boulogne-sur-Mer, Mariette...

, founder of the Egyptian Museum
Egyptian Museum
The Museum of Egyptian Antiquities, known commonly as the Egyptian Museum, in Cairo, Egypt, is home to an extensive collection of ancient Egyptian antiquities. It has 120,000 items, with a representative amount on display, the remainder in storerooms....

 in Cairo, unearthed the much later Inventory Stela (estimated Dynasty XXVI
Twenty-sixth dynasty of Egypt
The Twenty-sixth Dynasty of Egypt was the last native dynasty to rule Egypt before the Persian conquest in 525 BC . The Dynasty's reign The Twenty-sixth Dynasty of Egypt (also written Dynasty XXVI or Dynasty 26) was the last native dynasty to rule Egypt before the Persian conquest in 525 BC...

, c. 678–525 BC), which tells how Khufu came upon the Sphinx, already buried in sand. Although certain tracts on the Stela are considered good evidence, this passage is widely dismissed as Late Period
Late Period of Ancient Egypt
The Late Period of Ancient Egypt refers to the last flowering of native Egyptian rulers after the Third Intermediate Period from the 26th Saite Dynasty into Persian conquests and ended with the death of Alexander the Great...

 historical revisionism
Historical revisionism
In historiography, historical revisionism is the reinterpretation of orthodox views on evidence, motivations, and decision-making processes surrounding a historical event...

.

Gaston Maspero
Gaston Maspero
Gaston Camille Charles Maspero was a French Egyptologist.-Life:Gaston Maspero was born in Paris to parents of Lombard origin. While at school he showed a special taste for history, and by the age of fourteen he was already interested in hieroglyphic writing...

, the French
French people
The French are a nation that share a common French culture and speak the French language as a mother tongue. Historically, the French population are descended from peoples of Celtic, Latin and Germanic origin, and are today a mixture of several ethnic groups...

 Egyptologist and second director of the Egyptian Museum in Cairo, conducted a survey of the Sphinx in 1886 and concluded:
"The Sphinx stela shows, in line thirteen, the cartouche
Cartouche
In Egyptian hieroglyphs, a cartouche is an ellipse with a horizontal line at one end, indicating that the text enclosed is a royal name, coming into use during the beginning of the Fourth Dynasty under Pharaoh Sneferu, replacing the earlier serekh...

 of Khephren
Khafra
Khafra — also Khafre — was an Egyptian pharaoh of the Fourth dynasty, who had his capital at Memphis. According to some authors he was the son and successor of Khufu, but it is more commonly accepted that Djedefre was Khufu's successor and Khafra was Djedefre's...

. I believe that to indicate an excavation carried out by that prince, following which, the almost certain proof that the Sphinx was already buried in sand by the time of Khafre and his predecessors [i.e. Dynasty IV
Fourth dynasty of Egypt
The fourth dynasty of ancient Egypt is characterized as a "golden age" of the Old Kingdom. Dynasty IV lasted from ca. 2613 to 2494 BC...

, c. 2575–2467 BC]."


In 1904, English
English people
The English are a nation and ethnic group native to England, who speak English. The English identity is of early mediaeval origin, when they were known in Old English as the Anglecynn. England is now a country of the United Kingdom, and the majority of English people in England are British Citizens...

 Egyptologist E. A. Wallis Budge
E. A. Wallis Budge
Sir Ernest Alfred Thompson Wallis Budge was an English Egyptologist, Orientalist, and philologist who worked for the British Museum and published numerous works on the ancient Near East.-Earlier life:...

 wrote in The Gods of the Egyptians:
"This marvelous object [the Great Sphinx] was in existence in the days of Khafre
Khafra
Khafra — also Khafre — was an Egyptian pharaoh of the Fourth dynasty, who had his capital at Memphis. According to some authors he was the son and successor of Khufu, but it is more commonly accepted that Djedefre was Khufu's successor and Khafra was Djedefre's...

, or Khephren, and it is probable that it is a very great deal older than his reign and that it dates from the end of the archaic period
Early Dynastic Period of Egypt
The Archaic or Early Dynastic Period of Egypt immediately follows the unification of Lower and Upper Egypt c. 3100 BC. It is generally taken to include the First and Second Dynasties, lasting from the Protodynastic Period of Egypt until about 2686 BC, or the beginning of the Old Kingdom...

 [c. 2686 BC]."