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Author Topic: THE SPHINX  (Read 5490 times)
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« Reply #90 on: October 10, 2007, 08:02:43 am »

There have been a few other previous studies of note concerning weathering and erosion on the Giza Plateau. Emery (1960), and Said and Martin (1964) discussed briefly the weathering to the pyramids, but their work is not directly applicable to the present discussion. More pertinent to the topic at hand, El Aref and Refai (1 987) made a comprehensive macroscopic study of paleokarst processes and features on the Plateau, concentrating in particular on the area of the Sphinx enclosure. These authors pointed out many paleokarst features that are attributable to periods of seasonal rainfall. They illustrate and discuss solution holes, solution depressions, solution joints, symmetrical concentric cross-cutting diffusion fronts, and other dissolution features found on the body of the Sphinx and walls of the surrounding ditch. El Aref and Refai (1987, 376) note that "The karstic rocks are mantled by soil material and/or surficial calcareous duricrust. The solution features are partially or completely filled with clay precipitates together with concretions of iron and manganese oxides and collapse breccia fragments." (As a side note, these iron and manganese oxides often take on a red or ocher color. Lehner [ 1 991, 36] noted that "if you probe any seam in the masonry covering the lower part of the body [of the Sphinx], a red powder appears." This may simply be red earthy/clay material, typical karst sediments that one would expect in such a limestone terrane that has been subjected to weathering via precipitation. Lehner [1991] and Hassan [1949] have both suggested that the Sphinx and its surroundings were traditionally painted red. This putative red paint, however, may actually consist, in part, of natural weathering products of the rock, although the Sphinx may have been artificially painted red, as well). El Aref and Refai conclude (1987, 376) that "The development of these karst features and the associated sediments indicate that the study area was subjected to intensive seasonal rainfall and evaporation of temperate (Mediterranean) climatic conditions."

          Professor Farouk El-Baz has also noticed the anomalous and very ancient weathering seen an the core body of the Sphinx. However, in order to save the attribution of the sculpture to Khafre's reign, El-Baz has long promulgated his notion that the Great Sphinx of Giza is nothing more than a yardang (an aerodynamically stable natural erosional landform-essentially a wind-shaped hill) that was merely "dressed up" by the Old Kingdom Egyptians to look like a sphinx (F. El-Baz, "Desert builders knew a good thing when they saw it," Smithsonian [April 1981],116-121; F. El-Baz, "Egypt's desert of promise," National Geographic [February 1982], 190-221). Thus, El-Baz believes that the Old Kingdom architects and sculptors incorporated very ancient (pre-Old Kingdom) erosional features found on a natural hill into their sculpting of the Sphinx.

Relative to the Great Sphinx of Giza, El-Baz's yardang hypothesis is untenable. The body of the Sphinx was not carved from a natural hill or yardang. In order to carve the figure's body, the ancient Egyptians had to excavate a ditch or moat around it, so that the full sculpture now sits in a hollow or depression below the general surface of the Giza Plateau. This ditch or hollow is clearly an artificial, man-made excavation, and it is well-established that the blocks removed from it were used to build the two structures today called the Sphinx and Valley temples. Certainly, the core body of the Sphinx was not a natural hill that was heavily eroded prior to being sculpted into the human-headed leonine figure. The head may have originally been a yardang, but it has been too heavily modified by carving and recarving to tell for sure at this point.
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