It appears that a research team has discovered physical evidence that the Great Sphinx of Giza, in Egypt, may actually date from 5000 and 7000 BC and maybe possibly earlier. In response to this, certain archaeologists have ridiculed the  geologists, and historians have been caught in the middle, 

So, does the Sphinx, having revealed one secret, challenges us to unravel even greater ones.




The discovery originated half a century ago in the work by a neglected French scholar, R.A. Schwaller de Lubicz (1891-1962). Between 1937 and 1952, Schwaller undertook a survey of the Egyptian Temple of Luxor. His measurements of the floor plan and other detailed observations of the ruins disclosed geometrical relationships not previously suspected. These were confirmed by French archaeologists. Schwaller found similar relationships at other sites. He reported his findings in 1949 and gave a fuller account in 1957. 

A reviewer for the Journal of Near Eastern Studies at the time urged his colleagues to pay serious attention to Schwaller's work which challenged the notion of Egypt's mathematical inferiority and suggested a new dimension to Egyptian religious belief. Unfortunately Schwaller stirred up quite a bit of opposition by the speculative meanings that he gave to Egyptian architecture and inscriptions, and other scholars dismissed his findings.


Schwaller observed a curious physical anomaly in the pyramid complex at Giza. The erosion on the Sphinx, he noted, was quite different from the erosion observable on other structures. Schwaller suggested that the cause of erosion on the Sphinx was water rather than wind-borne sand. At the time, nobody understood the implications of this observation and it went largely unnoticed until the 1970s, when the independent Egyptologist John Anthony West took up the question.




What is now the Sphinx head was probably at one time an outcrop of rock. The 240-foot body of the monument, in the shape of a recumbent lion facing east, was excavated from the limestone bedrock of the Giza plateau, forming an open enclosure around it. A small temple, the "Sphinx Temple," stands in front of the monument. This and an adjacent temple to the south, known as the "Khafra Valley Temple," originally stood close to the Nile river. The Valley Temple is at one end of a long 1600 foot causeway that leads to the Mortuary Temple in front of the Pyramid of Khafra (Chephren). The Sphinx and Valley Temples consist of huge limestone blocks quarried from the enclosure and refaced with Aswan granite. To the northeast of Khafra's pyramid lies the Great Pyramid of Khufu (Cheops) and to the southwest lies the Pyramid of Menkaura (Mycerinus). Causeways also link the Khufu and Menkaura pyramids to valley temples along the ancient Nile. Archaeologists attribute the Sphinx to the Old Kingdom fourth dynasty ruler Khafra, who reigned from 2520-2494 BC.




West compared the erosion on the Sphinx, on its temples, and on the enclosure walls to the erosion of other structures on the Giza plateau. On the Sphinx and its nearby walls, the rock was worn badly, giving it a sagging appearance. Edges were rounded and deep fissures were prominent. On structures elsewhere on the plateau, the surfaces showed only the sharper abrasion of wind and sand. Egypt experienced periods of heavy rainfall in the millennia that marked the post-glacial northward shift of the temperate zone. This period lasted from about 10,000 to 5000 BC and by its end the Sahara had turned from green savanna into a desert. A shorter but more intense period of rainfall lasted from about 4000 to 3000 BC, tapering off by the middle of the third millennium. West thought that flooding from the post-glacial transition caused the distinctive weathering on the Sphinx complex, which meant that the Sphinx must have been carved during or before the transition. Orthodox archaeologists refused even to consider West's hypothesis. But in 1990 West persuaded Robert M. Schoch, a geologist at Boston University, to examine the question. Curious, Schoch agreed and the two visited Giza in June 1990.




Archaeologists agreed that the Sphinx complex stood close to earlier flood levels and that flooding probably reached the base of the Sphinx on occasion. However, flood levels have declined since Old Kingdom times. Schoch observed that erosion was heaviest on the upper parts of the Sphinx and enclosure walls, not around the base, where flooding should have undercut the monument. This upper surface weathering was typical of damage by rainfall, as were the undulating impaction pattern and fissures on the Sphinx and nearby walls. Schoch noticed that the limestone blocks on the Sphinx and Khafra Valley Temples were similarly eroded and that some of the refacing stones appeared to have been form-fitted to the eroded blocks behind them. Inscriptions suggest that the refacing stones dated from the Old Kingdom, which suggested that the original walls eroded long before.




On a second trip to Giza in April 1991, West and Schoch brought Thomas Dobecki, a geophysicist from Houston, Texas, to carry out a seismic survey of the enclosure foundations to determine whether the underlying rock showed evidence of precipitation damage. The degree of subsurface weathering could be measured by bouncing sound waves off of deeper layers of rock. With the permission of the Egyptian Antiquities Organization, the team carried out sound-wave tests through the floor of the enclosure.


Schoch and Dobecki discovered that the enclosure floor in front and alongside of the Sphinx had weathered to a depth of six to eight feet. They also discovered that the back of the enclosure had weathered only half as far. Schoch agreed that the floor behind the Sphinx had been excavated during the Old Kingdom but he concluded that the sides and front of the monument were twice as old. Assuming a linear rate of weathering, Schoch estimated the date of the Sphinx and most of the enclosure to between 5000 and 7000 BC, far earlier than the date of 2500 assumed by archaeology. Schoch noted that weathering could have been non-linear, slowing as it got deeper because of the increasing mass of rock overhead. On this assumption, the Sphinx could have been significantly older than 7000 BC.



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