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Author Topic: THE SPHINX  (Read 7768 times)
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Posts: 41646

« Reply #30 on: September 22, 2007, 02:39:12 pm »

Phase V of the Sphinx conservation:

                                       Egyptian Antiquities Organization (1955-1987)

Phase V as described here consists of a series of sporadic restorations carried out by the Egyptian Antiquities Organization's restoration department in 1955, 1977,1979, and 1982-1987. There was no over-arching plan of work, nor was the conservation work that was completed recorded or photographed. The workmen were mainly doing work without any supervision by an architect or conservator. As a result, this work did not help for preservation the Sphinx.

In 1955 a temporary restoration work was done on the Sphinx, primarily in the areas that very thin layers of limestone in the area of the chest had started to flake off.

Restorers began to inject the chest with a chemical substance. The injection was done only in the surface layer of the chest. Two months later, this layer began to fall down and we still have this problem.

In September 1979, the architecture department of the Egyptian Antiquities organization (EAO) began restoration on the northern side of the Great Sphinx. This work was carried out by workmen working with only monthly supervision by the architect. The workmen started to add new stones to the north side while simultaneously taking the earlier stones out. Some of the stones taken out were ancient, and others belonged to Baraize's restoration. Unfortunately, the workmen used mortar which consisted of cement and gypsum, a formula well-known even at the time to be harmful to the monuments. When it was discovered that this was the case, the work was suspended.

In October 1981 veneer stones began falling off the north hind paw of the Sphinx.

This alarming event did not go unnoticed by the press. The newspapers called attention to the increasingly dilapidated condition of the Sphinx and demanded a change in the EAO. Hence, many experts from the Faculty of Archaeology and other institutions initiated studies on the Sphinx. Research on the water table and pollution, and analyses of mortar and stone were conducted . However, none of the findings and recommendations forthcoming from these studies were ever applied in practice to the Sphinx.

In 1981-1982, the newly formulated Sphinx committee met to discuss the conservation needs of the Sphinx. These discussions led to their unfortunate decision to remove the Roman stones and apply large stones on the Sphinx. These stones, which remain today, are similar neither to the pharaonic nor the Roman stones. The reasoning underlying the use of such visually incongruent stones was that little mortar was required in this procedure.

The architect of the Egyptian Antiquities Organization directed the restoration program from 1982-1987. The biggest problems in this phase of the work are the following:

1) They did not use the mortar recommended in the scientific report but instead used a very large amount of cement and gypsum. Furthermore, they put the mortar directly on the mother rock.

2) Again, the workmen had no supervision from any member of the Sphinx committee. The architect in charge came personally only rarely to the site.

3)The large stones used in the restoration completely obscured the modeling and the proportions of the Sphinx. This casing was applied on the south paw, north paw, the northern side, the back, the tail, the masonry boxes, the Roman stairs, the Sphinx sanctuary, and the back paw of the northern side. All these places look completely new and strange.

4) Rather than given priority to the weak areas, such as the shoulders and the top of the haunches, this effort focused attention on cosmetic renovations. These latter were in fact done badly. The "restoration" consisted merely of removing stones and mortar and replacement works. They also added buttresses of stone and mortar (again, cement and gypsum) over the mother rock of the Sphinx on the rump, north, and part of the south side.

5) They removed all the ancient stones that were added to the Sphinx in the phase III restoration. These stones were never recorded or saved in storage.

6) The Giza branch of EAO, whose personnel were at the time best equipped to supervise the work, was not permitted to have a role in over-seeing the work.

7) A wall was built on the north side which, among other things, completely obscured the modeling of the Sphinx's shoulder. This was wholly unwarranted archaeologically; it is based purely on imagination rather than evidence.

The results of this type of work on the Sphinx were:

1) The Sphinx body could not tolerate such a huge amount of mortar (cement and gypsum). The mother rock of the Sphinx could not "breathe" and began to push the newly applied stones out. This was especially the case on the back of the northern paw and the area of the tail.

 2) Deterioration and salt started to appear on the new stone. The salt problem appeared even during the work on the back northern paw. To counteract this deterioration they covered this area with mud.

3) The workmen cut the claws that had been carved in the stone by the ancient Egyptians.

All these reasons led to the suspension of work in November 1987.

In February 1988, a chunk of limestone on the southern shoulder of the Sphinx fell off. The weakness of this part had long been known. Indeed it was restored initially by Baraize and it is obvious in all the Sphinx photographs that this area needed attention. Yet, no reparations had been carried out in this area during the 1982-1987 activities.

The media made a case of it and the Sphinx became a political issue as also had happened in the reign of Thutmosis IV in 1400 BC and in 1981 when veneer stones fell off the north hind paw of the Sphinx.
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