On the Antiquity of the Sphinx

Harte

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This is an old article of mine I wrote years ago for this site. It had been lost, but Num recently located it. I've since learned much more about Schoch's theory and now consider it baseless, but perhaps some others might like to read and comment on it.

A few years back, around 1990, at the request of John Anthony West (the infamous self-taught Egyptologist, tour guide, and proponent of Atlantean-like ancient civilizations), Dr. Robert Schoch, Geophysicist and professor at Boston University conducted a geological survey of the sphinx and the sphinx enclosure at Giza in Egypt, with an eye toward estimating the age of the sphinx based on patterns of erosion West had pointed out to him.

Now, Schoch is not exactly Erik VonDaniken. He has no axe to grind, prior to this survey he was not a famous proponent of pseudoarchaeology, he’s just a geologist. Sure, he might be led into mistaken ideas, like many scientists are when they venture outside their field - Einstein was fascinated by the preposterous idea that the entire crust of the Earth could shift around in one quick movement, like the loosened skin on an orange, Linus Pauling advocated massive doses of vitamin C as a cure-all for everything, etc, etc…. What I’m getting at is that, though West had placed this sphinx antiquity idea into Schoch’s head prior to the survey, the fact that geology was involved, and thus Schoch’s reputation, possibly even his livelihood, is enough to indicate to me that his findings represent his honest attempt to estimate the age of the sphinx based on erosion.

What Schoch found was that the erosion on the enclosure wall of the sphinx appeared to be due to water, probably runoff of rainwater from centuries of storms. Using sonar-type technology to examine the limestone floor of the sphinx enclosure (which is covered with sand, and has been for a very, very long time), Schoch also determined that the floor of the sphinx enclosure had weathered significantly on the eastern (front) floor, when compared to the western floor. This sort of weathering, which is caused by exposure to the air (not by rain) and would not be prevented by the sand covering – no matter how deep, has been used extensively by geologists in the past to estimate dates of exposure of rock. It is the relative differences in this kind of weathering that is useful in these cases. Schoch, knowing that the common view was that the sphinx was carved by order of Kaphre around 2500 BC, took the rear portion of the enclosure floor to be of this age. Calculations based on the more extensive weathering in the floor at the front of the enclosure led Schoch to estimate that this portion of the enclosure had to be at least 2000 years older, and possibly 5000 years older, or more. The “or more” part is based mainly on the fact that such weathering is usually not linear.

The weathered limestone of the floor is still there; it’s not washed away or anything. The deeper the weathering extends, the slower future weathering proceeds. Since this relationship between time and depth of weathered rock is nonlinear, good estimates of the actual date of first exposure are very difficult to arrive at. You see, different limestones will weather at different rates, even layers within the same deposit of limestone differ greatly in their properties. Because of this, Schoch is comfortable with a date of at the latest 4750 BC for the first exposure of the floor of the sphinx enclosure on the eastern (front) side. And the uncertainty in the dating is what allows this portion of the enclosure to be “possibly” dated to 7000BC or even earlier. This time period corresponds well with a wet period at Giza that could account for the apparent rainwater runoff type of weathering that can be seen on the enclosure walls and on the sphinx body itself. The most recent wet period that we know of at Giza when there was rain enough to account for this observed water erosion on the sphinx enclosure wall was during what’s called the Neolithic Wet Phase. The height of this wet period was around 6,000 BC.

Climatology at Giza is fairly well known. The Egyptians kept fairly good records; they were an agrarian society, after all. Heavy rainfall was never more than sporadic during the ancient Egyptian civilization. The big thing for the Egyptians was the annual Nile flood. It goes almost without saying that they didn’t know where these floods came from. I mean, the entire flood thing was part of their religion, and they made no connection to any rainfall causing it. In fact, the Nile flooding, which still occurs today, is due to heavy seasonal rains far upstream from Egypt. So if the erosion on the wall of the enclosure is due to water, it’s unlikely to be from rainfall in the modern or even Egyptian Dynastic era. The fact that the height of the Neolithic Wet Phase corresponds almost perfectly with Schoch’s calculations concerning the buried floor of the enclosure means one of two things. Either one piece of data reinforces the other, or Schoch had the Neolithic Wet Phase in mind and fudged his Sphinx enclosure floor data to match up with it. The former is the likelier, since the latter involves peer-reviewed scientific data interpretation.

Other arguments for sphinx antiquity stem from the uncomfortable fact that, though it’s construction is attributed to Kaphre, and the face of the sphinx is supposed to be Kaphre’s face; there exist no records from Kaphre’s reign that would indicate that he decreed that it should be built. Additionally, forensic comparisons of the face of the sphinx with what we know of Kaphre’s face show that the two faces just don’t match up. To my mind, the former argument is a better one than the latter, after all, we have no good statues of Kaphre (just one small carving – about 8 inches tall, that is believed to certainly be Kaphre, and it’s a full length body image making the face small indeed, and another carved bust that we believe might be Kaphre.) Also, exactly how precise do we require an artist to be when carving the Pharaoh’s face? I would think that there would be room for artistic license, especially if the Pharaoh was in fact not a handsome man.

Other arguments for the sphinx’s ancientness are somewhat less convincing. One I recently learned of involves predynastic ivory labels with a sphinx portrait painted on them. First a word about these labels.

In the late predynastic period, between 3500 and 3100 BC, Egyptians began using little carved or painted labels with pictures of animals, plants, mountains, etc. on them to indicate the source of various payments of taxes to the regional leaders (this was before Egypt was united.) I believe the earliest of these has been found in or around Abydos, a settlement in what’s called “Upper Egypt,” meaning the southern part of Egypt (upstream on the Nile is why it’s called “upper”.) Anyway, these labels were used to keep track of which of the surrounding settlements, which were ruled by the leader and subject to his taxation, had paid their taxes, and what payment they had made. The pictograms on the labels stood for the various villages. These pictograms evolved into hieroglyphics, eventually.

The Egyptian “upper kingdom” was united around 3100 BC by an unknown Pharaoh possibly Narmer, maybe an unknown Pharaoh who is represented by a scorpion (yes, that’s where they got the movie from). The Egyptians of this time continued to use these labels, and the existence of any such label that could be convincingly shown to represent the actual sphinx monument would certainly prove that the sphinx was at least this old.

Here are a couple of quotes on this label subject:

Here is some historical information relevant to the Sphinx and its origins:

  • Predynastic Egypt (before the Pharaohs) - great numbers of half-man half-lion amulets were found from this archaeological period.
  • First Dynasty - ivory labels from tombs at Abydos show a large Sphinx half buried, with only head and paws visible. On these images the head is large but the face indistinct
Shane posted this link in another thread

And

However, let me throw my own small stone into this lake of speculation. Suppose the Sphinx does pre- date Khafre and the pyramids; suppose it was once a couchant lion, complete with lion’s head, - and was known as such by the earliest dynastic Egyptians; and suppose further, that it was largely covered by sand, so that only the head and the forepaws could be seen; would not the Egyptians, even in their earliest inscriptions have left a picture of it? There are no such pictures, no records, no mention of such a huge lion picture. Or are there? I have seen, in Archaic Egypt by W.B. Emery, (Penguin 1963), no less than five examples of a lion’s head and forepaws, included in brief inscriptions of the earliest dynasties, that made me wonder. An ivory label from the tomb of Queen Nihotep at Nagadeh (p.50) A wooden label from Abydos (p.52) An ivory label of Zer from Abydos (p.59) An inscribed palette of Zer from Sakkara (p.60) A wooden label of Udimu from Abydos (p.76)

In all of these crude inscriptions the lion “forepart” is very large, even the largest single element in them The forepart of a lion in later hieroglyphics is no larger than any other symbols, and means “front”, “before”, “beginning”, or “breast”, et cetera. Why is it so large, so very prominent, in these earliest versions? I am not attempting to out-Hancock Hancock with nudging questions, - but maybe the Egyptians of the earliest dynasties really did have a huge lion carving looking down from the Giza Plateau?

Source: Newsletter

This second quote is the more useful, since it contains references to where mentions of these ancient labels, and possibly photos of them, can be found. But I have yet to locate any pictures. If I ever do, I’ll post them here.

Of course, it’s not fair to talk about the antiquity of the sphinx without mentioning the mainstream view of most Egyptologists. It’s important to note here that, contrary to what the pseudoscientists will tell you in their books filled with half-truths and fabrications, most Egyptologists are open to the idea of an older sphinx. There is, as I’m sure you’re aware, a certain amount of inertia in any scientific field. This inertia tends to carry old ideas forward, sometimes even into periods beyond their usefulness. I’m not saying that this is the case with the dating of the sphinx, but it should be said that the recent “redating” is based on for the most part speculation and somewhat unreliable geologic methodology. What Schoch and others have done is merely open a door to the possibility of a much older sphinx. They have not proven anything and they present very little solid, scientific evidence to support their theories.

The Egyptologists based their date of construction of the sphinx on a stela that was placed in front of the sphinx by Tutmoses IV, who is known to have repaired and restored the sphinx in or around 1400 BC. The stela mentions Kaphre in context with the face on the sphinx. Egyptologists claim that Tutmoses IV indicates on this stela that he is paying homage to the statue of Kaphre. Here’s a quote that tells the whole Tutmoses story:

When Pharaoh Thutmosis IV fell asleep before the head of the Great Sphinx at Giza, he recorded that the statue had spoken to him in a dream. He said the Sphinx had told him to clear away the centuries of sand that choked its body and hid all but its head from view. The Sphinx then promised the young Thutmosis (also spelled Tutmosis) the throne of Egypt for doing this work. And so he cleared the Sphinx of its sand and set up between the massive lion’s paws a stela on which he recorded his dream and promised to restore the statue of the Pharaoh Khafre. Or did he?

…The original attribution of the Sphinx to Khafre came about when Egyptologist Henry Salt made a facsimile of the damaged stela set up before the statue by the later Pharaoh Tutmosis IV. The last line still legible bore the syllable “Khaf,” assumed to be Khafre. Other people copied this copy because the stela’s inscriptions had worn off with time.

Thomas Young made the most famous secondary copy and based his translation on it. The accepted version of thirteenth line of the stela, the one bearing the syllable “Khaf,” reads in the Young translation: “…which we bring for him: oxen… and all the young vegetables; and we shall give praise to Wenofer …Khaf…. the statue made for Atum-Hor-em-Akhet.” The last name refers to the Egyptian gods Horus and Atum in their joint form as the Sphinx. Young then added the syllable “re” to “Khaf” on the assumption that it referred to the Pharaoh of that name.
Jason Colavito

Doesn’t seem particularly convincing to me, but I suppose that an archaeologist must have something to go on, and if this is all you got, then this is what you go with.

Another more convincing (to me) argument concerning the sphinx’s age involves the positioning of the Great Causeway that leads to Kaphre’s pyramid. There can be little doubt that the Great Pyramid dates to sometime around Kaphre’s reign. If you look at the diagram below, you can see that the causeway to this pyramid runs beside the sphinx and at an angle to the east-west axis of the sphinx. Note that the sphinx enclosure is carved out parallel with this causeway. If the Sphinx enclosure predates the Great Pyramid by thousands of years, how are we to explain this wall of the enclosure running parallel to the (supposedly) much much younger causeway? The angled portion of the sphinx enclosure is just as weathered as the rest of it; the floor there is weathered similarly to the floor in a similar position on the opposite side of the sphinx. In other words, there is no indication at all, anywhere that this wall of the enclosure is newer than the other walls, yet this wall was carved in a way that is not only not square with the other walls, but parallel with a causeway that was supposedly absent until thousands of years after the sphinx was carved. See the diagram below from Catchpenny.org:

Plan of Khafre’s causeway and the Sphinx enclosure.
causeway.gif

Plan after Lehner, 1991

While I realize that this is only a hand-drawn diagram, I have verified the fact of the angled causeway through various websites with actual aerial photos. This diagram makes it much easier to see the argument. I encourage anyone that wants to to use maybe Google earth to check it themselves, or look around google for aerial sphinx photos, if you are a hard core believer.

References not already named:
Redating the Great Sphinx of Giza by Associate Professor Robert Schoch 1992

Redating the Sphinx by David Billington orig. in World History Bulletin Spring-Summer 1994

Redating the Sphinx – The Debate by David Billington Nov. 2001 (This second one from Billington was extremely informative concerning the debate between Schoch and his critics)

Catchpenny.org

Anybody that reads this – if you do nothing else, please visit this Catchpenny site and browse around. It is my favorite Egyptian site on the web and addresses many many of the “new age” type theories concerning the Egyptians, pyramids the sphinx, etc. Catchpenny provides the most info about these things in the least amount of space and the fastest loading pages I’ve seen concerning these pseudoscientific claims about Egypt.

Schoch himself addresses criticism of his work at: Morien Institute - The Great Sphinx Dating Debate - page two.

I hope this short article will spur some interest and some conversation around here concerning ancient Egypt in particular and ancient civilizations in general. I’ve tried here to present the best supported “fringe archaeology” theory out there - that of the antiquity of the sphinx. Other fringe theories exist about other artifacts and civilizations, though none with the kind of support this sphinx one has.

I also want to point out that the sphinx was carved out of the native limestone where it is situated, not constructed or otherwise manufactured. It’s really no great leap to think that the sphinx could have been carved as early as 7000 BC or earlier. There are stoneworks at the site of Jericho that date back to 9000 BC, after all, and there are many megalithic sites around the Mediterranean that can’t be positively dated at all, as of yet, due to the absence of artifactual evidence at these sites.

The sort of carving found at the sphinx requires no advanced knowledge of any tools. The carving done there could have been accomplished with flint, since limestone is relatively soft.

Please post your comments regarding this article here, or start a new thread in the “Ancient Civilizations” (EDIT: Now known as the "Artifacts and History" section - Harte) area of the Paranormalis forums.

End of pasted article.

Harte
 

Mayhem

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What do you know of the 2nd Anubis Her Em Akhet on the other side of the nile?
 
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Harte

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I know it's not there, and I know the sphinx was never Anubis.

Harte
 

Harte

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This second quote is the more useful, since it contains references to where mentions of these ancient labels, and possibly photos of them, can be found. But I have yet to locate any pictures. If I ever do, I’ll post them here.

Harte

I got this pic of one of the labels mentioned in the quote I provided in the OP.

djer2.jpg

Lion at lower right.

Turns out there's lots of these labels that have glyphs on them that aren't similarly sized, but this isn't really one of them. My source apparently didn't know what he was talking about.

The glyph in question is F4 on Gardiner's list.
F4U+13102forepart of lionḥȝt
wiki

Harte
 


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