What Happened to the Nose?

Recently in class we have been discussing the great archaeological discoveries of the Giza Plateau. The Great Pyramids of Giza are thought of to be the best and most iconic representation of the Egyptian pyramid form. Khufu’s Pyramid, known as “The Great Pyramid,” remains intact at 455 meters tall and has been a source of fascination since the earliest of times. Menkaure’s Pyramid and Khafre’s Pyramid, although smaller, are of great architectural wonder as well.  But what captured my interest is what lay just south of Khafre’s pyramid, the monumental statue known as The Sphinx. The immense stone structure with the human head and lion body is a highly recognized construction throughout the world. There is a wealth of speculation surrounding this monument, from how old it is and who built it to the secrets that it holds. However, the most important question, in my opinion, is where did its nose go?

While I was researching to find out around what time the nose was found to be missing, I learned some interesting information about the upkeep of the Sphinx. The monument has actually been submerged under sand for most of its existence, and this has saved it from total destruction from other factors such as time, man, and especially pollution. Pharaoh Tuthmosis IV was the first to attempt to restore the Great Sphinx in order to keep it in a more pristine condition. The Pharaoh had a dream that the Sphinx was choking from the sand surrounding it and that it told him that if he cleared it, he would gain the crown to Egypt. This story is inscribed in the Dream Stela in between the front paws of the monument. Remains of a large mud-brick wall were discovered by archaeologists in 2010 surrounding the Sphinx, and it is believed that Tuthmosis IV built it to protect the Sphinx from desert winds. Regardless of Tuthmosis’s attempts of preserving the structure, it was found buried underneath the sand once again. When uncovered, the nose appeared to be missing.

There are many hypotheses about the disappearance of the nose of the great monument. Some believe that the nose was detached due to the invasion of Napoleon and his troops. Others believe that Muhammad Sa’Im Al-Dahr destroyed the nose in outrage due to farmers offering their harvests to the Sphinx. It is also thought to be simply an issue of years of erosion. Although it is uncertain what the actual cause was, I question how something this dramatic could happen to such a structure, especially after Tuthmosis’s attempts to protect it. I feel that in order to make certain he would have a successful reign, the Pharaoh and his followers would have been more determined  to make sure nothing happened to it, especially to the nose so that it would be able to breathe properly and not end up choking. Additionally, I found that there were not many attempts to replace the nose on the structure throughout history. This surprises me due to the symbolic nature of Egyptian culture. I would think that such a feature (or lack of) could be thought to foreshadow some type of disorder or symbolize an unhappy state of the Sun God.  It makes me wonder if there were certain restrictions put into place on who could handle the structure or if it were thought that a manipulation of it could result in some type of upheaval.

One thought on “What Happened to the Nose?

  1. Before reading your blog post, I did not know most of the history surrounding The Sphinx, including that Pharaoh Tuthmosis IV attempted to restore The Sphinx by uncovering the sand. It’s interesting that he put so much faith in that one dream, and that he truly believed he would gain power through The Sphinx. I like how you noted the fact that not restoring the nose was particularly unusual considering it may have symbolized an unhappy state for the Gods. I would have been afraid it would bring bad luck. I find it interesting to study what other cultures believe in, and what they worship, as it tells a lot about their lifestyles.

    I was also fascinated by the fact that attempts to restore the nose have not been made. One would think that such an important statue would have been kept in pristine condition. It was interesting to note that the sand kept The Sphinx in good condition, although I wonder if the sand contributed to some of the erosion of the rock? I also wonder if Pharaoh Tuthmosis IV had left The Sphinx submerged under the sand, would it have been found in a better condition? Would the nose still be attached? Would Sa’Im Al-Dahr or Napoleon or erosion have gotten to it if it had still been covered?

    I also found it extremely interesting that just five years ago, in 2010, archaeologists found the remains of the wall surrounding The Sphinx. One would think the wall remains would have been found long ago. This just goes to show new archaeological discoveries are being made to this day, even when we thought we knew everything there was to know.

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