Visiting the Great Sphinx of Giza

The Great Sphinx of Giza, Egypt is a stone statue of a reclining lion with a man’s head. It stands on the Giza Plateau in Giza, which is located along the West bank of the Nile river, near modern-day Cairo, Egypt. The Great Sphinx is the oldest existing monolith in the world today, and is also the largest.

While we know these basic facts about the Sphinx, there is much that we still do not, and may never, know. Such as, we have no idea who the model for the human face of the Sphinx was. We also do not know exactly when it was built, or by whom. To add to its mystery, there are no inscriptions in Ancient Egyptian writings suggeting construction or even he presence of the Sphinx. The Great Sphinx once featured a three foot wide nose and a beard. However, the nose and beard were lost over the years. Some speculate that this loss was attributed to weather damage while others suggest that vandalism was the reason for the facial destruction of the Sphinx’s face.

The name “Sphinx” was never mentioned in any of the Egyptian writings that have been discovered. To this day, we do not know what they referred to it as. Instead, the name was given by the Greeks, and means “strangler”. It was so named because it is similiar to the Greek beast that has a lion’s body, a woman’s head, and wings. The Greek Sphinx would strangle any man who could not solve her riddles. The Egyptian Sphinx, however, is thought to have started out in Egypt as the depiction of a sun God. The Sphinx is positioned in such a way that it faces the rising sun, as well as a temple that much resembles the sun temples that were created years later by the Egyptians.

Due to erosion, wind damage, and the effects of smog from Cairo, the Great Sphinx is now crumbling away. Because it is made of soft sandstone, it is submitting to the effects of nature much faster and much more drastically than it should be. Since the 1980’s, several pieces of the Sphinx, including the left shoulder, have fallen off or crumbled away, despite efforts of restoration. Because of this, a visit to the Great Sphinx of Cairo is something that should not be delayed. At this moment, we do not know how much longer the Sphinx will be around to look at. Restoration attempts re being made, but there is only so much that can be done to stop the brutal effects of nature on the delicate sandstone of the Sphinx. While it would be a shame to see such an ancient and magnificent piece of history fall victim to the sands of time, it may be inevitable much sooner than historians and archeologists had once hoped.

Creative Commons License Photo credit: JackVersloot