The sculptures of kings [url=http://www.touregypt.net/featurestories/djedefre.htm]Djedefre[/url], [url=http://touregypt.net/featurestories/khafre.htm]Khafre[/url] and [url=http://touregypt.net/featurestories/menkaure.htm]Menkaure[/url] and other [url=http://www.touregypt.net/ehistory.htm#Old Kingdom]Old Kingdom[/url] Pharaohs, all show the same configuration that we see on the Sphinx. Some scholars believe that the Great Sphinx was originally bearded with the sort of formally plaited beard. Pieces of the Sphinx's massive beard found by excavation adorn the British Museum in London and the [url=http://touregypt.net/egyptmuseum/egyptian_museum.htm]Cairo Museum[/url]. However, it seems to possibly, if not probably be dated to the [url=http://www.touregypt.net/ehistory.htm#New Kingdom]New Kingdom[/url], and so was likely added at a later date. The rounded divine beard is an innovation of the New Kingdom, and according to [url=http://www.touregypt.net/featurestories/egyptologists.htm]Rainer Stadelmann[/url], did not [img(185px,241px)]http://www.touregypt.net/featurestories/sphinx1-17.jpg[/img]exist
in the [url=http://www.touregypt.net/ehistory.htm#Old Kingdom]Old[/url] or [url=http://www.touregypt.net/ehistory.htm#Middle Kingdom]Middle Kingdom[/url]. It may have been added to identify the god with Horemahket.
There is a hole in the top of the head, now filled in, that once provided support for additional head decoration. Depictions of the Sphinx from the latter days of ancient Egypt show a crown or plumes on the top of the head, but these were not necessarily part of the original design. The top of the head is flatter, however, than later Egyptian sphinxes.
The body is 72.55 meters in length and 20.22 meters tall. The face of the sphinx is four meters wide and its eyes are two meters high. The mouth is about two meters wide, while the nose would have been more than 1.5 meters long. The ears are well over one meter high. Part of the [url=http://www.touregypt.net/Uraeus.htm]uraeus[/url] (sacred cobra), the nose, the lower ear and the ritual beard are now missing, while the eyes have been pecked out. The beard from the sphinx is on displayed in the British Museum.
Below the neck, the Great Sphinx has the body of a lion, with paws, claws and tail (curled round the right haunch), sitting on the bedrock of the rocky enclosure out of which the monument has been carved. The enclosure has taller walls to the west and south of the monument, in keeping [img(400px,228px)]http://www.touregypt.net/featurestories/sphinx1-18.jpg[/img]
with the present lie of the land.
When viewed close-up, the head and body of the Sphinx look relatively well proportioned, but seen from further away and side-on the head looks small in relation to the long body (itself proportionally much longer than is seen in later sphinxes). In its undamaged state, the body is likely to have appeared still larger all around in relation to the head, which has not been reduced as much by erosion. The human head is on a scale of about 30:1, while the lion body is on the smaller scale of 22:1. There could be a number of explanations for this discrepancy.
This was, as far as we know, one of the very first of the Egyptian sphinxes, though there is at least one other, attributed to Djedefre, that predates it. The rules of proportion commonly employed on later and smaller examples may not yet have been formulated at the time of the [img(425px,331px)]http://www.touregypt.net/featurestories/sphinx1-19.jpg[/img]
carving of the Great Sphinx of [url=http://touregypt.net/giza.htm]Giza[/url]. In any case, the carving of sphinxes was always a flexible formula, to an unusual degree in the context of Egyptian artistic conservatism.
Then again, the Sphinx may have been sculpted to look its best when seen from fairly close by and more or less from the front. There is also the possibility that there was simply insufficient good rock to make the head, where fine detail was required, any bigger. Also, the fissure at the rear of the Great Sphinx may have dictated a longer body, rather than one much too short.
There remains the possibility that the head has been remodeled at some time and thereby reduced in size, but on stylistic grounds alone this is not likely to have been done after the [url=http://www.touregypt.net/ehistory.htm#Old Kingdom]Old Kingdom[/url] times in ancient Egypt.
There are three passages into or under the Sphinx, two of them of obscure origin. The one of known cause is a short dead-end shaft behind the head drilled in the nineteenth century. No other tunnels or chambers in or under the Sphinx are known to exist. A number of small holes in the Sphinx body may relate to scaffolding at the time of carving.
The figure was buried for most of its life in the sand. It was [url=http://www.touregypt.net/18dyn10.htm]King Thutmose IV[/url] (1425 - 1417 BC) who placed a stela between the front paws of the figure. On it, Thutmose describes an event, while he was still a prince, when he had gone hunting and fell asleep in the shade of the sphinx. During a dream, the sphinx spoke to Thutmose and told him to clear away the sand. The sphinx told him that if he did this, he would be rewarded with the kingship of Egypt. Thutmose carried out this request and the sphinx held up his end of the bargain. Of course, over time, the great statue, the only single instance of a colossal sculpture carved in the round directly out of the natural rock, once again found itself buried beneath the sand.
In the more modern era, when Napoleon arrived in Egypt in 1798, the Sphinx was buried once more with sand up to its neck, at by this point, we believe the nose had been missing for at least 400 years. Between 1816 and 1817, the Genoese merchant, [url=http://www.touregypt.net/featurestories/egyptologists.htm]Caviglia[/url] tried to clear away the [img(425px,234px)]http://www.touregypt.net/featurestories/sphinx1-22.jpg[/img]
sand, but he only managed to dig a trench down the chest of the statue and along the length of the forepaws. [url=http://www.touregypt.net/featurestories/egyptologists.htm]Auguste Mariette[/url], the founder of the Egyptian Antiquities Service, also attempted to excavate the Sphinx, but gave up in frustration over the enormous amount of sand. He went on to explore the [url=http://touregypt.net/featurestories/khafre.htm]Khafre[/url] Valley Temple, but returned to the Great Sphinx to excavate in 1858. This time, he managed to clear the sand down to the rock floor of the ditch around the Sphinx, discovering in the process several sections of the protective walls around the ditch, as well as odd masonry boxes along the body of the monument which might have served as small shrines. However, he apparently still did not clear all the sand.
In 1885, [url=http://www.touregypt.net/featurestories/egyptologists.htm]Gaston Maspero[/url], then Director of the Antiquities Service, once again tried to clear the Sphinx, but after exposing the earlier work of Caviglia and Mariette, he also was forced to abandon the project due to logistical problems.
Between 1925 and 1936, French engineer Emile Baraize excavated the Sphinx on behalf of the Antiquities Service, and apparently for the first time since antiquity, the great beast once again became exposed to the elements.
In fact, the sand has been its savior, since, being built of soft sandstone, it would have disappeared long ago had it not been buried for much of its existence.
Nevertheless, the statue is crumbling today because of the wind, humidity and the smog from [url=http://touregypt.net/cairo/]Cairo[/url]. The rock was of poor quality here from the start, already fissured along joint lines that went back to the formation of the limestone millions of years ago. There is a particularly large [img(425px,276px)]http://www.touregypt.net/featurestories/sphinx1-20.jpg[/img]
fissure across the haunches, nowadays filled with cement, that also shows up in the walls of the enclosure in which the Sphinx sits.
Below the head, serious natural erosion begins. The neck is badly weathered, evidently by wind-blown sand during those long periods when only the head was sticking up out of the desert and the wind could catapult the sand along the surface and scour the neck and the extensions of the headdress that are missing altogether now. The stone here is not quite of such good quality as that of the head above.
Erosion below the neck does not look like scouring by wind-blown sand. In fact, so poor is the rock of the bulk of the body that it must have been deteriorating since the day it was carved out of the stone. We know that it needed repairs on more than one occasion in antiquity. It continues to erode before our very eyes, with spalls of limestone falling off the body during the heat of the day.
So, today, much of the work on the Great Sphinx at [url=http://touregypt.net/giza.htm]Giza[/url] is not directed at further explorations or excavations, but rather the preservation of this great wonder of Egypt. This is the focus, and while some might even today have the antiquity authorities digging about the monument looking for hidden chambers holding the secrets of Atlantis, that is not likely to happen any time soon.