Sunday, 19 May 2013

The Riddle Of The Sphinx

I am following on to an earlier post, in which I bemoaned this strange idea in current western archaeology, that ancient monuments such as Stonehenge, or Hadrian's Wall, should be left in disrepair, to somehow make them 'Authentic'. In fact of course they are only 'authentic' when they are as the makers intended them to be seen.

Take, the Sphinx ....... probably built by Pharoah Khufu in his likeness.

The Sphinx as Archaeologists like to see it

It's age, weathering, and vandalism, have left it a pale shadow of its original self. But instead of the Chinese model of repairing heritage sites, all we do is say, "what the heck, the damage is 'historical' so we'll leave it", and then strangely, we proceed to spend millions to keep the sites in exactly the current stage of disrepair that we found them in. How weird is this?

So how would the sphinx look repaired? Well I had a go at 'repairing it' (apologies for the poorness of my Photo-shop skills) ..... maybe something like this?

A Repaired, Brick Faced Version Of The Sphinx

Assuming that after it was carved from the bed rock, it was faced with shaped stones or shaped bricks (like the Great Pyramid of Giza was), then it would have been something like the image above. Or maybe if they just carved the rocks and left it, maybe more like the image below.

A Repaired, Rock Version Of The Sphinx

In either event how much more wondrous to see it as it was intended to be seen?

Added after visitor suggestion a 'human scale' image .... incidently, notice that the Victorian photo (which was in B&W before I coloured it), show that some 'repair' was done by archaeologists before the current vogue of 'not repairing' items (see top image for current state of 'repair').

Human added to show scale

Some people suggest that it was actually more polished when originally completed .... something like this reconstruction I have created .....

How Great Sphinx May Have Looked ....


  1. Pretty good 'repair' but could do with a human in shot to give it scale.

    1. I have done what you asked - the pictures are not the same but the scale is in both.

  2. Indisputable logic. Of course maintaining a state of disrepair is contradictory.
    If it's not too late you should add the beard which, if memory serves, lies on the ground under the sphynx's chin.

    1. There's some debate as to whether the 'beard' was added later .... its not proved either way, but in view of the fact that beards appear on later sphinxes, I have done it in that sphinx style, and given it a slightly different colour, as it seems to have been cut from from a harder rock and cut to stand out.

      Cheers for the comment.

  3. No need to apologise about your photo shop skills, it looks like I imagine it did when the builders finished.

  4. Two riddles of the Sphinx:

    "Which creature has one voice and yet becomes four-footed and two-footed and three-footed?"
    The Sphinx strangled and devoured anyone unable to answer.

    Traditionally Oedipus solved the riddle by answering: "Man—who crawls on all fours as a baby, then walks on two feet as an adult, and then uses a walking stick in old age".

    However in some accounts (but much more rarely - a very old Gascon version), there was a second riddle: "There are two sisters: one gives birth to the other and she, in turn, gives birth to the first. Who are the two sisters?"

    The answer is "day and night" (but you have be Greek for this to work, as both words are feminine in Greek).

    1. Thanks for the comment to the post.

  5. I just stumbled upon this page doing research for a history documentary. I have to point out, the idea of "repairing" ancient structures like this is hilariously dumb, for the simple reason that we have no idea what they would have looked like originally and any attempt to rebuild them will only ever end up imposing the style and taste of the current era on it.

    if you want to see artificial recreations of famous landmarks, go to vegas.

    1. What a strange post, and an insult thrown in as well ..... still if that's what passes for debate? Still apart from the fact that you have taken a light hearted, and idle post, way out of proportion, I am very mildly curious as to why, as a researcher for 'historical documentaries', you apparently think that we have no idea what ancient structures would have looked liked? It seems a 'rather strange' idea to say the least for a historical researcher .... there are so many examples that contradict that idea.

      We know what the Coliseum looked like, and could rebuild if we wanted to .... we know what the Pyramids looked like, and could reface them if we wanted to, and the Stonehenge stones are just lying there in position ... we could put them back up. The Great Wall of China (at least those parts in Beijing), are intact, but no doubt have changed over the centuries to reflect the style and taste of the different era's, even this one.

      What is Archaeology, and Theoretical Structural Archaeology, if not the reconstruction of the past and ancient structures (if only in 'virtual' state), based on current expert knowledge, and of course reconstruction from the parts left on the ground, or those structures still standing? Time Team on UK TV regularly gave graphical representations of what they believed Saxon Round houses or Roman Villas looked like etc, even though no contemporary illustrations exist.

      Indeed in the UK there are full reconstructions of Saxon or Iron Age villages, and in the US, the first colonial settlements have been historically repaired or reconstructed (including James town and the Powhatan village) from post holes, and existing contemporary buildings in England. The Sphinx is there, we can see its shape, we know what the face stones were ... heck as another poster pointed out, they even found the beard that had been added. What's not to know??

      You could also try looking at the reconstructions of parts of Hadrian's Wall and its Forts, here (BBC) or here (English Heritage), or maybe visit the rebuilt Roman fort in the centre of (National Archives & Wiki).

      Of course they could simply be imposing the style and taste of the current era on these buildings, although I think that they forgot the indoor toilets, double glazing and central heating, which was somewhat remiss of them. No doubt an email to the archaeologists involved from you, along with an explanation to them that they are in fact 'hilariously dumb', as they can't possibly have any 'idea what the buildings would have looked like originally' will no doubt dazzle them, and once they have realised the error of their ways, the graphic illustrations will be taken down, along with a bulldozer to the rebuilt parts of the structures.

      Keep the research tips for free ..... Oh, and please be kind enough to leave the address of the history documentary you are making when its complete .... I'll be looking out real hard for the expensive CGI reconstruction of the pile of stones on the ground that was the glory of ancient Rome!

    2. they forgot the indoor toilets, double glazing and central heating .... Of course I was yanking your ignorant chain there, because the Romans invented all those things, and so much more.

  6. Sphinx. To bind closely together, is way older than the pyramids, and is a way to remember the zodiac begins in Virgo and ends in Leo. The seed of the woman will crush your head as the lion of the tribe of Judah. It's a prophecy in the form of a statue.

    1. Well that's something I didn't know ... thanks for the comment.

  7. have anyone saw it in real life

    1. What the Egyptian Sphinx or a 'mythical sphinx'? Obviously the sphinx is still in Egypt, and well apart from a few drug addled mystics, no one can have seen a mythical creature. Thanks for the comment, I hope I have answered your question.


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