|The Giza Sphinx|
The Great Sphinx at Giza, near Cairo, is probably the most famous sculpture in the world. With a lion's body and a human head, it represents Ra-Horakhty, a form of the powerful sun god, and is the incarnation of royal power and the protector of the temple doors.
The Sphinx is the oldest and longest stone sculpture from the Old Kingdom. During the eighteenth dynasty, it was called "Horus of the Horizon" and "Horus of the Necropolis", the sun god that stands above the horizon . In later times, many sphinx images were carved in smaller sizes or in cameos with the faces of the reigning monarchs. The face of the Great Sphinx is believed to be that of Chephren, the fourth-dynasty pharaoh who built the second-largest pyramid in the Giza triad. In the image of the Sphinx, the pharaoh was seen as a powerful god.
Carved out of a natural limestone outcrop, the Sphinx is 19.8 metres (65 feet) high and 73.2 metres (240 feet) long. It is located a short distance from the Great Pyramid.
Between the enormous paws is a stele that records a dream Tuthmosis
IV had when he was a prince. He dreamt that he stopped to rest in the
shadow of the Sphinx during a hunting expedition in the desert. While
asleep, the Sphinx spoke to him, saying that he would become king if he
cleared away the sand that all but buried the Sphinx. When he became
king, Tuthmosis IV cleared the sand and erected a stele that tells the
story of his dream. After the work was completed, a chapel was built
next to the Sphinx to venerate this sun god.
Down through the ages, attempts have been made to protect the Sphinx from the effects of wind and sand erosion. A restoration project is currently under way to replace the stone casing that once protected this monument.
Sphinxes are sometimes represented with a female face. For example, a sphinx of Queen Hatshepsut was sculpted with her face and a pharaoh's beard. Queen Tiy, wife of Amenhotep III, was the first to have a truly female sphinx sculpted in her likeness. Besides a female face without a beard, her sphinx had breasts and wings.
The Sphinx differs from other deities in that it
has an animal body and a human head, whereas most other deities have
human bodies and animal heads. One explanation for this anomaly is that
the Sphinx is the earthly representation of the constellation Leo, which
has a lion's body. Images of the sphinx are found in various
sizes and shapes, as the collection at the Egyptian Museum in Cairo and the temples throughout Egypt attest.
The Giza Pyramids and Sphinx have been the focus of attention for New Age seekers, following a pronouncement by the American psychic Edgar Cayce. In a trance state, Cayce spoke of vaults at the base of the Sphinx and a Hall of Records . He suggested that a secret passage exists under the Sphinx. This is supposed to lead to a tomb where the annals of the lost continent of Atlantis are hidden for safe keeping.
Despite the intrigue surrounding this psychic reading, modern archaeologists have not yet found any evidence of a secret passage under the Sphinx. This story, however, continues to stir the imagination and contribute to the mystique of ancient Egypt.