Sunday, October 9, 2011

The Real Riddles of the Sphinx


For something so large, it may seem strange to even have a section entitled 'discovery'; how could the sphinx - which is 71 metres tall, and six metres wide - have ever been hidden?

Due to its desert location, the Great Sphinx of Giza has spent much of its 5000-year history buried underneath huge piles of sand. Although various excavations were attempted throughout history, it was not until 1925 that the landmark was completely excavated and free of sand.

It was only when the full excavation was complete that the modern story of intrigue and fascination with the Sphinx began. It is a love that extends beyond scholarly Egyptologists; the Sphinx is one of the most visited landmarks in all of Egypt.

Guardian of the Dead

It is believed - though not definitively known - that Sphinx sits as a guardian over the Pyramids of Giza. The site, known as the Giza Necropolis, features the famous pyramid of the same area name built by Pharaoh Khafra in 2,500 BC. As pyramids are first and foremost burial tombs for notable dignities, it would seem to make sense that the Sphinx was erected to stand guard over would-be thieves and graverobbers; a persistent problem in ancient Egyptian times.

However, the exact date of or reason for the Sphinx's erection is relatively unknown. There are many theories, and some scientific studying of its possible lifespan, but nothing specific has ever been fully deduced. It is not referenced in any form of written record. General consensus in modern Egyptology is that the Sphinx is around 5000 years old.

Who Nose?

If you'll forgive the terrible pun, it's time to explore one of the most intriguing facets of the structure: to whom does the face belong? Most Egyptian architecture and carving depicted a specific person - usually the Pharaoh, or a member of the royal dynasty - so it is widely assumed the face of the Sphinx is actually based on a person.

There are many, many theories, from which one would struggle to extrapolate any particular consensus among Egyptologists. Some believe the face is that of Khafra, who built the great Pyramid of Giza, while others are equally insistent that the face is that of Chephron, Khafra's predecessor. Essentially, however, no one knows.

The other intriguing aspect of the face of the Sphinx is the nose; or the lack thereof. There are many rumours that surround the nose of the Sphinx, including that it was blasted off during the Napoleonic wars, though this is largely thought to be a myth. General consensus suggests the nose fell, or was hacked off by thieves, around 2,500 years ago.


Considering such basic facts about the Sphinx are unknown, its place in Egyptian history is all the more impressive. Around 5,000 years after it was first constructed, it still stands guardian over the tombs it protects, and keeps its secrets to itself.

For more information on the history, tourism and attractions of the wonderful country of Egypt, visit Egypt Online Guide.

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