Skip to main content

The Masonry Boxes of the Great Sphinx

One aspect of the Great Sphinx at Giza that has somehow been overlooked by "fringe" authors is the presence of four odd masonry boxes that are situated against the body of the Sphinx at floor level, two on the north side and two on the south.
Masonry "boxes" (in red).
Sphinx 'boxes'
August Mariette uncovered the boxes while clearing the sand around the Sphinx in the 1850s. At that time, there were five boxes, but one on the north side has since disappeared. The arrangement of the boxes is asymmetrical and seems to make little sense. What was their purpose?
Mariette first thought they served as buttresses to support the slope of the masonry on the body of the Sphinx. But he changed his mind when he found pieces of a colossal statue of Osiris that was, he wrote, composed of separate blocks. A travel writer in 1856 counted the blocks: there were 28 (Laorty-Hadji, L'Egypte, p. 382). The fragments included a badly worn face and a white crown made of limestone.
Limestone crown, 1997.
White crown
Based on this evidence, Mariette concluded that the boxes had served as bases or pedestals for large cult statues. Examination of the masonry indicates that the boxes were constructed in the 18th Dynasty at the latest (during Phase 1 reconstruction), but probably earlier.
Dimensions of the Boxes (in feet).
Description Width (E-W) Length (N-S) Height
N Large Box 13.1 11.2 8.9
N Small Box 8.0 7.5 5.7
S Large Box 17.3 13.1 10.8
S Small Box 6.2 7.9 4.7*
*Top course of stones missing.
Mark Lehner made a theoretical reconstruction of the Osiride statue in his 1991 Yale University doctorate dissertation, Archaeology of an image: The Great Sphinx of Giza. According to Lehner,
The double crown, when complete would have been about 1.6 m. [5.2 feet] tall and about 1 m. [3.3'] long (front to back). This would be proportionate on a statue about 7.5 m. [24.6'] tall. A statue of this size must have been part of the site where it was found. Since it is not likely that this was the statue at the chest of the Sphinx, we must examine the possibility that it was the statue to which Mariette made reference. [p. 369]
Mendes naos.
Mendes naos

For the design of the reconstructed statue, Lehner used a small statuette found by Hassan near the north side of the Sphinx. The figure depicts the mummiform king wearing the double crown and holding an ankh sign. As New Kingdom cult statues were provided with a shrine, or naos, Lehner speculated that such was the case with the Osiride statue and so used the naos of Mendes (see above), carved from a single block of granite and of similar size, as a model for his reconstruction. "A colossal naos," wrote Lehner, "could have been considered the pr of the Osiride statue." [p. 374] In ancient times, a stairway likely led up to the naos.
Sphinx reconstruction.
Sphinx and statue

Despite the evidence that the masonry boxes served as pedestals for statues, Lehner is not entirely convinced:
The boxes attached to the Sphinx statue are odd structures that defy immediate and easy explanation. Even odder is the fact that they have received little comment except that of Mariette (1882, 95)... Like the S large box, both the S and N small boxes show evidence of use as plinths or bases - flat socles built upon a fill of limestone and mortar. However there remains some doubt. The notion of the Sphinx flanked with smaller statues on pedestals here and there against the leonine body seems, at first, bizarre. The N large box is covered and has never been dismantled. It does not seem well constructed or properly located as a pedestal for a statue. [p. 267]


Popular posts from this blog

How ancient Egyptians Were cutting the Obelisk from the Granite quarry?

Today, quarrymen cut and carve granite using saws with diamond-edged blades and steel chisels.

But ancient Egyptian quarrymen and stonemasons didn't have these modern tools. How, then, did they quarry and cut such clean lines in their obelisks and other monumental statuary?
To find out how ancient Egyptians quarried huge pieces of granite for their obelisks, i traveled to an ancient quarry in Aswan, located 500 miles south of Cairo. This is where the ancient Egyptians found many of the huge granite stones they used for their monuments and statues.

One of the most famous stones left behind is the Unfinished Obelisk, more than twice the size of any known obelisk ever raised. Quarrymen apparently abandoned the obelisk when fractures appeared in its sides. However, the stone, still attached to bedrock, gives important clues to how the ancients quarried granite.

Archeologist Mark Lehner, a key member of nova expedition, crouches in a granite trench that abuts one side of…

Hesi-re, the first Dentist, in ancient Egypt and in the world

Hesire was a high official who lived during the reign of Netjerikhet (Dosjer) 2686 BC to 2613 BC . His tutelary informs us of the many offices he had held during his life. Thus he was the 'overseer of the royal scribes', at the head of the royal administration of Djoser. His most spectacular title, however, was that of the 'greatest (or chief ?)of physicians and dentists'. It is not entirely clear whether this title infers that Hesire himself was honored as the greatest of physicians and dentists, or rather that he was merely responsible for the administration of physicians and dentists. But whatever the case, the distinction between 'physicians' and 'dentists' in his tutelary does show a high degree of medical specialization at this early stage of the history of Ancient Egypt..

Das Tal der Koenige

Die geographische Lage
Das Gebiet bei Theben lieferte ein vorzügliches Gebiet für das Anlegen einer königlichen Nekropole. Vom Westufer des Nils erstreckt sich eine flache Ebene zu einer Bergkette mit zahlreichen abgeschiedenen Tälern, die sich zwischen hohen Klippen und weichem Gestein durchschlängeln. Die Ebene eignete sich ideal für das Errichten der königlichen Totentempel. Die Täler hingegen boten genügend Platz, um viele kunstvoll in den Fels gehauene Gräber anzulegen. Auch aus symbolischen Gründen wählten die Alten Ägypter diesen Platz für das Errichten einer Nekropole. Blickt man von der Stadt Theben über den Nil auf das thebanische Bergmassiv, dann ähnelt es in der Gestalt einer riesigen Version der Hieroglyphe für "Horizont". Es ist das ägyptische Symbol für das Gebiet der auf- und untergehenden Sonne. Im Neuen…