The Great Sphinx is located on the west bank of the Nile at Giza and is the oldest monumental sculpture on earth. Perhaps there is no more mysterious sculpture surrounded by a mysterious halo than the Egyptian Sphinx.
Creation of the Sphinx
The sculpture of the Great Sphinx is carved from a monolithic limestone rock in the shape of a colossal lion with a human face lying on the sand.
The sculpture is 72 meters long and 22 meters high. A small sanctuary was once built between the front paws of the Sphinx. The sculpture of the Sphinx is facing the Nile and the rising sun.
It has long been considered that the Sphinx bears a portrait resemblance to Pharaoh Khefren, who, according to the Turin papyrus, reigned for 24 years, presumably between 2508 and 2532. BC.
It was Pharaoh Khafre, who was either the brother and heir of Cheops, or the son and heir of Pharaoh Djedefr, that the ancient authors indicate as the builder of the Sphinx. This statement is confirmed only by the fact that during the construction of the temple near the Sphinx, blocks of the same size were used as during the construction of the neighboring pyramid.
In addition, a small diorite image of Khafre was discovered in the sand near the Sphinx. Thus, the age of the Sphinx is estimated at 4500 years.
Other Egyptologists believe that the construction of the sculpture dates back to the pre-dynastic period, when Egypt was not yet united into one state. Accordingly, the age of the sculpture dates back to 6500 BC.
Almost all ancient Eastern civilizations that lived on the banks of the mighty Nile saw in a lion a symbol of a solar deity.
From the earliest times of the very first dynasties of the pharaohs, it was customary to depict in the form of a lion destroying its enemies. From this we can conclude that the Sphinx was made the guardian of the eternal rest of the pharaohs buried around it.
The surrounding temples were first dedicated to the sun god - Ra, and only in the period of the new kingdom of the Sphinx were they identified with the god Horus, as a result of which Pharaoh Amenhotep II built a special temple for him northeast of the Sphinx.
The ancient Egyptian name for the Sphinx is unknown. Sphinx is a Greek name, and literally translates as "strangler." Some Egyptologists believe that the name came to the Greeks from Egypt, but this assumption has no confirmation.
It can only be argued that everyone who saw this colossal sculpture in ancient times treated it with reverence and fear. Whether they are Egyptians, Greeks, Arabs or Romans.
No wonder the Medieval Arabs called the Sphinx in The Thousand and One Nights "the father of horror."
Who was the customer is also unknown. Egyptologists are especially embarrassed by the fact that the laughing face of the Sphinx has negroid facial features, which none of the known pharaohs had.
It is only known that the dilapidated Sphinx was carried up to the shoulders with sand, and it was dug up and cleaned of the sand by Khafre's father, Pharaoh Cheops, who, like his son, was famous for cruelty. But even this statement is considered not very reliable.
Destruction of the Sphinx
The Sphinx lacks a nose about 1.5 m wide. There are many of the most controversial legends about where the Sphinx's nose went. Most often, you can hear that the nose of the Sphinx was blown off by a cannonball during the Napoleonic war with the Turks at the Pyramids in 1798.
Also, damage to the nose of the Sphinx is attributed to the British and Mamelukes, who practiced firing guns and guns at the Sphinx.
All these versions reject the drawings of the Danish traveler Norden, who saw the noseless Sphinx back in 1737.
The only one who harmed the Sphinx was a Sufi fanatic who caught the fellahs - farmers who bring gifts to the Sphinx in exchange for a good harvest. He became so angry that he knocked off the idol's nose, although it is not entirely clear how he did it. This interesting episode, which took place in 1378, was written by the medieval Cairo historian al-Maqrizi.
The Sphinx has come down to us not only without a nose, but also without a beard, fragments of which are still kept in the British and Cairo museums.
Attempts to unearth the sculpture were already undertaken by the pharaohs Thutmose VI and Ramses II. The first one just dug out the front paws, between which he ordered to put a granite stele with the inscription that when he sat down to rest near the deity in the midday heat and fell asleep, he had a dream in which the Sphinx asked to be freed from the sand. If Thutmose VI does this, he will become a pharaoh. Thutmose VI fulfilled his request and became pharaoh.
The ancient Greeks and Romans fortified the Sphinx with additional blocks. The Italians managed to clear the entire chest of the Sphinx from sand in 1917. The sculpture was completely freed from the captivity of the sand in 1925.
In all likelihood, the nose of the Sphinx fell off under the influence of time and erosion, due to the poor quality of the limestone from which the sculpture was made.