What up Sphinx?

Probably my earliest memory of ever seeing the Sphinx comes the Disney movie Aladdin. During Aladdin and Jasmine’s magic carpet ride they fly past a man working on the Sphinx. The man become startled when he sees them waiving at him and accidentally chips off the nose. But what else is there to know about this structure other than it being a massive architectural feat of the ancient world.

At a length of 236 feet, the Sphinx is the largest remaining structure of the ancient world. The head is human (thought to be the face of the Pharaoh Khafre) and the body of a lion and was built using natural bedrock and blocks of limestone. Why was it built? No one knows the real answer but it is thought that it may stand as a symbolic guard over the Giza plateau. The Sphinx faces the rising sun and was worshiped by some Egyptians as an aspect of the sun god. Egyptians would come to the small chapel in between the giant paws to honor the god.

As great as it would be, it was not Aladdin’s fault that the Sphinx no longer has a nose. There are many theories such as it being Napoleon’s fault or getting blown off by a lucky shot during target practice. However, the most accepted answer is that Sufis in the 8th century AD saw it as a blasphemous idol and removed the nose to deface it (haha get it. . . de”face”).

Some fun facts about the Sphinx:

  1. In antiquity, its face was painted dark red
  2. It used to have a stone beard and a cobra on its forehead.
  3. For a long time the face was interpreted as a woman because of these missing pieces.

The Sphinx was not an easy task to complete. Being that it is still standing relatively intact to this day there is no “wonder” that it is one of the Seven Wonders of the World.


4 thoughts on “What up Sphinx?

  1. I have always been interested in the Sphinx. Mainly because of how awesome it looks, with the head of a pharaoh and the body of a lion. To me, being the largest structure in the ancient world with its creative and artistic features symbolizes the power of this ancient civilization. I believe that a lion symbolizes power and is often recognized as the king of the jungle. In the case of the ancient Egyptians, the Pharaoh was considered the king of the desert.
    Scholars are not positive who exactly built the Sphinx and what its purpose was, but a few hypothesis have been brought forth. I however, am beginning to side with Egyptologists who believe that the Sphinx belonged to King Khufu rather than King Khafre. Pharaohs were known to have their own face depicted on the statues built in their honor as a way of legitimacy during their reign. King Khufu was the first Pharaoh to begin building his pyramid at Giza. It was his vision of solidifying his monarch’s power by leaving behind a great structure to stun the world. His son who became King Khafre carried out what his father began by continuing to build another amazing pyramid for himself. I believe that King Khufu had the idea of creating the Sphinx and began its construction but was finished by King Khafre, giving him the credit of building the Sphinx. There is evidence suggesting that the face depicted on the Sphinx is that of King Khufu.

  2. Jodi, you’re so punny. But aside from that, I agree with the fascination of The Sphinx. What I find doubly impressive is that archaeology has advanced to such a degree that we can make several of the claims you cite fairly certainly. The coloration of the face being one prime example. now, we understand it pretty simply – they can examine the monument and find old pigment samples to verify their claims. This is where archaeology gets incredibly interesting to me.

    I worked with the Hankla family for an exhibit at Cranbrook Institute of Science, in order to put up a show feature 90+ dinosaur skeletons. Most of them were casts, in order for us to be able to stand them up and arrange them, but there were a fair number of actual fossils as well. Even within the glass case at a museum, on could still very easily identify traits that help define the object. But I digress, this story is to relate another:

    While working John Hankla told me about one of his contemporaries and the work they were doing. This friend proposed that Brachiosaurus and other Sauropods were actually colored pink. The theory was that, similar to whales, these creatures feed on brine to help support their massive size. The archaeological record has actually given evidence that these brine held a bacteria in them that is ridiculously similar to that which is found in what flamingos eat today. Thus the pink. (I can’t find literature on this story, so you’ll have to take me word on it.)

    But here again, we find archaeological evidence as a steadfast way to help us reconsider what we thought of as the past. Even if it is something as simple as coloration. From the present it may be difficult to imagine these monuments and temples painted and decorated as they were during occupation. Just as difficult as it may be to accept giant, pink Sauropods.

  3. Jodes, I just love your blog posts. They are always informative with just the right amount of fun, wonderful reads. Any who, I have always taken some interest in the sphinx primarily because it is so prominent any time Ancient Egyptian culture is brought into play. Unfortunately, I have never been to see it for myself, but you have put its size into perspective for me- 236 feet, that is ridiculous! I also had no idea that the little chapel between the Sphinx’s paws existed. It is really fascinating to me that some Egyptians would visit the monument for religious purposes such as praying. I had always thought the Sphinx was a statement of accomplishment or what have you among the Egyptians, but to know that it served numerous purposes takes this architectural feat to a hole new level. I am a firm believer in our modern society painting under rating pictures of older civilizations. These people built a structure that even today would be “oohed and awed” for its greatness in both size and stature, and with no modern technology! Then, after reading your post, come to find out it used to be even more awesome and multifunctional?! A huge lion-man made of stone, painted fiercely to be respected as a guardian and place of personal worship. A true feat of the Ancient World, go Egypt.

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