The ‘Great Sphinx’ is a massive stone statue, located next to the pyramids of Giza, in Egypt. It is the most iconic symbol of Egyptian culture and heritage, built about 4000 years ago. Having the body of a lion and a human head, the Great Sphinx was carved out of one gigantic rock of limestone. Built by the pharaohs of ancient Egypt, it guards the front of the great pyramids. It is believed that the face of the Great Sphinx is that of the king who built it.
It is the world’s largest statue carved out of a single stone (monolith).
The Great Sphinx takes the form of a lion sitting with the head of a pharaoh. The tail of the lion wraps around the right paw. It is believed that the sphinx was colourfully painted and had huge eyes, ears, nose and a long braided beard.
Many years ago, the entire body of the Sphinx was covered in sand except for the face. It was only after the excavation that the entire structure became visible. Fragments of the Sphinx’s traditional beard was discovered during an excavation. They are displayed in the British museum in London and the Cairo museum in Egypt.
Myth and mystery
The history behind the Great Sphinx of Giza has been for long, shrouded in mystery. The basic facts of the great sphinx such as its age, creator and the reason behind its construction, is not known. Some believed that the sphinx was built to guard the tombs and temples of Egypt while others say that it had been built to honour the ancient Egyptian Sun God. Some archaeologists believe that the Egyptians worshipped the Sphinx and offered sacrifices to it. It is still not certain as to which pharaoh built it.
Over the centuries, the statue has suffered huge damages from groundwater, eroding wind and air pollution. Presently, the statue has developed cracks in a number of places, at the nose and the traditional beard missing. Efforts are being made to preserve the sphinx, but it continues to erode.
What is the dream stele or the sphinx stele?
There is a large slab of red stone between the front paws of the Great sphinx which apparently had inscriptions about a young prince’s dream. Legend goes, that a prince fell asleep between the Sphinx’s paws and dreamt about the sphinx speaking to him. The Sphinx asked him to clear the sand covering its body and promised the prince the throne of Egypt in return. Soon after, the stone was uncovered and had the dream inscribed on it. The writings are no longer visible because of its exposure to air.
Did you know?
‘Abu-al-hul’ is the Arabic name for the Great Sphinx. It translates to ‘Father of terror’ in English.