Gazing across the Giza Plateau is one of the largest and most mysterious monuments in the world—the Great Sphinx. Measuring 73 meters (240 feet) in length and 20 meters (66 feet) high, this impressive statue is also one of the most recognizable relics in all of ancient Egypt. The Great Sphinx is depicted with a human head wearing a pharaohs headdress with a lion’s body and giant paws front the statue situated in a reclined position. It features a square face and a cobra upon its brow, which indicates its construction occurred somewhere during the Old Kingdom. However, no one is really certain, and the history of this colossal structure is still hotly debated.
When Was the Great Sphinx Built?
While many theories abound concerning the origins and date of creation of the Great Sphinx, the monument simply refuses to give up its ancient secrets. The majority of modern Egyptologists seem to believe that the statue was constructed around 2500 BC during Pharaoh Khafre’s reign, as it is said to resemble his likeness. However, with no evidence such as inscriptions tying its construction to anyone, dissenting opinions as to the Sphinx’s age still exist such as the ‘Sphinx Water Erosion Hypothesis.’
What Was the Purpose of the Great Sphinx?
If indeed the Great Sphinx was constructed during the reign of Khafre, its was probably constructed to honor that pharaoh. In this case, the monument would likely have intended to serve the purpose of connecting Khafre with the sun god after his earthly passing. This theory is supported by the Egyptian translation for sphinx, which is ‘living image of Atum’ who is considered the god of creation and of the setting sun. Whatever its intended use was, the Sphinx seemed to simply fade into a distant memory at the conclusion of the Old Kingdom, and it was ignored and seemingly forgotten for centuries.
Rediscovering the Sphinx of Giza
Due to neglect and lack of interest, the Sphinx slowly began succumbing to the desert sands and was buried up to the shoulders when it captured the interest of Genoese adventurer Capt. Giovanni Battista Caviglia in the early 1800s. Along with 160 men, he attempted—and failed—to dig out the massive monument, and many others attempted to fully unearth it to no avail over the next two centuries. It wasn’t until Egyptian archaeologist Selim Hassan finally freed the Sphinx and revealed its splendor in its entirety.
Efforts to Save the Deteriorating Sphinx
This relic has suffered much damage from mankind, but its primary enemy is Mother Nature herself. Wind, water, humidity and pollution are causing the Great Sphinx to deteriorate more rapidly than it should. There have many efforts since the 1950s to restore the icon to its original splendor, and unfortunately most ultimately failed and resulted in more damage. However, a successful 2007 project that installed pumps diverted undesirable water away from the statue that was further fueling damage to help preserve this sacred place for centuries to come.
If you’re ready to open your inner door and listen, experience magic of this spiritual guardian for yourself with one of our Sacred Egyptian Tours, where guests enjoy an exclusive private tour of the Great Sphinx and can even touch the massive statue.