Representing the body of a lion and the head of a human, the Great Sphinx of Giza is one of the most amazing ancient monuments the world has ever seen.
Not only is this 57-meter-long monument the largest monolithic statue on the planet, but it is also considered the most mysterious one.
Despite its imposing beauty, there’s not much we know about the Sphinx.
We don’t know who built it, why it was built for, nor when it was carved.
What we do have are guesses that are based on archeological excavations at the Giza plateau, and the views and opinions of a select group of archeologists.
In the New Kingdom, the Sphinx was worshiped as the solar deity Hor-em-akhet and the pharaoh Thutmose IV (1401–1391 or 1397–1388 BC) specifically referred to it as such in his “Dream Stele”.
But that’s one of the few things we know about the statue that has been written down. Its old but its not that ancient. Thutmose IV made the Dream Stele a long time after the Sphinx had been carved. In fact, by the Time Thutmose IV “slept next to the half-buried Sphinx”, the statue was already ancient.
Who exactly built or carved the Sphinx is heavily debated and has been the subject of numerous studies, excavations, and theories. The truth is that we don’t know since there aren’t any written documents, papyri, or hieroglyphs that speak of the construction phase or the purpose of the Sphinx.
And that’s kind of surprising, taking into consideration the massive effort it was to build not only one but three pyramids, several temples, and the Great Sphinx.
It was a monumental construction process that lasted across countless generations. Given that fact, is not surprising that there’s no evidence whatsoever about any of the construction processes that took place? I mean, the ancient Egyptians were excellent record keepers, so it comes as a massive surprise that they decided not to write down and record in history some of their most incredible achievements: building the Great Pyramid of Giza or carving the largest monolithic statue on Earth.
The idea that Khafre was the one who commissioned the Great Sphinx is one of the most widely accepted theories.
The builder and the exact timeframe are a heavily debated subject.
That’s mostly because, throughout the years, there’s been conflicting evidence as viewpoints.
However, modern Egyptologists largely maintain that the Great Sphinx was built, better said carved, around 2,500 BC, by Pharaoh Khafre, the man who commissioned the second-largest pyramid on the Giza plateau.
Writing in 1949, Egyptologist Selim Hassan explained:
Taking all things into consideration, it seems that we must give the credit of erecting this, the world’s most wonderful statue, to Khafre, but always with this reservation: that there is not one single contemporary inscription which connects the Sphinx with Khafre; so, sound as it may appear, we must treat the evidence as circumstantial, until such time as a lucky turn of the spade of the excavator will reveal to the world a definite reference to the erection of the Sphinx.
One of the greatest pieces of evidence that support Khafre building the Sphinx is a diorite statue of the Pharaoh discovered buried upside down along much other debris in the Valley Temple.
The Dream Stele, erected much after the Sphinx was built also associates the Sphinx with Pharaoh Khafre. When the stele was uncovered by experts, its lines were heavily damaged but one of the lines made reference to Khaf.
Although it doesn’t say, Khafre, the line reads:
which we bring for him: oxen … and all the young vegetables; and we shall give praise to Wenofer … Khaf … the statue made for Atum-Hor-em-Akhet.
Early Egyptologists disagree with the theory that Khafre commissioned the Sphinx.
There are some who argue that the Sphinx and its associated temples predate the Forth Dynasty rule of Khufu, Khafre, and Menkaure.
“The date of the Granite Temple [Valley Temple] has been so positively asserted to be earlier than the fourth dynasty, that it may seem rash to dispute the point”.
Auguste Mariette, the founder of the Egyptian Cairo Museum unearthed the inventory Stela which supposedly explains how Khufu cam across the Sphinx, which was then already buried in the sand.
The Inventory Stela is treated today as a purposeful fake, believed to have been created by local priests in order to “imbue the contemporary Isis temple with an ancient history it never had.”
Others even called it the most ancient monument in Egypt.
Gaston Maspero took a particular interest in the Sphinx. The French Egyptologist was the second director of the Egyptian Museum in Cairo. In 1886 he conducted a survey of the Sphinx and concluded that since the Dream Stela mentioned Khafre on line 13, it was Khafre who excavated the Sphinx, meaning that the Sphinx surely must have predated Khafre and his Predecessors.
E.A. Wallis Bude, an English Egyptologist, agreed with Maspero saying that the Sphinx predated Khafre’s reign. In his 1914 book “The Gods of the Egyptians,” Bude wrote:
“This marvelous object [the Great Sphinx] was in existence in the days of Khafre, or Khephren, and it is probable that it is a very great deal older than his reign and that it dates from the end of the archaic period, around 2686 BC.”
Maspero, on the other hand, believed that the Great Sphinx was the oldest statue in Egypt.
Other experts like Vassil Dobrev of the Institut Français d’Archéologie Orientale in Cairo believe that since the causeway connecting Khafre’s pyramid to the temples was built around the Sphinx, the statue must have been already in existence when the temples were being built.
8 (Modern) Reasons why The Sphinx was–Probably–Built by Pharaoh Khafre
According to Mark Lehner, the Sphinx Temple, the Sphinx, and the Valley temple belong to one monumental construction phase attributed to Pharaoh Khafre.
Same style – Walls of Sphinx Temple and Khafre Valley Temple were built of same large limestone core blocks with harder red granite as a finish. Khufu’s Pyramid Temple was not built with monolithic core blocks.
Nearly identical court design and dimensions – Sphinx Temple and Khafre’s upper Pyramid Temple are the same design except the upper temple had 12 instead of 10 colossal statues, and there isn’t any evidence of colossal statues in the Khufu mortuary temple.
Sphinx Temple and Sphinx ditch left unfinished – This suggests that they were the last major structures to be worked on in the area. The Khafre Valley Temple was nicely finished inside and out.
Same quarry and construction sequence – The Sphinx and Sphinx Temple were part of the same sequence. Sphinx Temple Blocks originate from the lower bedrock layers ins the Sphinx Ditch.
Shared terrace – Khafre’s Valley Temple sits on the same leveled terrace as the Sphinx Temple. The fronts and backs of the temples are nearly aligned.
Walls Parallel – The Sphinx’s Temple south wall is parallel to the Valley Temple north wall, showing the same deviation north of due west. The Sphinx Temple builders must have adjusted it to the already existing Khafre Valley Temple.
Sphinx ditch – The south side of the ditch is the north side of the foundation of the Khafre causeway just where it enters the Khafre Valley Temple. The Sphinx ditch was sunk along the south side of the causeway that already existed.
Drainage Channel – Runs along the north side of the Khafre causeway and opens into the upper southwest corner of the Sphinx ditch. It looks like the ancient quarrymen formed the Sphinx ditch after the Khafre causeway. Otherwise, they would not have the drain empty into the Sphinx ditch.
But in addition to that Lehner further argues that it was Khafre’s builders who built the Sphinx and the temples because:
1. Completed Khafre’s Valley Temple with its granite casing.
2. Built the northern and southern enclosure walls.
3. Removed the northern wall.
4. Built the Sphinx Temple where the northern wall had been.
5. Used huge blocks from the Sphinx quarry for the Sphinx temple walls.
6. Abandoned the quarrying of the Sphinx ditch and construction on the Sphinx Temple shortly before either were completed.