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Author Topic: THE SPHINX  (Read 5437 times)
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« Reply #75 on: October 10, 2007, 07:58:43 am »

[7] It has been suggested that subsurface moisture migrating up into the Sphinx and the surrounding rocks of the Sphinx enclosure may account for much of this activity (see Gauri and Holdren, 1981). Alternatively, or complementarily to the migration of subsurface ground water, similar weathering is actively taking place during the present day, due to the condensation of atmospheric moisture on the rock. As described by K. L. Gauri, A. N. Chowdhury, N. Fl. Kulshreshtha and A. R. Punuru ('Geologic features and durability of limestones at the Sphinx,' in P. G. Marinos and G. C. Koukis, eds., Engineering Geology of Ancient Works, Monuments and Historical Sites (Rotterdam, 1988), 723-729 [725-726]), 'the moisture is able to condense as droplets of water in the cool of the night. This moisture forms concentrated salt solution, a process augmented by the hygroscopicity of the existing halite. The salt solution enters the pores under the influence of capillary force. At sunrise, as the water begins to evaporate, crystals of salt grow producing crystallization pressure. Often one can hear in the morning the sound of popping stone resulting from pressures produced under the surface layers."

          K. L. Gauri, G. C. Holdren and W. C. Vaughan ('Cleaning Efflorescences from Masonry,' in J. R. Clifton, ed., Cleaning Stone and masonry, (Philadelphia 1986], 3-13) have suggested that much of the deterioration of the Sphinx is due to the migration of salts under the influence of water originating from the atmosphere. These authors (Gauri,, 4-5) state: "Burial of the Sphinx for centuries under the desert sand has, it appears, resulted in the migration of salts from the depth of the bedrock toward the surface. The authors deduced this phenomenon from observations made in the process of mapping the Sphinx geologically [Gauri, 1984], when sand was removed that had piled up in recent times against the rock surfaces bounding the ditch around the Sphinx. Even though the sand appeared dry at the surface, it was completely soaked with water a few inches below the surface. Also, the bedrock in contact with the sand was soaked with water. The source of this water is the atmosphere, and not the subsurface, because the water table lies many meters below the surfaces under consideration. Therefore, during the long burial of the Sphinx, the rock must have become wet to a considerable depth, and as it dried when exposed to the sun, salts must have become concentrated in the surface layers."

          As noted by Lehner (The ARCE Sphinx Project: A preliminary report,' NARCE 1 1 2 [I 980], 3-33), the vast majority of the weathering and erosion occurred to the Sphinx prior to ca. 1400 B.C. In places the walls of the Sphinx enclosure exhibit over a meter (3.3 feet) of erosion, and in places perhaps over two meters (6.5 feet) of erosion (see, for instance, the profile in Gauri, 1984, 32). It is hard to imagine that the mechanism of migrating salts, described in the quotation above, could be solely responsible for producing these deep-weathering features in the time span from 2500 B.C. (when Khafre allegedly had the Sphinx carved) to 1400 B.C. It is particularly difficult to reconcile Gauri et. al.'s proposed weathering mechanism with the observed surficial morphology of the rocks in consideration of the following points: 1) the Sphinx enclosure was probably buried in sand for at least half of the period between 2500 and 1400 B.C. (see Lehner, 1980); 2) the weathering patterns seen on the body of the Sphinx and walls of the Sphinx enclosure clearly exhibit features associated with precipitation-induced weathering (cf. El Aref and Retai, 1987); and 3) Old Kingdom tombs and other structures on the Giza Plateau that were carved from the same member of the Mokattam Formation do not exhibit the same weathering features to the degree seen on the Sphinx body and surrounding enclosure walls. If Gauri et al.'s mechanism of migrating salts since 2500 B.C. was the primary agent responsible for the weathering and erosional features seen on the body of the Sphinx, and on the walls of the Sphinx enclosure, then one should expect to observe such features of a similar nature and degree on the Old Kingdom tombs and other structures that are carved out of the same sequence of limestones as the body of the Sphinx, and that have been subjected to identical climatic and weathering conditions since they were constructed.
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