Great Sphinx has remained buried in the desert sand for most of its life and there are many mysteries surrounding this ancient monument. This large human headed lion sculpture is situated in Giza in front of Khafra’s pyramid. Some believe it to be the largest surviving sculpture from the ancient world. It was carved from a mound of natural rocks. Over the centuries there has been a lot of theorizing among the researchers regarding various facets of the Sphinx.
When was the Monument Built?
There has been extensive research conducted to find the actual time of Sphinx’s construction. Author John Anthony West during a visit to Giza witnessed strange weathering patterns on the monument and held that these were signs of water erosion rather than wind or sand. He was also supported by a fellow geologist. The fact is: though Egypt is arid today but it used to wet and rainy area about 10,000 years ago. So, West held that for water to have such an effect on the monument the Sphinx should have been built about 7,000-10,000 years earlier. But other Egyptologists dismissed this claim. They believed that though Egypt was rainy and wet 10,000 years earlier but Sphinx was built after Egypt became arid. They also expressed that if the Sphinx suffered from water erosion how come there be no signs of degradation on other monuments in Giza built around the same time. Rain could never be restricted to one single monument.
However, it is commonly held that the Great Sphinx of Giza was built by Khafra or Khafre of the fourth dynasty, who scholars hold to have reigned from 2558-2532 BC. Some believe that Pharaoh Khafra built the Great Sphinx in his own image to celebrate his reign. While others believe that it was built to guard the tombs of Khafra and his father. Another group of researchers believe that it was built as a dedication to the Sun God and back in times it was named Hor-Em-Akhet (Horus of the Horizon).
Whose Image Does the Great Sphinx Depict?
Though the most relevant concept is that the Great Sphinx was built by Pharaoh Khafra in his own image, but the some scholars feel otherwise. They feel the monument bears close resemblance to his elder brother Djedefre. A group of researchers even went as far as creating representations of both these brother’s faces to support the theory. But there are no conclusive proofs of this fact.
The Mystery of Broken Nose
When one dazes at the Great Sphinx one of the most baffling things is that this great man headed lion does not have a nose. How did the nose go missing? There are many theories about the degradation of the facial features. The most common theory is that the nose of Great Sphinx was destroyed during the War of Pyramids during the Napoleonic Oriental campaign. Indeed a great war was waged between the Mammeluks and the French forces where cannon balls flew here and there. But on closer inspection researchers feel that the fire power in those days was not powerful enough to take off the nose of the Great Sphinx. So, there must have been another reason.
Another story tells us that the nose was chiseled out by a Sufi in eighth century AD after he felt the monument was blasphemous. To support the cause some researchers have found chisel marks on the face of the Great Sphinx. As the land came under Islamic influence during the mentioned time so the Sufi’s act would not call for any punishment. Then again there is scarcity of any evidence.
The third and probably most valid cause is erosion. Human actions are impacting the great monument till date. The Sphinx was once a red colored monument. Again there is a controversy here, on closer inspection various other hues have been found in separate parts of the sculpture, making it multi colored. But over time the color of the monument has faded. So, erosion could definitely take away the nose and beard which the Great Sphinx is believed to have once had.