The Great Sphinx of Giza commonly referred to as the Sphinx of Giza or just the Sphinx, is an immense stone sculpture of a creature with the body of a lion and the head of a human.
It is the largest and most famous Sphinx, situated at the Giza Plateau adjacent to the Great Pyramids of Giza on the west bank of the Nile River.
It is the largest monolith statue in the world, standing 73.5 meters (241 feet) long, 19.3 meters (63 feet) wide, and 20.22 meters (66.34 feet) 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 B.C.). However, some recent studies have suggested that the Sphinx was built as long ago as 7000 B.C.
The face of the Sphinx is generally believed to represent the face of the Pharaoh Khafra.
The rock stratum out of which the Sphinx has been made varies from a soft yellowish to a hard grey limestone. The massive body is made of the softer stone, which is easily eroded, while the head is formed of the harder stone.
The one-metre-wide nose on the face is missing; Despite the hard quality of the stone of the head, the face is badly damaged, and not only by natural erosion; There is an historical account from the 15th century that says that in 1378, a Sufi Muslim leader named Muhammad Sa’im al-Dahr destroyed the nose out of anger when he saw people practicing idolatry to the sphinx.
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; Pieces of the Sphinx’s massive beard found by excavation adorn the British Museum in London and the Cairo Museum.
The Sphinx has a tail which wraps around the right hind paw.
Though it is now indistinct from the drab tan of its sandy surroundings, the Sphinx may at one time have been completely covered in vivid paint.
Although the head of the Sphinx has been badly affected by thousands of years of erosion, traces of the original paint can still be seen near one ear.
Archaeologists believe that the face and body of the great Sphinx was painted red, the beard was painted blue and much of the headdress was mostly painted yellow.
A small temple between its paws contained dozens of inscribed stelae placed by the Pharaohs in honour of the Sun god.
In between the paws of the Sphinx is also a stela, now called the “Dream Stela“, which is inscribed with a story. The 18th Dynasty story tells of the time that Thutmosis IV fell asleep under the Sphinx which was covered to the neck in sand. Thutmosis had a dream that the Sphinx spoke to him and promised that if he would free the Sphinx from the sand, Thutmosis would be destined to become king of Egypt.
The Sphinx gazes due east to where the sun rises on the morning of the spring equinox.
The Great Sphinx of Giza is one of the few constructions of ancient Egypt that have no inscriptions on its surface, until today not a single symbol has been found on the Sphinx.
Because of the changing desert terrain, the body of the Sphinx has been buried several times over the past several thousand years. Most recently in 1905, the sand has been cleared away to expose the magnitude and beauty of the entirety of the Sphinx.
In Egypt, there are numerous sphinxes, usually with the head of a king wearing his headdress and the body of a lion.
The Egyptians built sphinx statues to guard important areas such as tombs and temples.
The word “sphinx”, which means ‘strangler‘, was first given by the Greeks to a fabulous creature which had the head of a woman, the body of a lion and the wings of a bird.
In the text on the Dream Stela from circa 1400 B.C., it’s referred to as a “statue of the very great Khepri.”
According to some texts, ancient Egyptians referred to the Sphinx as balhib and bilhaw. Circa 1500 B.C. it was referred to as Hor-em-akht – Horus in the Horizon, Bw-How Place of Horus and also as Ra-horakhty Ra of Two Horizons.
Theories held by academic Egyptologists regarding the builder of the Sphinx and the date of its construction are not universally accepted, and various persons have proposed various alternative hypotheses about both the builder and the dating.
The Sphinx has inspired the imaginations of artists, poets, adventurers, scholars and travelers for centuries.
The Sphinx has been a symbol of Egypt from ancient times to the present.
The Sphinx frequently appears on stamps, coins, and official documents of Egypt.