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The Sphinx and the Pyramid of Chephren behind it (Identifiable because retains the outer limestone casing at its topmost portion) | by Jorge Lascar
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The Sphinx and the Pyramid of Chephren behind it (Identifiable because retains the outer limestone casing at its topmost portion)

The Great Sphinx of Giza, commonly referred to as the Sphinx, is a limestone statue of a reclining or couchant sphinx (a mythical creature with a lion's body and a human head) that stands on the Giza Plateau on the west bank of the Nile in Giza, Egypt. The face of the Sphinx is generally believed to represent the face of the Pharaoh Khafra.

 

It is the largest monolith statue in the world, standing 73.5 metres long, 19.3 metres wide, and 20.22 m high. It is the oldest known monumental sculpture, and is commonly believed to have been built by ancient Egyptians of the Old Kingdom during the reign of the Pharaoh Khafra (c. 2558–2532 BC).

 

Missing nose and beard

 

The one-metre-wide nose on the face is missing. Examination of the Sphinx's face shows that long rods or chisels were hammered into the nose, one down from the bridge and one beneath the nostril, then used to pry the nose off towards the south.

 

Limestone fragments of the Sphinx's beard in the British Museum, 14th Century BC.

 

The Arab historian al-Maqrīzī, writing in the 15th century, attributes the loss of the nose to iconoclasm by Muhammad Sa'im al-Dahr, a Sufi Muslim from the khanqah of Sa'id al-Su'ada. In AD 1378, upon finding the local peasants making offerings to the Sphinx in the hope of increasing their harvest, Sa'im al-Dahr was so outraged that he destroyed the nose, and was hanged for vandalism. Al-Maqrīzī describes the Sphinx as the "talisman of the Nile" on which the locals believed the flood cycle depended.

 

There is also a story that the nose was broken off by a cannonball fired by Napoleon's soldiers, that still lives on today. Other variants indict British troops, the Mamluks, and others. Sketches of the Sphinx by the Dane Frederic Louis Norden, made in 1738 and published in 1757, show the Sphinx missing its nose. This predates Napoleon's birth in 1769.

 

In addition to the lost nose, a ceremonial pharaonic beard is thought to have been attached, although this may have been added in later periods after the original construction. Egyptologist Vassil Dobrev has suggested that had the beard been an original part of the Sphinx, it would have damaged the chin of the statue upon falling. The lack of visible damage supports his theory that the beard was a later addition [Wikipedia.org]

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Taken on September 12, 2012