The Great Sphinx in Egypt is the silent guard of the pyramids
In late 2014, the Egyptians completed the next restoration of the Great Sphinx near Cairo in Giza, and now tourists are allowed close to this grandiose monument. The opportunity to view the statue in detail gave the tourists more questions than answers. In this article we will point out what tourists should pay attention to, tell about the history of the Sphinx, its mysteries and riddles.
The statue of the Sphinx is 73.5 meters in length, 19.3 meters in width and 20.2 meters in height. The face of the statue is 4.17 meters wide, the mouth width is 2.31 meters, and the nose was 1.7 meters high.
The Great Sphinx protects the Great Egyptian pyramids of Giza. For 4.5 thousand years already, and perhaps longer, he looks to the east, meeting the rising sun.
It is difficult to find another ancient monument on earth, about which so many fantastic hypotheses would have been born, it would have written so many articles in the "yellow" press and so many pseudo-scientific and mystical films have been filmed.
The reason for this situation is very simple - we know almost nothing about the Great Sphinx in Giza.
The most striking
The Egyptians did not leave us a single written document, where we could read about the time of the construction of the Sphinx, its creators or even its purpose.
Many readers have heard the phrase "Sphinx riddle". The Sphinx is often mentioned in European and Russian literature, appearing as a symbol of sometimes wisdom, sometimes cunning, and sometimes cruelty. All these images have nothing to do with Egypt, they are all elements of the culture of ancient Greece.
The Sphinx in ancient Greece looked a little different. It was a creature with a lion's body, a woman's head, wings of an eagle and a tail in the form of a snake with its head. As you noticed, the main difference from the Egyptian version is in the female field of the Greek monster. Statues of such sphinxes can be found not only in Greece, in the photo on the left there is a sculpture from Belvedere Palace in Vienna in Austria.
Many travelers of the Middle Ages visited Egypt and left their memories of the Sphinx. In their notes it is sometimes noted that the statue has a female face and has a female breast, although nothing of the kind appears in the drawings of that time. It's amazing how the cultural factor made people see not what it really is.
The image of the Sphinx in culture is formed by the Greeks. They considered this creature to be wicked, but wise. It symbolized the wisdom of the ancient people and punished everyone who did not aspire to knowledge. The very word "Sphinx" is of Greek origin, and is translated literally as "strangler".
The name of the Sphinx
The name "Choker" went from the way the monster killed its victims. The Sphinx asked a man a riddle. If a person did not guess the riddle, then the monster strangled him. Of course, the Egyptians themselves never used this name.
The ancient Egyptians gave the Great Sphinx a lot of names. One of them - "Shesep-ankh", which translates as "A lively image" or "Shezep-ankh Khafra", translates as "A lively image of Khafra."
Another name "Horeamach" translates as "God of the Mountains on the horizon". It appeared in the era of the New Kingdom.
A few less common names of the Great Sphinx were associated with its direction to the rising sun. The Egyptians called him "Overcoming darkness" and "God of the sunrise".
In 642, Egypt was conquered by the Arabs. They called the Sphinx "Abu al-Hul" (according to another transcription of "Abu-Hola"), which translates as "Father of Fear".
From this name, some researchers conclude that the statue used to look scarier than it is now. This version is not confirmed. Such a loud name is understandable. The Arabs before that lived on the Arabian Peninsula and did not build any monuments, they simply did not have the resources for this. Think about the impression that the Great Sphinx made on people who did not see anything real except in camels? It is logical that he seemed to them huge and terrible.
The Riddle of the Sphinx
In fact, the "riddle of the Sphinx" is a real mystery. It sounds like this: "Who walks on four legs in the morning, on two in the afternoon, and in the evening on three?"
According to legend, the Sphinx (Greek, not Egyptian) settled near the passage to the Greek city of Thebes (do not confuse with the Egyptian city of Thebes). He asked puzzles for passing travelers and killed them when they could not answer.
The inhabitants of the city promised to make a king any who will save them from the monster. Past Edip, to whom the sphinx asked this riddle, and he answered it. The answer is: man. In early childhood we crawl on all fours, already in adulthood we move on two legs, and in old age we go with a stick or stick.
Hearing the answer, the monster could not stand the shame, flew into the sky and collapsed down, you can say, self-destructed. Oedipus became a king, which ended sadly for him, but the continuation of history is now of no interest to us.
There is also the second version of the riddle of the Sphinx: "Two sisters live, one gives birth to the second, and the second one." This riddle Russians rarely guess due to the peculiarities of the Russian language.
Answer: day and night. Now many readers will say that the word "day" is masculine, how can a day be a sister? That's why we do not guess. In Greek, the word "day" of the feminine gender, so it was in antiquity, and so it is now. It turns out that in Greek, night and day can be sisters.
When we talk about the mysterious facts and phenomena associated with the Sphinx, we will use the phrase "secrets of the Sphinx" in order not to be confused.
From theory to practice. We will tell that the tourist in Egypt can find interesting in the statue.
What to look for - facing
Of course, tourists admire the size of the statue. It's even hard to imagine that this statue was carved from a solid rock 4500 years ago. However, after looking at the Great Sphinx, most visitors to the Giza plateau conclude that the statue is made up of stone blocks, like the pyramids.
This impression is not accidental, since joints are clearly seen on the external surface (see the photo on the left). This feeling is partly even true, since the paws of the statue are really made of bricks. But the trunk is carved from a solid rock.
These are the joints between the granite slabs of the facing of the statue. Such a cover once covered all the pyramids, and now its remains can be seen on the north side of the lowest pyramid of Mykerin .
When the statue was built during the period of the Ancient Kingdom, this cladding was not yet there, it simply was not necessary. It appeared 1200 years later in the era of the New Kingdom. Two Pharaohs at different times carried out the restoration of the Sphinx - this is Thutmose IV and Ramses II. Who of them made the facing, we do not really know, but most Egyptologists tend to Thutmose IV.
What to look for - the rock itself
Some tourists notice that the rock in the neck area is slightly different in color from the rest of the statue. This effect is difficult to notice. In the photo below it is visible.
Indeed, the rock from which the Great Sphinx was carved was structurally similar to a hamburger. The hard limestone is below, soft in the middle and very hard at the top in the head area.
This became a serious problem for the ancient rockets, but they came out of a difficult situation. The neck of the sculpture was specially made thicker, so as not to break under the weight of the head.
If you look at the Sphinx in profile, you will see that the neck looks a bit awkward. The second consequence of such a layered rock structure was the very good preservation of the head of the statue in the deplorable state of the trunk and neck.
What to look for - paint
Do you know that in ancient times the statue of the Sphinx was painted with bright colors? However, the Egyptians painted all the statues in different colors. The ancient inhabitants of Egypt were cheerful and cheerful people, they loved everything beautiful. In addition, the statues were considered receptacles of some parts of the deceased's soul, and, therefore, should have been as close to him as possible.
The last coloring of the statue of the Great Sphinx was made by the same pharaoh Thutmose IV from the XVIII dynasty.
We do not know exactly what colors the Sphinx was painted then, but we can definitely state that the blue color was present. Before the right ear of the statue there were traces of blue paint (see the photo on the left). They are difficult to see, especially in sunny weather, but it's worth trying to do it.
The rest of the colors are not exactly known to us. According to the most popular opinion, the face was dark red, and in the headdress alternated red and blue stripes. This headdress was called "nimes". On the forehead of the statue is an object called "urey" - this is the image of the serpent goddess Wajit. Uray was painted in red and blue. Once again we want to warn that this is only a version that does not have material evidence.
What to look for - a stele at the feet
Between the legs of the statue is a memorial stone, it is called the "stele of sleep" or "stele of the dream." She really talks about the dream of Thutmose IV - Pharaoh of the XVIII dynasty. This is a very interesting legend, which we will discuss in the next section of this article. Now let us dwell on another important fact about this stele.
Scientists have long been concerned about the question of who built the Great Sphinx. The most plausible version is Pharaoh Chephren. The Sphinx was part of an architectural ensemble from the Khafre pyramid , two funeral temples of this pharaoh, the statue itself and the Sphinx temple.
This hypothesis has no direct evidence, only one indirect - this stele. On it in the 13th line the syllable "haf" was mentioned. The first stele was researched by philologist Thomas Young from England. He made a copy through a tracing-paper (facsimile), which turned out to be the right solution (see the photo on the right). Now this line has completely erased.
There it was said: "We will glorify (the text is lost) Haf (syllable lost) statue".
From the context, Thomas Young immediately realized that this is the name of the pharaoh Khafra (Khafre). But now scientists already doubt it. Firstly, the cartouche was not clearly visible around the name. A kartush is a circle around a name that clearly shows that this name belongs to Pharaoh. Secondly, the syllable "haf" could belong to a different word, rather than the name of the ruler.
Pharaoh Chephren really could be mentioned in this text, but it does not say that he built the Sphinx. He could be mentioned for another reason. For example, he could clean it of sand, as did Thutmose IV, who erected this stele by writing a story about himself on it.
The Legend of Thutmose IV
Thutmose was the son of Pharaoh Amenhotep II, but he was not the eldest. That is, he stood in line for the throne, but somewhere at the end of this line.
One day Thutmose hunted Giza's plateau and decided to rest. He lay down to sleep in the shadow of the Great Sphinx, or rather in the shadow of his head, as the body of the statue was carried by sand.
In the dream Thutmose appeared the great god Horus (Harmakhis) and asked him to dig a statue out of sand. As payment for the service, Gore promised Tutmose to make him a pharaoh. Thutmose agreed to the deal and soon became ruler. He fulfilled his promise: he dug up the statue, restored it and painted it again.
This legend is in the spirit of the ancient Egyptians. Man and God conclude a contract, and both fulfill their obligations. It would seem that it can be criminal?
And now we'll think together. Thutmose was far in line, and suddenly became the first! And where did the rest of the lineup go? Naturally, they went to Osiris to the afterlife. There was no other way of abdication in ancient Egypt.
There are ancient texts that accuse Thutmose of killing a brother, although there is no direct evidence of this fact.
Such a coming of Thutmose to power with the death of other heirs raised doubts and made his authority illegitimate in the eyes of the priesthood and the people.
Thutmose IV needed to show urgently that the power was given him by the gods, otherwise he himself would go to Osiris. In addition, he needed to somehow do this without the priests, which made the task even more difficult for him.
The Great Sphinx was an excellent way out of the situation. The embodiment of God, with whom the future pharaoh could communicate in person, without the participation of priests. So this legend was born, and all worked "on the five". We do not find any doubts in the legitimacy of the power of Thutmose IV in the ancient texts.
Thutmose IV rules only 9 years, the causes of his death are unknown. He died young, which is clear from his mummy. Perhaps he still did not please the priests of Amun, who already had enormous power even then. At least, Thutmose IV invented the Sphinx one more function in addition to the main purpose.
Appointment of the Great Sphinx
Dozens of hypotheses have already been made about the appointment of the Great Sphinx. Let's start with the most plausible.
Today, on the Giza plateau near the Great Pyramids there are excursion groups, guides and souvenir dealers work. But in ancient times the entrance here was allowed only to priests and builders. All the simple Egyptians were on the Giza plateau persona non Grata.
Naturally, we needed some methods to dare unexpected visitors from the pyramids. Put through every meter of the guard was too expensive. It was more effective to put something frightening that would scare people away. And such a bogey was the Great Sphinx.
It is located between the pyramids and the ancient city of Memphis, right in the most convenient place for this task. For the ancient people, the Sphinx looked very frightening, even to approach it many did not dare.
When the Ancient Empire of Egypt fell, and anarchy began in the country, the Sphinx did not stop the robbers. All the pyramids were looted. The Sphinx did not suffer at the same time, he did not have any treasure, and there was nothing to take.
The second version of the appointment of the Sphinx is more interesting for an ordinary tourist. Scientists have found that twice a year the sun's rays fall on the face of the statue strictly perpendicular. In addition, the shadows from the pyramids and the Sphinx converge in a specific way once a year.
From all this, a hypothesis was born that the Great Sphinx was used in ancient Egypt to maintain a calendar. And in fact with this version you can not argue!
Indeed, no one interferes with using the shadow of the statue to determine the days of the summer and winter solstices and to keep a calendar on these marks.
On the other hand, why does the Sphinx need this? To conduct a calendar in this way it is possible on any stationary object, which gives a shadow from the sun.
Each reader can begin to maintain their own calendar with the help of a nearby lamppost. It is necessary to find out by experimentally the maximum removal of the shadow from the object, to fix this moment and this place. Next, the next year, when the shadow reaches this length, then know that the moment of the winter solstice has come. It is not necessary to create a huge statue for this.
Another interesting assumption is connected with the temple of the Sphinx, which is next to the statue. In the temple there were 24 columns, which clearly symbolizes 12 o'clock in the afternoon and 12 o'clock in the morning.
Of course, the Egyptians in antiquity did not know such a unit of time - hour. Correctly to say: 12 parts of the day and 12 parts of the night, these parts did not necessarily last the same time. All this symbolically means life and death, our world and the world of the dead.
The hypothesis says that the Sphinx and its temple were the places of contact of the worlds - the only place where you can communicate with the dead.
Of course, there is no evidence of this hypothesis, but indirectly it is indicated by objects that archeologists call "false doors". This is a door that does not lead anywhere, that is, behind it is a wall. It is believed that these doors were made in the temples for the arrival of the dead in our world if necessary.
Another version. The Sphinx is a symbol of the power of the pharaohs, it symbolizes the power given to the ruler by the gods. There is no reason to doubt, this function of the statue was exactly, but clearly was not the main purpose.
And another theory - "Theory of the constellation of Orion." She is the most beautiful, but also the most senseless.
As you know, stars are constantly changing their location. There are calculations by which you can see how the constellations looked N years ago.
Egyptologists Sin Hancock and Robert Buvall considered how the constellation of Orion looked 10,500 years BC. They found that the complex in Giza exactly repeats the configuration of the three stars of the "Orion Belt" (see the photo on the right).
The pyramids are the three main stars of the constellation Orion. The Nile is a milky way. The Sphinx is the constellation of Leo. It is very beautiful and romantic, but what sense could it have for ancient people 12,500 years ago? By the way, there is no Sphinx temple in this theory, which spoils such a beautiful picture.
Temple of the Sphinx
Near the statue's feet was a temple that was in the shape of a diamond with sides 30 meters and with 24 columns 12 meters high. The temple is almost completely destroyed. No interesting archaeological finds were made in it. The purpose and functions of the temple are not clear. For tourists, he is of no interest.
Who built the Sphinx and whose face?
Disputes about the authorship of the monument last more than 50 years. The classical version - the Great Sphinx was built by Pharaoh Khafre (Khafra), and the statue features this pharaoh. We are not going to talk about the similarity of features. See two photos and compare: a photo of the Sphinx's face and a photo of the face of the sculpture of Pharaoh Khafre , now exhibited in the Cairo Museum .
This version has no direct evidence, but there are many indirect ones. First, the faces of the Sphinx and other statues of Pharaoh Khafre are close to stylistic, which allows us to conclude that they were created in the same era.
The statue is located next to the memorial temple of Khafre and opposite to its pyramid. The sculpture very harmoniously fits into the complex of the pyramids of Giza, therefore, the whole architectural complex was created in one epoch.
Next to the Sphinx archaeologists found a statuette of the pharaoh Khafre, which the ancient builders forgot in the construction debris. We have already mentioned the "stele of sleep", which is between the paws, Pharaoh Chephren is mentioned there.
On the sum of all these indirect proofs, the version about Hefrene has become most widespread. But many disagree with her.
Some scholars believe that the Great Sphinx was created 9-10 thousand years before our era. The supporters of this theory have their own indirect evidence.
The most important proof is erosion, which can be seen on the body of the statue. Some experts say that it is caused by water.
Tourists visiting the pyramids, do not even suspect that in this place once there were heavy rains. And it really was so. Even 4,500 years ago, the climate in Egypt was much nicer, there was not yet the Sahara desert, it was only advancing on Egypt.
Rains could well cause erosion and 4,500 years ago, this evidence should not be taken seriously.
Another proof was presented to us by the Japanese scientist Sakuji Yoshimura in 1988. He was able to determine that the stone from which the Sphinx is carved is older than the blocks of the pyramids. He used echolocation. No one seriously took it. Indeed, it is impossible to determine the age of the rock by echolocation.
The only serious evidence of the "ancient Sphinx theory" is the "Inventory stele". This monument was found in 1857 by Auguste Mariette, the founder of the Cairo Museum (pictured left).
On this stele there is an inscription that Pharaoh Cheops (Khufu) found a statue of the Sphinx already buried in the sand. But this stele was created during the 26th dynasty, that is, 2000 years after the life of Cheops. Do not strongly trust this source.
One thing we can say for sure is that the Sphinx has the head and face of the pharaoh. This is evidenced by the headdress nemes (or claft) (see photo ) and the decorative element of the uraeus (see photo ) on the forehead of the sculpture. These attributes could only be worn by the pharaoh of Upper and Lower Egypt. If the statue retained its nose, then we would be closer to unraveling it.
By the way, where's the nose?
In the mass consciousness, the version dominates that the nose was shot down by the French in 1798-1800. Napoleon then conquered Egypt, and his gunners trained by shooting at the Great Sphinx.
This is not even a version, but a "fiction". In 1757 the traveler Frederick Louis Norden from Denmark published sketches made by him in Giza, and the nose was no longer there. At the time of publication, Napoleon was not even born yet. The sketch you can see in the photo on the right, the nose really is not.
The reasons for the accusations of Napoleon are understandable. Attitude towards him in Europe was very negative, he was often called a "monster." As soon as there was an occasion for someone to blame for damage to the historical heritage of mankind, of course, they chose him as the "scapegoat".
As soon as the version about Napoleon began to actively refute, a second similar version arose. It says that the Mamlukes were fired from the cannons of the Great Sphinx. We can not explain why public opinion tends so much toward hypotheses involving guns? This is worth asking sociologists and psychoanalysts. This version also received no confirmation.
A proven version of the loss of a nose is expressed in the work of the Arab historian al-Makrizi. He writes that in 1378 a religious fanatic defeated the nose of the statue. He was outraged that the inhabitants of the Nile Valley worshiped the statue and brought her gifts. We even know the name of this iconoclast - Mohammed Saim al-Dahr.
Nowadays, scientists have researched the area of the nose of the Sphinx and found traces of the chisel, that is, the nose was broken off precisely with this tool. In total there are two such traces - one chisel was crammed under the nostril and the other from above.
These tracks are small, and the tourist does not notice them. However, you can try to imagine how this fanatic could do it. Apparently, he was lowered down on the rope. The Sphinx had lost its nose, and Saim al-Dahr's life, the crowd had torn him to pieces.
From this story, we can conclude that the Sphinx was still in the 14th century still a subject of worship and worship of the Egyptians, although almost 750 years have passed since the Arabs began to rule.
There is another version of the loss of the statue of the nose - natural causes. Erosion destroys the statue, and even a part of her head falls off. It was installed back during the last restoration. And this statue had many restorations.
History of the Sphinx Restorations
We already spoke about the first restoration by Pharaoh Thutmose IV. After him, another pharaoh of the New Kingdom completely unearthed the statue. It was Ramesses II, whom we know from the Abu Simbel temple , inscriptions in the Luxor temple and frescoes in the Karnak temple .
The next restoration began already in New time. The Sphinx was reopened in 1817, Italian Giovanni Batista Cavigilia supervised the process.
Completely the statue was dug out by 1925, and the legs were finished to be cleaned of sand in 1936. The work was finished by the Frenchman Emil Baraiz.
Part of the head fell off just in 1926. It turned out that the erosion penetrated too deeply into the sculpture. In 1931, part of the head was mounted back.
By the way, they repaired "on conscience". The seam is on the front surface of the hood, and it is almost invisible. If you visit Giza as a tourist, be sure to take a look, you will notice it.
Perhaps, this is all that we can tell tourists about the Great Sphinx. We hope, after reading our article, you will find it much more interesting to look at it. Read also other interesting reviews about Egypt on our website ( links below ).
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