The mysterious sculpture, believed to have been created 4,500 years ago – around the same time as the Egyptian pyramids – is actually much older. It rises in its place for hundreds of thousands, or even millions of years. This was stated by geologist Farouk El-Baz back in 1981. Now scientists from New York University are convinced that their colleague was right.
The origin of the Sphinx is shrouded in mystery and causes controversy among scientists. Although it is generally accepted that the Sphinx was built during the reign of Pharaoh Khafre, the exact purpose and meaning of the statue is unclear.
One theory is that the Sphinx was intended as a symbol of the pharaoh’s power and authority. The Egyptian pharaohs were known for their grandiose building projects, and the construction of the Great Sphinx of Giza may have been part of this tradition. The location of the statue next to Khafre’s pyramid suggests that it must have formed an important part of his funerary complex.
Another theory is that the Sphinx was built as a religious monument representing the god Horus. In ancient Egyptian mythology, Horus was often depicted as a falcon-headed deity, and some speculate that the human head of the Sphinx may have originally been intended to represent the head of a falcon.
This theory is supported by the fact that the Sphinx is located on the eastern side of the Giza plateau, where the sun rises, and faces directly towards the rising sun.
There is a theory that the Sphinx may have been built by a civilization that predated the ancient Egyptians, and that it was later remodeled by Khafre.
This claim is supported by erosion on the statue’s paws. Such erosion appears after a stone has been in water for a long time. A similar level of precipitation was observed in Ancient Egypt in the 4th millennium BC. Khafre ruled Egypt from 2520 to 2494 BC.
Using computer modeling, modern scientists have recreated the face from the statues of Khafre and the face of the Sphinx, and it was found that these faces are not even similar to each other.
Legends of the Sphinx
The legend of Oedipus and the Sphinx is one of the most famous and enduring stories associated with the ancient monument. According to myth, the Sphinx terrorized the city of Thebes, devouring all those who could not answer its riddle. The riddle, which has been passed down from generation to generation, goes like this:
“What walks on four legs in the morning, on two legs at noon and on three legs in the evening?”
Many tried to solve this riddle, but no one succeeded until Oedipus appeared.
When Oedipus encountered the Sphinx, he was not afraid of its terrifying appearance and formidable reputation. The Sphinx challenged him with a riddle, but Oedipus was able to solve it, answering:
“The man who crawls on all fours as a child walks on two legs as an adult and uses a cane in old age.”
The Sphinx was defeated and he threw himself off the cliff in despair. The inhabitants of Thebes were happy to be freed from the tyranny of the monster and proclaimed Oedipus their king.
Keeper of secret knowledge
In addition to the legend of Oedipus, another persistent myth surrounding the Sphinx is that it was built to guard ancient knowledge and secrets.
According to this legend, the Sphinx was not just a statue, it was a guardian and a gate at the same time, guarding the passages to the chambers hidden in it, filled with valuable knowledge and treasures.
This myth was fueled by a series of mysterious discoveries. For example, in the early 20th century, a French engineer named Emile Baraz discovered a secret chamber under the Sphinx’s left paw.
The space found contained a number of tunnels and chambers, but unfortunately they were filled with water and debris and could not be fully explored at the time.
In the 1990s, a team of researchers led by Dr. Zahi Hawass conducted a more extensive survey of the Sphinx and its surrounding area using ground-penetrating radar.
Their findings revealed a number of anomalies and voids beneath the Sphinx, leading some to speculate that there may be undiscovered passages to ancient secrets and treasures waiting to be found.
Despite the tempting possibilities, there is little concrete evidence to support the idea that the Sphinx was built to guard hidden knowledge or treasure. Rather, the Sphinx was simply a monument built in honor of the pharaohs and served as a symbol of their power and authority.
The mystery of the missing nose of the Sphinx is one of the longest-standing and widely discussed mysteries surrounding the ancient monument. Although it is generally believed that the nose was destroyed by Napoleon’s troops during their invasion of Egypt in 1798, this theory has been largely debunked by historians and scholars.
In fact, the nose was apparently missing long before Napoleon’s arrival. There are several historical accounts dating back to the 15th and 16th centuries that describe the Sphinx as having no nose, suggesting that by that time the nose was no longer there.
There are a number of theories regarding the missing nose of the statue, according to one of them, the nose may have been deliberately removed by vandals or iconoclasts who sought to spoil the monument or erase its pagan origins.
Another theory is again associated with troops, but with Turkish ones; adherents of this theory claim that the nose became a victim of Ottoman cannons during the siege of Cairo in the 14th century.
But the most likely theory is that it was damaged by erosion, since the Sphinx is known to have suffered significant damage from weathering over the centuries.
The New York University experiment
Now, scientists from New York University tested the hypothesis that the Great Sphinx of Giza could simply be a natural rock in the shape of a lion, which the ancient Egyptians somewhat transformed into a cat with a human head, reports Arkeonews.
Researchers have replicated conditions that existed in Egypt 4,500 years ago to show how wind moved against rock formations and likely formed one of the most recognizable statues in the world.
The idea that the Sphinx, unlike the pyramids, was not built entirely by the ancient Egyptians was formulated by geologist Farouk El-Baz in a 1981 article published in Smithsonian Magazine. He suggested that the general shape of the sculpture was formed by the wind, and the ancient masons simply gave it subtleties.
Now scientists from New York University have tested this theory.
“Our results offer a possible ‘origin story’ for how features like the Sphinx could arise from erosion. Our laboratory experiments show that remarkably Sphinx-like shapes can in fact emerge from materials eroded by fast currents,” explains Leif Ristroph, assistant professor at New York University’s Courant Institute of Mathematical Sciences and senior author of the study.
In the study, the scientists focused on reproducing yardangs, unusual rock formations formed in deserts by windblown dust and sand. They suggested that the Great Sphinx may have originally been just a yardang, which was then turned into a famous statue.
Scientists used mounds of clay, inside of which there was a harder material that was less susceptible to erosion. So they imitated the area in northeast Egypt, where the Sphinx is located.
These formations were then washed with fast streams of water that simulated wind. He carved and reshaped them, giving them a resemblance to the Sphinx. The harder or more durable material became the lion’s “head” and many other parts, such as the cropped “neck”, the “paws” lying in front on the ground, and the arched “back”.
Despite its secrets, the Sphinx played an important role in Egyptian culture and history. It has been the subject of countless works of art, literature and film, and has been a symbol of Egypt’s cultural and architectural achievements for thousands of years.
And while we may never fully understand the secrets the Sphinx holds, its constant presence on the Giza Plateau continues to inspire wonder and awe in all who see it.
By the way, there are plenty of yardangs in Egypt, China or even on Mars, which generally has its own Sphinx and scientists believe that it was “sculpted” by the wind. The only strange thing is that the Egyptian and the Martian pyramids are so similar in their “faces”.