The Great Sphinx of Giza is a limestone statue of a reclining sphinx . It is a mythical creature with the head of a human and the body of a lion. Facing directly from west to east, it stands on the Giza plateau on the west bank of the Nile in Giza,Egypt. The face of the Sphinx appears to represent the pharoh khafre .

The Sphinx is the oldest monumental sculpture people knows in Egypt and the most recognizable statue in the world. The archaeological evidence suggests that it was created by ancient Egyptians of the Old kingdom during the reign of Khafre (c. 2558–2532 BC).

It is uncertain about who broke the Sphinx’s nose . According to a popular myth, Napoleon Bonaparte’s army fired cannonballs that broke the sphinx’s nose during the French campaign. However, several sources refuted it  predating the birth of Napoleon. Not only are there paintings from the 17th century which depict the Sphinx in this way but the 15th century Arab historian al-Maqrīzī also acknowledged its broken nose, attributing it to a Sufi Muslim extremist called Mohamed Sa’m al-Dahr whom he claimed broke it in 1378.


History of the great sphinx

Old Kingdom

The archaeological evidence suggests that khafre ordered builders for the Great Sphinx around 2500 BC . Egyptian geologist Farouk El-Baz has suggested that engineers carved the head of it first out of a natural yardang . These can sometimes achieve shapes which resemble animals. El-Baz suggests that the “moat” or “ditch” around the Sphinx may have been quarried out later to allow for the creation of the full body of the sculpture. The stones cut from around the Sphinx’s body were used to construct a temple in front of it, however neither the enclosure nor the temple were ever completed, and the relative scarcity of Old Kingdom cultural material suggests that a Sphinx cult was not established at the time. Selim Hassan , writing in 1949 on recent excavations of the Sphinx enclosure, made note of this circumstance:

Taking all things into consideration, it seems that we must give the credit of erecting this, the world’s most wonderful statue, to Khafre, but always with this reservation: that there is not one single contemporary inscription which connects the Sphinx with Khafre, so sound as it may appear, we must treat the evidence as circumstantial, until such time as a lucky turn of the spade of the excavator will reveal to the world a definite reference to the erection of the Sphinx.

New Kingdom

The New Kingdom dream stele between the paws of the Sphinx.

Some time around the First intermediate period , people abandoned the Giza Necropolis , and drifting sand eventually buried the Sphinx . The first documented attempt at an excavation dates to c. 1400 BC, when the young Thutmose IV (1401–1391 or 1397–1388 BC) gathered a team and, after much effort, managed to dig out the front paws, between which he erected a shrine that housed the dream stele , an inscribed granite slab (possibly a repurposed door lintel from one of Khafre’s temples) . An excerpt reads:

… the royal son, Thothmos, being arrived, while walking at midday and seating himself under the shadow of this mighty god, was overcome by slumber and slept at the very moment when Ra is at the summit [of heaven]. He found that the Majesty of this august god spoke to him with his own mouth, as a father speaks to his son, saying: Look upon me, contemplate me, O my son Thothmos; I am thy father, Harmakhis-Khopri-Ra-Tum; I bestow upon thee the sovereignty over my domain, the supremacy over the living … Behold my actual condition that thou mayest protect all my perfect limbs. The sand of the desert whereon I am laid has covered me. Save me, causing all that is in my heart to be executed.