Wednesday, June 18, 2008

The Great Sphinx -2

The bedrock body of the Sphinx became a standing section of the deeper limestone layers of the Giza Plateau. The lowest stratum of the Sphinx is the hard, brittle rock of the ancient reef, referred to as Member I.
All of the geological layers slope about three degrees from northwest to southeast, so they are higher at the rump of the Sphinx and lower at the front paws. Hence, the surface of this area has not appreciably weathered compared to the layers above it.
Most of the Sphnix's lion body and the south wall and the upper part of the ditch were carved into the Member II, which consists of seven layers that are soft near the bottom, but become progressively harder near the top.
However, the rock actually alternates between hard and soft. The head and neck of the Great Sphinx are made of Member III, which is better stone, though it becomes harder further up.
The Sphinx faces the rising sun with a temple to the front which resembles the sun temples which were built later by the kings of the 5th Dynasty. The lion was a solar symbol in more than one ancient Near Eastern culture.
The royal human head on a lion's body symbolized power and might, controlled by the intelligence of the pharaoh, guarantor of the cosmic order, or ma'at. Its symbolism survived for two and a half millennia in the iconography of Egyptian civilization.
The head and face of the Sphinx certainly reflect a style that belongs to Egypt's Old Kingdom, and to the 4th Dynasty in particular.
The overall form of his face is broad, almost square, with a broad chin. The headdress (known as the 'nemes' head-cloth), with its fold over the top of the head and its triangular planes behind the ears, the presence of the royal 'uraeus' cobra on the brow, the treatment of the eyes and lips all evidence that the Sphinx was carved during this period.
The sculptures of kings Djedefre, Khafre and Menkaure and other Old Kingdom Pharaohs, all show the same configuration that we see on the Sphinx. Some scholars believe that the Great Sphinx was originally bearded with the sort of formally plaited beard. Pieces of the Sphinx's massive beard found by excavation adorn the British Museum in London and the Cairo Museum.
However, it seems to possibly, if not probably be dated to the New Kingdom, and so was likely added at a later date.
The rounded divine beard is an innovation of the New Kingdom, and according to Rainer Stadelmann, did not exist in the Old or Middle Kingdom. It may have been added to identify the god with Horemahket.