Sunday,17 December, 2017
Current issue | Issue 1365, (19 - 25 October 2017)
Sunday,17 December, 2017
Issue 1365, (19 - 25 October 2017)

Ahram Weekly

No second Sphinx

Recent claims made about the Sphinx and Pyramids at Giza are little more than hallucinations, writes Zahi Hawass


The Sphinx

I can answer the recent claims that have been made about a “second Sphinx” with only one word: hallucinations. Many people who do not have knowledge of Egyptology continue to come up with theories that have no truth to them. Others have only studied Egyptology as undergraduates, but are still tempted to come up with new theories as part of their search for fame.

The first time the theory of the existence of a second Sphinx was published was a long time ago by an Italian author. It was then adopted by a tour guide, and then again by an Egyptian archaeologist. These men are now fighting amongst themselves because each of them claims that it was his theory first.

The theory states that there was once a second Sphinx located to the south of the causeway on the Giza Plateau. It was of the same size as the existing one, and it was placed in parallel to it. The theory is based on a text inscribed on what is known as the “Inventory Stele”, or the “Stele of Cheops’s Daughter ”. The 19th-century French Egyptologist Auguste Mariette, head of the Antiquities Department at the time, found this stela during his excavations at the Temple of Isis located to the east of the Pyramid of Queen Henutsen, the wife of the Pharaoh Khufu.  

Research at the Sphinx

Further evidence supposed to prove the existence of the second Sphinx is found in the “Dream Stele” located between the two paws of the Sphinx. This shows the Sphinx twice, with the Pharaoh Thutmose IV shown giving offerings to each of the two depictions of the Sphinx. It is also claimed that in ancient Egyptian art and architecture a statue was always placed on each side of an entrance or doorway. This can be seen in Pyramid complexes or temples, as well as in religious structures.

Those who support the idea of a second Sphinx also say that the stele that represents night and day is inscribed with the shape of a hill or horizon on the right and another one on the left. In front of the two hills stand two lions. One is called “the day” and is shown sending a small ball from his mouth to the lion standing on the other hill called “tomorrow”. It is argued that this explains the presence of a lion or sphinx in front of the Pyramid of Khufu representing the right hill in the stele, and the presence of another lion in front of the Pyramid of Khafre to represent the left hill. The latter is the supposed second Sphinx.

It has also been argued that in 1994 a satellite took photographs proving the existence of a huge stone statue parallel to the Sphinx in front of the Valley Temple and lying some 15 feet deep. All these theories are false and are based on a misreading of the evidence. They will be refuted here.


First, regarding the “Inventory Stele” or the “Stele of Cheops’ Daughter”, this is dated to the Late Period of ancient Egyptian history and perhaps to the 26th Dynasty. The French Egyptologist Gaston Maspero wrote that this stele probably bears a copy of an older text dating to the Fourth Dynasty, but he did not give evidence to support this opinion. I believe that the priests of Isis produced this stele in the Late Period to add value to their institution by claiming that the temple of Isis dated to a more ancient time.

They added the second Sphinx because the inscription on the stele says that Khufu founded both the Temple of Isis and built the Sphinx. They thus claimed that their temple and the Sphinx to which it was associated were built at Giza before Khufu’s reign.

As for the claim that entrances to Pyramid complexes and temples always had two statues guarding them, this cannot be stated as a fact. The Giza Sphinx, for example, is a unique case. The Sphinx is not located in front of a temple, and the temple is located in front of the Sphinx.

Regarding the claim that the thunder mentioned in the “Stele of Cheops’ Daughter” destroyed the second Sphinx, both archaeologists and geologists agree that thunder and lightning can destroy trees, like the ones once located in the Valley of the Gazelles between Giza and Saqqara. But they cannot destroy a statue of a Sphinx, especially if it is cut into the solid rock.


Even if we agree that the second Sphinx was destroyed in this way, why was the first Sphinx left unharmed? If the second Sphinx had been destroyed, we would also have seen the remains of it. Written texts cannot always be taken as evidence of historical events. They have to be carefully reviewed, as sometimes the ancient Egyptians wrote texts for propaganda or political purposes.

As for the stele that represents the sequence of night and day, indicating right-hand and left-hand hills, from the very beginning of their history the ancient Egyptians believed in the existence of “Akhet” or the horizon. The symbol for “Akhet” was two lions presented back to back to represent the east and the west with the sun rising and setting from them. That symbol could easily be mistaken as evidence for the presence of a second Sphinx.

In Spell 27 in the ancient Egyptian Book of the Dead, the appearance of two lions, one to the east and another to the west, is mentioned, with between them the sign of “Akhet” or the horizon directly under the sun. The ancient Egyptians drew on religious myths, and they produced depictions of two arms raising the sun, meaning the rising of the sun. All of these are images of religious ideas, and they have nothing to do with the actual existence of a second Sphinx.

It is suggested that there was once a second Sphinx to the south of the existing one where the Pyramid City of Khentkawes is located. But archaeologist Selim Hassan has excavated in that area, along with others, and no one who has excavated there or at the Valley Temple of Menkaure has ever found any evidence of a Sphinx. A glance at a map of the Giza Plateau will show that there is no room to accommodate a second Sphinx.

Void tunnel uncovered beneath the Sphinx

The existing Sphinx is connected to the Pharaoh Khafre and his cult. The name of the Sphinx is “Hor-m-akhet”, meaning “the Horus of the horizon”. After the name of the Sphinx comes the hieroglyphic determinative of the two horizons with the sun disk between them. The ancient Egyptian architect placed the Sphinx, which represents the sun god, between the Pyramid of Khufu and that of Khafre, suggesting that the sun rises and sets between the two Pyramids like the two horizons. The architect of the Sphinx placed it in this location so that the sun sets twice a year over the Sphinx’s shoulder. It also aligns exactly with the sanctuary of the Sphinx’s temple. This shows that the ancient Egyptians knew the principles of solar alignment some 4,500 years ago, and not 2,500 as claimed by some astronomers.

The ancient Egyptians intended to place the Sphinx in its present location. It was intended to represent the Pharaoh Khafre as the god Horus that rises and sets in the temple in front of the Sphinx. There was no need to carve another sphinx.

The Giza Plateau is part of the Moqattam formation, and the bedrock from which the Sphinx was made was already in bad condition when it was carved. The first and the second levels of the rock formation were used for the animal’s chest and the third level as its head. The ancient Egyptians covered the body with stone blocks to model the statue’s body.


NO SECRET CITY: The UK newspaper the Sunday Express has recently published another theory that claims there is a hole in the back of the Sphinx’s head leading to a “secret city” under the Sphinx.

The newspaper also says that two scholars, otherwise unknown, discovered this information. I am confident that no respected scholar could state nonsense like this. For in fact the hole in the back of the Sphinx’s head was first opened by English explorer Howard Vyse, who opened up tunnels in the Sphinx using dynamite in 1837. The first he opened behind the “Dream Stela”, and the second he opened in the back of the head of the Sphinx and reaching down 15 metres inside the animal’s body. The third was located on the north side and was opened by French Egyptologist Emile Baraize, who also carried out major restoration work on the Sphinx. The last is located behind the head of the Sphinx, going down through its body.

In 1987, Egyptologist Mark Lehner and I started a project to clean these four tunnels. The one opened by Baraize in 1922 was reopened during the restoration of the Sphinx begun in 1999. We mapped the tunnels and found that people who believed there were secrets hidden under the Sphinx had cut them during the 26th Dynasty, but nothing has ever been found inside them. A description of the tunnels can be found in our new book published by Thames and Hudson in London this month.

During my investigations, I also found that the water table had begun to rise in front of the Sphinx, making it necessary to lower it to protect the statue. The Faculty of Engineering at Cairo University conducted drilling work around the Sphinx, carrying out five test-drills through the Sphinx and down through the bedrock to a depth of 20 metres. We have photographs showing the substructure of the Sphinx. It is made of solid rock and there is nothing hidden underneath it.

People who put forward such false theories do so because they want to prove that the Pyramids and Sphinx were not built in the Fourth Dynasty, but by a “lost civilisation” dating back 15,000 years. To prove such people wrong, I have only to mention one great discovery made recently by the French archaeologist Pierre Tallet who has found at Wadi Al-Jarf in Suez a papyrus that in my opinion can be considered to be the most important discovery in Egyptology of the 21st century.

The papyrus has been translated by Tallet, and it talks about a man called “Merer” who had the title of “inspector” and was in charge of a team of 40 workmen working on the construction of the Great Pyramid at Giza. Merer says that he went with his workmen to Tura, where white limestone was quarried to be used for the casing of the Pyramid. He mentions the transportation of stone blocks on ships that sail on the Nile and go through canals to the Pyramid site. We know that the ancient Egyptians cut a wide canal parallel to the Nile and that this was connected with smaller canals running to the Giza Plateau and connected to harbours.

Merer says that he left Tura for Wadi Al-Jarf, where there was a port. He might have gone there to bring mined copper from Sinai. He lists the date as year 27 of Khufu’s reign, a date also mentioned in a find made in a quarry in the Western Desert where “Mafet” was quarried. (Mafet is a kind of red dye used for writing on pyramid blocks). Merer also says that Ankh-kaf was the overseer of a place called “r-she”, meaning the “mouth of the lake.” It is thought that “r-she” could have been the area where the delivery of food and stones took place for the building of the Pyramid. The remains of huge walls have been found at Nazlet Al-Sesi, suggesting that this area could have been “r-she”.

During the construction of the Pyramids, the Giza Plateau would have been very busy. Granite blocks would have come from Aswan to Giza, being counted at the gate of “r-she”, in addition to blocks of fine limestone and basalt. Food came to the Giza Plateau from wealthy households all over Egypt. Merer says that it took a day to reach the place where the Pyramid was being built, possibly because of the crowd at the entrance and the huge stones at the construction site.

According to Tallet, the area in front of the Sphinx was called Ankh-Khufu, which means “life of Khufu”. In the past, I have argued that the Pharaoh did not live at Memphis because it was too far away. Had he decided to visit the site of the Pyramids, it would have taken him a day because there were no horses at that time. But in the tomb of Sennedjemininty at Giza, there is an inscription that says that the Pharaoh Djed-ka-re Isesi of the Fifth Dynasty lived in a palace at Giza. The Wadi Al-Jarf papyrus also indicates the Pharaoh’s palace was located at Giza, indicating that the king ruled Egypt from the Pyramids site.


NO LAKE OF WATER: Some people have thought that under the Great Pyramid there is a lake of water. But there is no such lake, and the evidence for it is taken from a garbled account by the ancient Greek historian Herodotus. However, there is a shaft to the south of the causeway of Khafre’s Pyramid and water about 20 metres below the opening.

This shaft was unstudied, and our knowledge of it came from Herodotus. When I excavated the shaft, I found that it was a symbolic burial of the god Osiris. I found four pillars in it, and within them a sarcophagus surrounded by water. We also found small tunnels in the last room that made people believe they had reached under the Great Pyramid and Sphinx. But people always think there are tunnels everywhere in Giza.

For the past 40 years, there have been many expeditions using radar and other sophisticated equipment. Many of them have described the hollows found inside the Pyramid of Khufu, seeing these as secret rooms. However, some of expeditions have been more interested in publicity for their equipment than true information. The base of the Pyramids was cut some eight m into the solid bedrock. Large stone blocks were placed above this. It is therefore not surprising that there should be hollows everywhere inside the Pyramids.

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