sphinx

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sphinx

(sfĭngks), mythical beast of ancient Egypt, frequently symbolizing the pharaoh as an incarnation of the sun god RaRa
or Re
, in Egyptian religion, sun god, one of the most important gods of ancient Egypt. Ra was chief of the cosmic deities and was sometimes called the creator and father of all things.
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. The sphinx was represented in sculpture usually in a recumbent position with the head of a man and the body of a lion, although some were constructed with rams' heads and others with hawks' heads. Thousands of sphinxes were built in ancient Egypt; the most famous is the Great Sphinx at Giza, a colossal figure sculptured out of natural rock, near the pyramid of KhafreKhafre
or Chephren
, fl. 2565 B.C., king of ancient Egypt, of the IV dynasty, and builder of the second pyramid at Giza. His face is perhaps that represented on the Great Sphinx. An obscure king, Dedefre, may have come between Khufu and Khafre in the dynasty.
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. It was considered by the ancients one of the Seven Wonders of the WorldSeven Wonders of the World,
in ancient classifications, were the Great Pyramid of Khufu (see pyramid) or all the pyramids with or without the sphinx; the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, with or without the walls; the mausoleum at Halicarnassus; the Artemision at Ephesus; the
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.

Sphinxes, however, were not peculiar to Egypt; represented in various shapes and forms, they were common throughout the ancient Middle East and Greece. In Greek mythology and art the Sphinx was a winged monster with the head and breasts of a woman and the body of a lion. In the legend of OedipusOedipus
, in Greek legend, son of Laius, king of Thebes, and his wife, Jocasta. Laius had been warned by an oracle that he was fated to be killed by his own son; he therefore abandoned Oedipus on a mountainside.
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 she acts as a destructive agent of the gods, posing the riddle of the three ages of man: "What walks on four feet in the morning, on two at noon, and on three in the evening?" She killed all who failed to answer her question until Oedipus solved the riddle by saying, "Man crawls on all fours as a baby, walks upright in the prime of life, and uses a staff in old age." The Sphinx then killed herself.

sphinx

An Egyptian figure having the body of a lion and a male human head; the Greek version featured a female monster represented with the body of a lion, winged, and the head and breasts of a woman.
See also: Ornament
Enlarge picture
The famous Sphinx near Cairo, Egypt. As with the pyramids, some people believe that it was constructed by aliens or Atlanteans.

Sphinx

Is the largest surviving statue from the ancient world, the product of extraterrestrials, Atlanteans, or a long-forgotten civilization? To unlock the key to the riddle of the Sphinx would be to change all of human history.

In Greek mythology, the sphinx was a half-woman, half-lion creature that guarded the gates of Thebes, an ancient Egyptian city. A scourge fell upon the land that could be lifted only by solving a riddle posed by the sphinx: What begins life on four legs, lives most of its life on two legs, and ends life on three legs? In Oedipus the King, the Greek dramatist Sophocles has Oedipus solve the riddle with the answer “a human,” for as infants we crawl on all fours before learning to walk on two legs, and in old age we walk with the use of a cane—a third leg.

The Great Sphinx at Giza has posed riddles that have perplexed researchers for centuries: How old is the structure and who built it? Even in ancient times, some sources dated it as preceding the Pyramids and attributed it to architects from a lost civilization.

The Sphinx, the largest surviving statue from the ancient world, was sculpted out of limestone bedrock. The massive sculpture has the head of man in Egyptian headdress sporting a spiraling beard, a feature found on many likenesses of pharaohs. It has the body of a lion, with two paws resting beneath the head and chest. It rises 66 feet high; the leonine body stretches for 240 feet.

The Sphinx faces due east and is referred to in some Egyptian hieroglyphics as Hamachis, the god of the rising sun. Hamachis later evolved into the name Hor-em-Akhet. The akhet is an Egyptian hieroglyph in the image of two triangles, both open at the base, connected by a line, which represents where the sun rises and sets—an image that comes to life when looking out from the Sphinx to the pyramids of Cheops and Cephren at sunset on the summer solstice. As the sun sets between the pyramids, it highlights the image of two triangles (the pyramids) connected by a line (the earth).

It was long commonly accepted that the Sphinx was sculpted during the same era when the Pyramids were built, about 2650 to 2550 B.C.E. According to a traditional historical view, the Sphinx has been most often associated with the pharaoh Khafre, who is presumably buried in the second-largest of the three pyramids at Giza. At least two statues of Khafre have been found that bear a striking resemblance to the face of the Sphinx. Egyptian religion had taken on sun worship shortly before Khafre’s reign, and because pharaohs were viewed as god-kings, the association of Khafre and Hamachis is plausible. Reconstruction of the Sphinx is apparent, and archaeological evidence shows Thutmose IV had the Sphinx rescued from being buried by desert sand and ordered a renovation around 1500 B.C.E.

John Anthony West, author of The Serpent in the Sky: The High Wisdom of Ancient Egypt, argues that the Sphinx was created by refugees from Atlantis, the legendary continent that was supposedly destroyed around 9500 B.C.E. Graham Hancock and Robert Bauval, coauthors of The Orion Mystery, name wanderers from an advanced civilization that thrived on the continent of Antarctica before it was frozen over during a global catastrophe at the end of the last ice age.

Edgar Cayce, the Sleeping Prophet of Virginia Beach, prophesied that answers to the mysteries of ancient civilizations would someday be yielded by the Sphinx. According to Cayce, a secret passageway leads from one of the Sphinx’s paws to its right shoulder, where there exists a Hall of Records that contains the wisdom of a lost civilization and the history of the world.

UFO researchers and authors who investigate ancient mysteries believe that the true history of the Sphinx will one day reveal clues left by extraterrestrials who inspired the construction of the massive sculpture and who deposited records of their visitation to Earth within its hidden chambers.

The enigma of the age of the Sphinx was renewed toward the end of the twentieth century when an article in Omni magazine (August 1992) detailed the work of Robert M. Schoch, a geologist whose research suggests that the limestone core of the Sphinx dates from 5000 B.C.E. and that the granite facing was added at the conventional time when the Sphinx is dated, around 2500 B.C.E. Schoch attributes the extremely weathered look of the Sphinx to erosion that began with heavy rains from the period between 5000 and 3000 B.C.E. Schoch’s dating is based solely on geological evidence, rather than information from hieroglyphics or other histories.

John Anthony West has promoted a theory that an advanced, pre-Egyptian civilization was responsible for the Sphinx. He believes that much of the weathering took place because of rains and floods. West points to the period around 9000 B.C.E., when the end of the Ice Age may well have affected weather patterns. A great flood, perhaps the one recounted in the biblical story of Noah, affected the Sphinx, and afterward all the structures at Giza show erosion by wind and the slow but steady encroachment of desert.

West hired Schoch, a science professor specializing in geology at Boston University, to explore the erosion of the Sphinx from a geological standpoint. During his first trip to Giza, Schoch noticed extreme erosion in two temples located in front of the Sphinx. Where the granite covering of the temples had slipped off, the exposed limestone was extremely weathered. The newer granite facing indicated to Schoch that the Sphinx was restored, not constructed, during the reign of Khafre.

Subsequent studies led Schoch to conclude that the Sphinx was constructed in stages and underwent several restorations. The head and part of the body were originally carved as far back as 5000 B.C.E. The body was completed and the face restored by chiseling away weathered limestone during Khafre’s reign. However, pushing the origin of the Sphinx to 5000 B.C.E. and attributing its erosion primarily to water creates problems, for that time frame predates the development of mastabas, tombs that were built between 5000 and 3000 B.C.E. and show no signs of weathering by water.

Since the limestone cannot be dated by modern techniques (radiocarbon dating can only determine the age of things that were once animate), Schoch’s findings have been widely disputed by other geologists. The age of the Sphinx continues to be considered in the context of other monuments, and the date of 2500 B.C.E. still holds weight among conservative Egyptologists.

Sphinx

 

(1) In ancient Egypt, a statue representing a fantastic being, such as a protective spirit or the embodiment of the king’s power. The sphinx had the body of a lion and the head of a human, usually the pharaoh, or of a sacred animal. The largest preserved sphinx is the Great Sphinx in Giza (Gizeh), near the pyramid of Khafre, or Chephren (28th century B.C.).

(2) In ancient Greek mythology, a winged monster-woman with the body of a lioness. She stood outside Thebes and killed passersby who could not solve her riddle: “Who walks on four legs in the morning, on two during the day, and on three during the night?” Oedipus, arriving in Thebes, solved the riddle, replying, “Man in childhood, adulthood, and old age.” Thereupon the Sphinx threw herself off a cliff (according to other versions, she was killed by Oedipus). In allegorical terms, a sphinx is a riddle or an enigmatic person.

REFERENCES

Struve, V. V. Peterburgskie sfinksy. St. Petersburg, 1912.
Dessenne, A. Le Sphinx: Elude iconographique. Paris, 1957.

sphinx

In Egyptian antiquity, a figure having the body of a lion and a male human head, or an animal head; commonly placed in avenues leading to temples or tombs; the most celebrated example is the Great Sphinx near the pyramids of Giza, near Cairo.

Sphinx

head and breasts of a woman, body of a dog, and wings of a bird. [Gk. Myth.: Zimmerman, 246; Gk. Lit.: Oedipus Rex]

Sphinx

half woman, half lion; poser of almost unanswerable riddle. [Gk. Myth.: Howe, 258; Gk. Lit.: Oedipus Rex]
See: Mystery

Sphinx

ancient Egyptian symbol of all-knowingness. [Heraldry: Halberts, 38]

sphinx

any of a number of huge stone statues built by the ancient Egyptians, having the body of a lion and the head of a man

Sphinx

the
1. Greek myth a monster with a woman's head and a lion's body. She lay outside Thebes, asking travellers a riddle and killing them when they failed to answer it. Oedipus answered the riddle and the Sphinx then killed herself
2. the huge statue of a sphinx near the pyramids at El Gîza in Egypt, of which the head is a carved portrait of the fourth-dynasty Pharaoh, Chephren