Al-Ahram Weekly Online   4 - 10 November 2010
Issue No. 1022
Published in Cairo by AL-AHRAM established in 1875

When a prince helped out the Sphinx

The remaining part of a large mudbrick wall built by an 18th-Dynasty Pharaoh to protect the Sphinx from the desert wind has been uncovered on the Giza plateau, reports Nevine El-Aref

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Egyptian archaeologists from the Supreme Council of Antiquities (SCA) working in front of the valley temple of King Khafre on the Giza plateau are currently occupied brushing the sand off a newly-discovered mudbrick wall dating from shortly before Pharaoh Tuthmosis IV came to the throne (ca. 1398-1388 BC). The wall is in two parts: the first part is 75cm high and stretches for 86m from north to south along the eastern side of Khafre's valley temple and the Sphinx, while the second part is 90cm high and is located in the area north of the valley temple. This section is 46m long and runs from east to west along the perimeter of the valley temple area. The two parts of the wall converge at the south-east corner of the excavation area.

Zahi Hawass, secretary-general of the SCA, explained that initial studies carried out at the site show that the newly- discovered wall is a part of a larger wall found to the north of the Sphinx. This wall was constructed by Pharaoh Tuthmosis IV as an enclosure to protect the Sphinx from wind-blown sand.

According to Hawass, ancient Egyptian texts show that the wall was constructed as the result of a dream which the prince had after a long hunting trip in what is now Wadi Al-Ghezlan (Deer Valley), an area next to the Sphinx. The prince dreamt that the Sphinx asked him to remove the sand that surrounded his body because it was choking him. The Sphinx promised that if he fulfilled this favour he would become ruler of Egypt. Tuthmosis accomplished the task, removing the sand that had partially buried the Sphinx and building an enclosure wall to protect it.

Hawass pointed out that archaeologists had previously believed that the enclosure wall only existed on the Sphinx's northern side since a section three metres tall and 12 metres long had been found there. "This theory has now been disproved thanks to the discovery of the two new wall sections along the eastern and southern sides of the Sphinx."

In addition to the two sections of the enclosure wall, the SCA team found another mudbrick wall on the eastern side of the valley temple of King Khafre. Hawass believes that this wall could be the remains of Khafre's pyramid settlement, which was inhabited by priests and officials who oversaw the activities of his mortuary cult. This cult, he continued, was begun while the king was on his deathbed and continued right up to the Eighth Dynasty (ca. 2143-2134 BC), which was the end of the Old Kingdom.

Essam Shehab, supervisor of Khafre's valley temple excavation, told Al-Ahram Weekly that the mission had also dug a six- metre deep assessment trench in the area located in front of the temple in a search for any activity dating from the Middle Kingdom (2030-ca. 1660 BC). Initial inspection did not reveal any Middle Kingdom activity in the trench, which was filled with almost five metres of sand. Such an amount of sand, Shehab said, suggested that the area was abandoned during the Middle Kingdom.

Excavations continue in an attempt to find the rest of Tuthmosis's enclosure wall and any other secrets still hidden under the sand.

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