Wednesday, June 18, 2008

The Great Sphinx -6

In fact, the sand has been its savior, since, being built of soft sandstone, it would have disappeared long ago had it not been buried for much of its existence.
Nevertheless, the statue is crumbling today because of the wind, humidity and the smog from Cairo. The rock was of poor quality here from the start, already fissured along joint lines that went back to the formation of the limestone millions of years ago.
There is a particularly large fissure across the haunches, nowadays filled with cement, that also shows up in the walls of the enclosure in which the Sphinx sits.
Below the head, serious natural erosion begins.
The neck is badly weathered, evidently by wind-blown sand during those long periods when only the head was sticking up out of the desert and the wind could catapult the sand along the surface and scour the neck and the extensions of the headdress that are missing altogether now. The stone here is not quite of such good quality as that of the head above.
Erosion below the neck does not look like scouring by wind-blown sand.
In fact, so poor is the rock of the bulk of the body that it must have been deteriorating since the day it was carved out of the stone.
We know that it needed repairs on more than one occasion in antiquity.
It continues to erode before our very eyes, with spalls of limestone falling off the body during the heat of the day.
So, today
much of the work on the Great Sphinx at Giza is not directed at further explorations or excavations, but rather the preservation of this great wonder of Egypt.
This is the focus, and while some might even today have the antiquity authorities digging about the monument looking for hidden chambers holding the secrets of Atlantis, that is not likely to happen any time soon