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The 'natural' sphinx theory
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isisinacrisis
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PostPosted: Fri Jul 23, 2004 4:17 pm    Post subject: The 'natural' sphinx theory Reply with quote

I recently watched a programme on the tv and it claimed at the sphinx may have been older than we think, and was there before the Egyptians...and it wasn't an early pre egyptian advanced 'lost civilisation' who carved it, it wasn't even constructed by humans! You see, this program claims that the sphinx's shape came from nature-it was a large rock that had been eroded by wind and sand over 1000s of years and when the Egyptians noticed it, they thought it looked special and divine, so they carved a face and other details on it and built their pyramids nearby.
What do you think of this theory? It does make sense, but is the Sphinx of Giza the oldest in Egypt? and what about all the other sphinxes? Were they based on the sphinx of giza?
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anneke
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PostPosted: Fri Jul 23, 2004 4:54 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I wouldn't be surprised if it were true. I read somewhere that the human brain is somehow wired to put random data in some context.
This is what people do when they are gazing up at the clouds and see sheep, ships, faces etc in them.
Near where one of my brothers lives in Spain is a mountain ridge, where part of it looks like an upturned face.

There's the famous devil face in the twin towers:

(Supposedly not doctored)

According to Carl Sagan
Quote:
"As an inadvertent side effect [of the evolutionary development of the ability to recognise faces at an early stage of each individual's life], the pattern-recognition machinery in our brains is so efficient in extracting a face from a clutter of other detail that we sometimes see faces where there are none. We assemble disconnected patches of light and dark and unconsciously try to see a face. The Man in the Moon is one result. … There are many other examples."


So, yes I think it's possible that they saw something that reminded them of a sphinx Very Happy
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Meresankh
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PostPosted: Sat Jul 24, 2004 10:43 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Interesting, what programme was this? I have heard that there is a theory that the Sphinx was originally a simulacrum, i.e a natural entity that looks like a human or animal. Possibly the people who lived in the Nile valley in the millenia leading up to the dynastic Egyptian culture thought "here's a rocky outcrop that looks a bit like a lion, let's work on it to make it look more like a lion". This wouldn't necessarily have been done all at once, but perhaps on and off over the course of centuries, with the head finally being added in the 4th dynasty. The guy who suggests this, one Anthony Donohue (I don't know anything else about him, but apparently he is an egyptologist) also claims that there are other pre-dynastic rocky outcrops in the Nile valley that have been worked into the likenesses of deities and proto-sphinxes. It does at least sound like a plausible theory.
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isisinacrisis
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PostPosted: Sat Jul 24, 2004 11:00 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

It's a lot more plausible than some theories I've heard...
Another similar theory is that the pyramids were also inspired by rocky outcrops and hills in the desert. That was on another programme I saw about a possible predynastic origins of the pyramids from natural rock formations.
I saw this theory on a programme about the earth-it covered a wide range of topics from volcanos and tectonics to erosion and climate change. And when it mentioned erosion it mentioned the sphinx. It also said the sphinx was painted-is that true? i'm assuming that the paint may have been eroded off it that was the case.
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anneke
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PostPosted: Sat Jul 24, 2004 1:18 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Isis wrote:
It also said the sphinx was painted-is that true?


That's what I have heard. The head cloth was painted in alternating stripes, and the eyes were outlined in kohl etc.
Must have looked quite spectacular in full color.
(Well, it still looks spectacular in monochrome Very Happy )
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ozlibrary
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PostPosted: Fri Jan 23, 2009 6:57 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Why do always good mistery's never get solved?
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kmt_sesh
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PostPosted: Sat Jan 24, 2009 6:13 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

But that's one of the great appeals of ancient Egypt: the more we search, the more mystery we find, and the more we are drawn to it.
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Ildi
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PostPosted: Fri Mar 20, 2009 1:04 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

The explanation that makes the most sense to me is that the Sphinx is older than it's thought, and it was never a lion, it was a giant Anubis, whose head was resculpted later on (was it damaged?) to represent the glory of the pharaohs. The body of the Sphinx looks nothing like a lion, and the head is way too small. The whole thing is off, compared to all the magnificent sculptures the ancient Egyptians left behind.
The truth? We might never know, but it's sure a lot of fun to keep guessing.
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Aktisanes
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PostPosted: Wed Aug 26, 2009 8:18 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:
the Sphinx is older than it's thought, and it was never a lion


indeed it was never a lion but probably a (Anubis) dog or jackal.
Lions, when lying down, have protruding pelvises, they stick out their spine.
And also have a tail ending in a paintbrush.

So Ildi is quite right, this animal was never a lion.
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kmt_sesh
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PostPosted: Fri Aug 28, 2009 2:20 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Aktisanes wrote:
Quote:
the Sphinx is older than it's thought, and it was never a lion


indeed it was never a lion but probably a (Anubis) dog or jackal.
Lions, when lying down, have protruding pelvises, they stick out their spine.
And also have a tail ending in a paintbrush.

So Ildi is quite right, this animal was never a lion.


I think people look too hard at the Sphinx and what should look this way or that way, instead of considering what the ancient sculptors had to work with in the first place. The massif exposed by quarrying operations for building Khufu's and Khafre's pyramids, contained only so much to work with.

The Sphinx-as-Anubis argument is a moderately old one and I myself don't see any definitive evidence to substantiate it, but instead of getting into that argument, I suggest a close look at these two photos:

The Sphinx of Giza

The famous Soleb lion

They both strike me as very similar in style, even though the Soleb lion was carved a thousand years after the Sphinx. Still, it's important to bear in mind that the Egyptians did not stick to the same, exact "mold" when carving figures in the round. A statue of a lion, for instance, does not require a protruding pelvis to look like a lion. Wink
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Aktisanes
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PostPosted: Fri Aug 28, 2009 6:28 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

A dog, a Lion or even a hippo, there is something not right with the sfinx.
The head is too small, it is without any doubt recarved (tho whoes image?) possibly many times.
And as far as I can tell it is only about the 18th dynasty that the sfinx is related to the god Re-Horachty. If so it should have a head of a hawk, not of a human.

Never in any old documents is it associated with any god or king, just a statue looking over the horison.
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Lutz
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PostPosted: Fri Aug 28, 2009 12:02 pm    Post subject: Re: The 'natural' sphinx theory Reply with quote

Lehner, Mark E.: The Complete Pyramids. - London: Thames, [1997] 2001. - ISBN: 0-500-05084-8. - 256 p., ill.

Page 127 & 128 :





Greetings, Lutz.
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kmt_sesh
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PostPosted: Sat Aug 29, 2009 2:55 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Aktisanes wrote:
A dog, a Lion or even a hippo, there is something not right with the sfinx.
The head is too small, it is without any doubt recarved (tho whoes image?) possibly many times.
And as far as I can tell it is only about the 18th dynasty that the sfinx is related to the god Re-Horachty. If so it should have a head of a hawk, not of a human.

Never in any old documents is it associated with any god or king, just a statue looking over the horison.


The head may never have been large to begin with, especially after it had been carved from the original limestone massif. The carvers were working on what was available. There's certainly evidence of "makeovers" over the millennia, but I know of no evidence of an "extreme makeover," as it were.

I do not think the Sphinx was referred to as Re-Horakhty but as Horemakhet, a different guise of the god Horus. This was by Dynasty 18, as you said, so is not really relevant to the original carving. I agree that Re-Horakhty would not make a lot of sense, but in fact Horemakhet would, even if the Sphinx wasn't called that in Dynasty 4.

Colossal statues of deities are not especially plentiful in this point in the Old Kingdom (with the rare exception of something like the beautiful triads of Menkaure), and they often do not have their animal aspects as we're so familiar with from later points in dynastic history. But from the very beginning the king was directly associated with the god Horus. The king's Horus name, in fact, began when Egypt became a state in around 3,100 BCE.

Horemakhet was the form of Horus most directly associated with the east (the name means "Horus in the horizon"). And as the living personification of Horus, the king is featured with his own head. He is Horus on earth (just as by the end of the Old Kingdom he would be Osiris in death, but perhaps not yet in Dynasty 4).

So the name Horemakhet may not have existed in the Old Kingdom, but the meaning and the iconography are very similar: the king as Horus on earth. And quite simply put, the lion was always one of the most potent symbols of kinghood. The king was very often depicted as a lion with a man's head, from the start of dynastic history.

In the end, the Sphinx of Giza works perfectly as orthodox research defines it.

As I said, I've come across the Anubis idea before, and there are numerous reasons I can argue against it, but a particular problem I have is with how the head would have to have looked. As with all depictions of Anubis, it would've needed a long snout and very tall ears. The limestone that comprises the Sphinx could never have supported those features. They almost certainly would've crumbled off even before the carvers were done shaping them. Wink
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Osiris II
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PostPosted: Sat Aug 29, 2009 5:09 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Considering the Egyptian mania for getting things "just right", I would think the stangley-proportion head would argue in favor of a re-carving--not necessarily something drastic, but more of a "face-lift" at some time.
As you say, it is extremely doubtful, considering the quality of the stone, that it was ever carved to symbolize Anubis.
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PostPosted: Sun Aug 30, 2009 4:18 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Osiris II wrote:
Considering the Egyptian mania for getting things "just right", I would think the stangley-proportion head would argue in favor of a re-carving--not necessarily something drastic, but more of a "face-lift" at some time.
As you say, it is extremely doubtful, considering the quality of the stone, that it was ever carved to symbolize Anubis.


I don't doubt that the Sphinx underwent some touchups in ancient times. I think a good example of that is the braided beard. It broke off long ago but chunks of it are in both Cairo and the British Museum.

There's also a large chunk I use for a coffee table in my apartment, but let's not tell anyone. Razz

This braided form of the false beard is not native to the Old Kingdom, as far as I know. And in another Sphinx discussion Lutz mentioned that it doesn't even seem to be common in the Middle Kingdom; I think that's right. Might it be that the braided false beard became the norm in the New Kingdom?

It's possible that a facelift occurred when Tuthmosis IV was motivated to dig away the sand, as the Sphinx asked of him. Perhaps in the process Tuthmosis IV did a bit of cosmetic reconstruction, too.

But what I've been trying to stress with Aktisanes is, it's possible the knob of limestone that became the head was never big to begin with. People always try to point to the size of the head as proof for some fringe theory or other (and I'm not putting you in that category, Osiris II), but absent tangible evidence that the original extant limestone knob was once much larger, I don't think we can legitimately make that claim.

Listen to me, calling the Sphinx's head a knob. How disrespectful! The Great Sphinx of Giza, a knobhead. Laughing
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