Sphinx of GizaDESCRIPTION
• Immense stone sculpture of a creature
with the body of a lion and the head of a
• The greatest monumental sculpture in the
ancient world, it is carved out of a single
ridge of limestone 240 feet (73 meters)
long and 66 feet (20 meters) high.
• The rock stratum out of which the Sphinx
has been made varies from a soft
yellowish to a hard grey limestone.
• The massive body is made of the softer
stone, which is easily eroded, while the
head is formed of the harder stone.
• To form the lower body of the Sphinx,
enormous blocks of stone were quarried
from the base rock and these blocks were
then used in the core masonry of the
temples directly in front and to the south of
• The face is badly damaged, and not only
by natural erosion. The nose is missing
altogether and the eyes and the areas
around them are seriously altered from
their original state.
• Orthodox Egyptology:
Sphinx was constructed in the 4th Dynasty
(2575 – 2467 BCE) by the Pharaoh Khafre.
However, an accumulating body of evidence,
both archaeological and geological, indicates
that the Sphinx is far older than the 4th Dynasty
and was only restored by Khafre during his
• The Sphinx is wearing the classic headdress
of a Pharaoh and has the beard of a god. The
beard fell off, and was removed from the site.
British Museum in London
Most historians: meant to have the face of
• The Ancient Egyptians worshipped the
Sphinx and offered sacrifices to it. They also
left stones inscribed with messages, some of
these stones have been found, scattered
around the Sphinx.
• The Sphinx is lying down in the sand, with
his paws outstretched. Between the paws
there is a large slab of red granite.
Inscribed on it was the story of a dream.
Soon after the stone was uncovered and
the message deciphered, it began to
crumble from exposure to the air. The
writing can no longer be read.
The Sphinx in Ancient Egypt
• The familiar depiction of the sphinx of ancient
Egyptian culture is a creature with the body of a
lion and the head of a man.
• Historians: mixed form as a symbolic joining of
a lion's strength and dominance to a king's
• Egyptologist Henry Fischer: ascribes a divine
importance to this form, which demonstrates that
the king is "the link between mankind and the
The Sphinx in Greek Mythology
• The sphinx of Greek culture is usually depicted
as a winged creature with a woman's head on a
• Greek mythology: Oedipus encountered the
sphinx near Thebes who demanded an answer
to a riddle, and ate all those who could not
Oedipus avoided being eaten by the creature by
answering the riddle correctly, which resulted in
the sphinx killing itself. This story increased the
sphinx's association with mystery, but the sphinx
also represented wisdom and omniscience in