The greatest Sphinx of
called by Arabs the
"Father of Terrors,"
is the Great Sphinx of Gizeh...
Up from Legend
A Sphinx is a being with the head of a human and the
body of a lion. In ancient Egypt, the head might assume the face of
the reigning pharaoh who, along with the Sphinx, was the earthly
representation of the sky-god, Horus. In addition, the
lion symbolizes kingship and courage. From Egypt, the idea of the
Sphinx spread to Syria, Phoenicia, and Greece where the sphinx
assumed the head and bust of a woman, and added an eagle's wings and
a long serpent's tail. In Greek legend, it was the
Sphinx who put forth a riddle to all passersby and devoured
those who failed to guess the correct answer. Oedipus
solved the riddle and so caused the Sphinx's death. In
later Greek literature, the Sphinx became a wise and mysterious
The Great Sphinx at Gizeh
The greatest Sphinx of all, called by Arabs "Abu
Father of Terror, is the Great Sphinx of Gizeh,
who gazes enigmatically across the Nile towards the rising sun with
its back towards the three great pyramids. Its head and bust were
carved from a natural outcrop of solid limestone and the paws were
built up with stone.
The head of the Great Sphinx measures 19 feet from the top of the
forehead to the bottom of the chin, the face is 20 feet wide, and 91
feet in circumference. Remaining flecks of paint indicate the Sphinx
may once have been painted bright red. The upper portion of the paws
extend forward 56 feet, the body is 172 feet long (total body length
is 242 feet), and the height to the top of the head is 66 feet.
Pharaoh Amenhotep II (1448-1420 B.C.) mentioned that the
Sphinx was older than the Pyramids and generally considered to have
been buried in sand until Thutmosis IV (18th Dynasty,
1420-1411 B.C.) had a dream of a god telling him to clear the sand
away. The stela he put up between the paws was
discovered when the Sphinx was cleared of sand in our time. A
partially-eroded hieroglyphic phrase -- translated as "praise to
Un-nefer [Khafre] the statue made for Atum-Harmakhis" -- was
found near the bottom of the stela. Egyptologists
point to this as evidence that Khafre built the
Sphinx. Others disagree. Some time after it was excavated, the
inscription flaked off. Now only drawings remain.
In 1379, as reported by the Arab author Al Maqrizi, a man named
Saim el Dahr hacked off the Sphinx's nose. The sacrificial
altar now seen between the paws was constructed by the Romans.
Medieval and renaissance visitors took pieces of the Sphinx's
headdress and face for talismans and remedies. During the 17th and
18th centuries, invading Marmalukes and French soldiers reportedly
used the head for target practice. This article is one of two about
the controversies swirling like sand about the Great Sphinx
on the Gizeh plateau. This first article will treat the passages in
and under the Sphinx. The second article will deal with the
controversy surrounding the age of the Sphinx.
A third article will concentrate on the Great Pyramid and an update
on the airshaft or star-shaft in the Queen's chamber.
The Newly Rediscovered Passage in the Sphinx
Halfway between the
Sphinx's front paws and its curved tail, workers restoring the
Egyptian Sphinx became intrigued by a patch of rocks
and discovered an ancient passageway leading deep into the statue's
body. The team consulted thousands of old photographs and discovered
a photograph taken during a 1926 restoration which was begun after
Sphinx was dug out of the sand. The photo showed a man
standing at the entrance to this passage. The passage was sealed
with new blocks but restorers at the time never recorded what, if
anything, had been found. Priority for examining this tunnel appears
to be low.
The Sphinx began its life as an outcrop of rock which was excavated
from the limestone bedrock of the Gizeh plateau. The
Sphinx Temple is in front of the Sphinx and adjacent to the
Valley Temple to the south. Both temples were originally close to
the Nile which has changed course over the centuries. Their huge,
70-ton, monolithic blocks -- as compared to those used in the
pyramids (3.5 tons) -- are thought to have been quarried from the
The Valley Temple is at the end of one of the world's oldest paved
canals, a 1600-foot causeway that leads to a Mortuary Temple in
front of the Pyramid of Chephren (or Khafra, the
middle pyramid) -- about 150 feet have been excavated so far.
Ancient tunnels run under the Valley Temple, but researchers do not
know what they were used for and have not begun excavating.
Causeways also link the Khufu (or Cheops,
the Great Pyramid, to the northeast) and Menkaura
(or Mycerinus to the southwest) pyramids to their respective valley
temples along the ancient course of the Nile.
The Giza plateau has been called the Underground
Galleries with good reason. However, additional
seismographic evidence is accumulating that several cavities lie
buried underneath the Sphinx. The first work
was done in 1978. Physicist, Lambert Dolphin, writing in the
sci.archaeology newsgroup, said:
"In 1978, my colleagues
and I (from SRI International, Menlo Park, CA), as part of a grant
from the Edgar Cayce Foundation, performed a closely-spaced
resistivity survey all around the Sphinx. We then performed
high-frequency seismic sounding over the entire platform and in
front. Thirdly, we drilled several four-inch boreholes on the small
anomalies we did find (cracks) and inserted a downhole TV camera to
"I have heard the
recent claims but not seen any of the data and would be delighted to
see it. Otherwise, I will continue to believe that the area under
and around the Sphinx is undisturbed bedrock."
[see also: Dolphin, L.T., E. Moussa, E., et. al. "Applications of
Modern Sensing Techniques to Egyptology." Menlo Park, Calif., SRI
International, September 1977.]
The work continued in
1987. In "The Pyramids and Temples of Egypt: An Update, by Zahi
Hawass," (in Petrie, W.M. Flinders. "The Pyramids and Temples of
Gizeh." London: Histories and Mysteries of Man, Ltd, 1990, Appendix,
p. 102) mentions that Waseda University in Japan,
applied for a license to work on the Gizeh Plateau in
1987. Their request was approved and they began work January 13, the
The last site the Japanese
team investigated with ground-penetrating radar was the "Sanctuary
of the Sphinx." South of the Sphinx, they found the
existence of a hollow 2.5 m. to 3 m. underground and indications of
a groove on the Sphinx body extending beneath the
Sphinx. North of the Sphinx, they found another groove
similar to the southern one which may indicate a tunnel underneath
the Sphinx connecting the south and north grooves. In front of the
two paws of the Sphinx, another hollow space was found
one to two meters below the surface that also may extend underneath
This work was confirmed
and incorporated into the film, "The Mystery of the Sphinx"
made in 1992-1993 about author/Egyptologist,
John Anthony West; Robert M. Schoch, Professor of
Geology at Boston University; and geophysicist/seismologist,
Thomas Dobecki from the Houston firm, McBride-Ratclif &
Shown on NBC, the film was
Boris Said of Magical Eye, Inc., and Bill Cote of
BCVideo; and, according to some reports, was partly financed by
members of the Association for Research and Enlightenment (A.R.E.).
Headquartered in Virginia Beach, Virginia, A.R.E. is the
organization that promulgates the work of psychic,
Edgar Cayce, the sleeping prophet. Cayce predicted it
would be discovered that the Sphinx had been built in
10,500 B.C. by survivors from the break-up of the continent of
Atlantis. In addition, concealed beneath it, a Hall of
Records would be discovered that would contain all the
collective wisdom from their lost civilization and the true
history of the human race. Cayce predicted the Hall of
Records would be found and opened by 1998.
In the film, Dobecki
is shown taking seismic readings of a known underground chamber
behind the rump of the Sphinx to establish a reading
for a known underground chamber, then took seismic soundings of the
area beneath the area in front of the Sphinx where a cavity was
indicated by seismic readings similar to the posterior cavity. This
anterior (front) cavity was rectangular in shape and measured nine
meters by 12 meters and was about five meters below the surface.
"Both teams' [SRI and
the Japanese] showed best agreement in the detection of a possible
rubble-filled void in the area of the Sphinx's paws as well as
indications of potential cavities or tunnels extending under the
Sphinx as detected along its flanks."
[Dobecki and Schoch, 1992; Seismic Investigation in the
Vicinity of the Great Sphinx of Giza, Egypt, "Geoarchaeology," Vol
7, No 6, pp 527-544]
John West and
Robert Schoch of Boston University put in an application to the
Egyptian authorities to resume their research in 1995 but their
application was refused.
According to Zahi Hawass, chief inspector of the Giza pyramid
plateau, he is not playing favorites in the granting of licenses to
explore for hidden chambers. According to "Venture Inward,"
(Nov-Dec, 1996), he said:
"I am not stopping anyone
from investigating in Egypt. They simply must meet [the condition]
that requires that anyone wanting to do research in Egypt be
connected with a recognized university or museum."
But is there anything to
under the front paws of the
Sphinx? At the conference on "The Origins of the
Egyptian State" at UCLA in November, 1995, Zahi Hawass
and Mark Lehner showed slides of a core sampling done by the
University of Pennsylvania. They found a ground anomaly below the
paws of the Sphinx consisting of a lighter material (but solid) than
the surrounding stone. This could be sediment deposited by flooding
but the area has yet to be excavated. Or, if it has been excavated,
results have not been made available to the public or the press.
1996... More Rumors than News
Currently, rumors abound about what is going on in, around, and
underneath the Great Sphinx. Graham Hancock,
who just published a new book entitled "The Message Of The Sphinx"
reported in handouts on his book tour as well as on radio talk shows
like Art Bell, that
Dr. Joseph Schor, head of the Schor Foundation,
associated with the
Edgar Cayce's Association for Research and Enlightenment
(A.R.E.), and an alumnus of Florida State University was backing an
excavation underneath the Sphinx for a news documentary on a major
Network. Rumors indicated that everyone from the Egyptian's Supreme
Council of Antiquities (S.C.A.) to A.R.E. to Florida State
University to the Schor Foundation were conspiring to thwart other
work. Was there a conspiracy?
Hard evidence and solid news has been difficult to come by, but
A.R.E., for one, claims it has not sided with Joseph
Schor against such authors as Graham Hancock, Robert
Bauval, and John Anthony West
in the controversy surrounding the Sphinx. According to "Venture
Inward," (Nov-Dec, 1996), John Van Auken, of the Association
for Research and Enlightenment (A.R.E.) said:
"The A.R.E is not taking
sides. We even had
Hancock and Bauval
speaking at Virginia Beach this year. Our objective is to get to the
truth, no matter who gets the credit."
In April, 1996, Egypt's
Supreme Council of Antiquities (S.C.A.)
granted a one-year license to a team academically sponsored by
Florida State University and financially sponsored by the
Schor Foundation to conduct surveys around the Sphinx
and the Giza necropolis using seismic equipment and
ground-penetrating radar. Dr. Joseph Schor is quoted as
"We do not work for the
Edgar Cayce Group.... The major purpose of the Schor
Foundation and the Florida State University is to aid in the
preservation and restoration of the Pyramids and Sphinx. In
addition, we are surveying the underground of the Giza Plateau to
find faults and chasms that might collapse. This will increase the
safety of the plateau."
Hancock, on the
Art Bell radio show, stated that metal objects had been
found in some of these newly-excavated cavities but nothing was
confirmable in hard news reports. Reports also surfaced of a
promotional film starring none other than Zahi Hawass,
director of the Gizeh site. Florida State University denied
involvement in the film after they were credited as participating
without their knowledge or permission. Dr. Daniel Pullen
"There are a number of
rumors, reports, and queries on the Internet about current
explorations around the Sphinx and elsewhere on the
Giza Plateau, filming on the Plateau, and the role of the
Florida State University.
"A small team of three geologists and one archaeologist from the
Florida State University went to Giza in early April 1996, at the
invitation of Dr. Joseph Schor, an alumnus of FSU, and the
Schor Foundation, in order to determine whether or not we might be
able to address the current controversy over weathering, dating, and
construction of the Sphinx and other monuments on the Giza
Plateau. The Florida State team consisted of Dr. Alan Zindler,
Chair of Geology and head of geochemistry at the National High
Magnetic Field Laboratory, Dr. Leroy Odom, Professor of
Geology and geochemist at the NHMFL,
Dr. James Tull, Professor of Geology and structural geologist,
and Dr. Daniel Pullen, Associate Professor of Classics and
archaeologist. We spent five days at Giza exploring the monuments
and geology so that we could gather sufficient on-site information
to evaluate the prospect of any future project which address the
three concerns of weathering, dating, and construction. If such a
project does come about, we will announce it.
"While we were invited to consider participation in a film or video,
the Florida State University and the FSU team declined.
Unfortunately the promotional video used to invite our participation
by including the name of the Florida State University in the credits
was circulated without our authorization and the continued
association of the Florida State University with this promotional
video is incorrect."
[from Daniel J. Pullen, Associate Professor, Department of
Classics, Florida State University (firstname.lastname@example.org) in the
Usenet newsgroup, sci.archaeology]
The film in question was
reportedly financed by
Dr. Schor and was a short promotional film. It begins with
Dr. Zahi Hawass, chief inspector of the archaeological sites at
Gizeh, scrambling into a tunnel leading under the Sphinx. When he
reaches the bottom he turns to face the camera and says:
"Even Indiana Jones will
never dream to be here. Can you believe it? We are now inside the
Sphinx in this tunnel. This tunnel has never been opened before. No
one really knows what's inside this tunnel. But we are going to open
it for the first time."
The film's narrator then
America's famous Sleeping Prophet, predicted that a chamber would be
discovered beneath the Sphinx -- a chamber containing the recorded
history of human civilization. For the first time, we'll show you
what lies beneath this great statue... a chamber which will be
opened tonight, live for our television cameras."
The excavations were
supposed to have been put into a film to be shown in a television
documentary in September or October, but, to this date, there has
been no documentary... and even less news.
The latest wrinkle began this fall when Tsen Horn wrote in
sci.archaeology of an un-named source who claimed
Zahi Hawass had been transferred from his position with the
Egyptian's Supreme Council of Antiquities to an area in the Nile
delta. In addition, he wrote:
"This means that the
Florida State University project will now resume operations. Boris
Said has just left for Egypt and will be working with the F.S.U.
team that plans to dig into the tunnel that runs from one of the
pyramids to the chamber underneath the paws. I understand that they
will not be going in through the pyramid or the Sphinx enclosure,
but rather outside, where nothing will be damaged. I am not
absolutely sure, but I think they plan to dig a hole and put a
camera down to see, before they would actually go in.
"Mr. Said has brought six technicians from Fox television with several
crates of equipment. The plan is to begin digging on November 6 and
then go in the chamber sometime in January."
Tsen Horn has been
to Egypt since this was posted and has been unable to discover
additional information and now doubts his source for the information
in the post above, which was followed in sci.archaeology by a
summary post from Doug Weller:
"Earlier this year a
team from F.S.U. visited the [Gizeh] plateau and, after some
exploratory work, submitted a proposal for some studies on the
plateau. This proposal focused on two aspects. One was to collect
samples that might be suitable for dating structures (cosmic-ray
exposure ages, C14, light exposure ages, pollen, etc.) and to study
classical stratigraphic relationships around the Sphinx Temple quay.
"Another proposal was submitted at the same time by Joe Schor
which would involve exploration of what he thinks the geophysical
data indicates to be underground voids. Evidently, one option in
Schor's proposal is excavation of some sort. I don't know the
status of this proposal.
"The second aspect of the F.S.U. proposal has to do with construction
of some of the monuments (e.g., the possibility that the entire
Sphinx Temple was carved in place and not built of large blocks
removed from around the Sphinx), and how original relief on the
plateau might have been used in construction of the pyramids.
"If you haven't guessed yet, the people involved in the F.S.U.
proposal are geologists. I believe that there is some advice from an
archaeologist but direct involvement will depend upon availability
at the time of the trip.
"Boris Said and Schor have indeed been making a video
which one hopes will be much more scientific than that made by
Boris and West. IF F.S.U. is involved in this at all, it
will only be with their approval and right to view any final
editorial cuts. I don't know where/how it will be broadcast. F.S.U.
has insisted on this after an earlier video was made with the
university's name in credits without their permission. That video
was made before F.S.U. actually visited Egypt in April.
"Approval for the F.S.U. proposal has not yet been obtained. Schor
has stated to my informants that Hawass was replaced, which
confirms some rumors I've seen.
"So as far as November the 6th is concerned, the F.S.U. team has no
plans to be in Egypt and certainly doesn't include any tunneling in
any aspect of their proposal.
"The geophysical, subsurface data, can be interpreted to represent
voids underground. Interpretations are model dependent, and while
they might be man-made features, they could be natural karst
features from dissolved limestones (which can be seen intersecting
the surface around and on the plateau).
"To the geophysicist, the simplest way to model the data is to do so
with simple geometric shapes and volumes. When his model then
results in something drawn as a rectangular void -- it does not
necessarily reflect reality -- but we shall see.
"To recap about F.S.U. -- their geologists, and perhaps an
archaeologist, will, if their application is approved, collect
samples for dating (as agreed with Schor) and make further
observations of rocks that might satisfy their curiosity regarding
construction techniques. This will probably be a fairly short
However, the claim of
Zahi Hawass' transfer was contested by
Greg Reeder (also in sci.archaeology) of "KMT" magazine:
"A question has been
raised in AA&ES as to
Zahi Hawass' compatibility with Nur el-Din's replacement,
Ali Hassan, who is more conservative than his predecessor;
however, my sources in Cairo say, 'As of 22 October, this allegation
[that Hawass was replaced] was untrue. Zahi is still in
charge of the plateau. He was gone briefly for a week on the UCLA
trip, but seems fine otherwise.'"
The UCLA trip occurred
last August and
Dr. Hawass held a news conference at the California Museum of
Natural History in Los Angeles where he highlighted recent
discoveries and new excavations. Dr. Hawass was interviewed
by Linda Moulton Howe on the October 6,1996, Art Bell radio show.
When asked if he still plans to open the door at the north end of the
Sphinx on November 1, 1996, Hawass replied (rest of interview
Dr. Zahi Hawass
(HAWASS): No, I am not going to open it now. We have other
things really to do.
Linda M. Howe (HOWE): How are you going to... because it's so
interesting. It sounds like it should be very interesting to see
what's in there?
HAWASS: I know but that door was opened in 1922 before. We are
going to re-open it again.
HOWE: What did they see in 1922?
HAWASS: They entered inside and they found nothing.
HOWE: What happened between the August news conference and now
to change that opening up of that door in the Sphinx?
HAWASS: We are just going to open it when we will reach the
restoration. We are restoring the Sphinx now and this is what we
care about -- the restoration. And this will be opened. You know,
those people should know that there is nothing in the door. There is
nothing in the door, it has been opened before and it is not really
a big deal to open it.
HOWE: And what you're going to do is wait until you've got the
restoration completed before you open the door or...?
HOWE: When will the restoration be completed?
HAWASS: Um, we don't know. You know in archaeology, ma'am, we
are very slow because the monuments are very precious. You do not --
we are not "Raiders of the Lost Ark," we are caring about the
HAWASS: You know what I am talking about?
HOWE: Right. In the news conference in August, you said you
thought the restoration would be done in 97. Is that still possible?
HAWASS: Maybe, maybe.
HOWE: And then at that point, somewhere in 97, the opening of
the north side door in the Sphinx...
HAWASS: But you have to know that there is nothing in that
HOWE: It was very interesting to see your news conference and
to see how much work that you have been doing and, um, how many, I
think there were 10 different pyramid sites now available and open
to the public in, ah...
HAWASS: OK, this is really what I care about, those people who
met at the conference at Delaware [The "Return to the Source:
Rediscovering Lost Knowledge and Ancient Wisdom" conference was held
September 27-29, 1996, at the University of Delaware], they attacked
me everywhere because I do not open the pyramids to amateurs. And I
will never -- we will never -- means... I am not the person who
really only decides. I am one person on the committee. But those
people who made this conference in Delaware are really not correct.
It's not true that any kind of work is going to be done in the
pyramids. By anyone. Except the Egyptian government -- except us.
HOWE: Ah, well, let me see, for clarification. There was a man
Richard Hoagland who read an invitation on a radio program, I
believe last weekend, who said that he had received an invitation to
come the last week in October for the opening of some sort of
HAWASS: Ma'am, that is not true, believe me. That is not true.
And I am the only one that is in charge of the pyramids and there is
nothing like this is going to be happening.
HOWE: Well, maybe you could confirm for me, has the Egyptian
government, working with scientists, discovered any underground
chambers in and around the Sphinx?
HAWASS: There is nothing. There is an expedition from Florida
State University working last April in the Giza Plateau and that's
HOWE: What did they discover?
HAWASS: We don't know. Just, you know, many people who use
radar, they wouldn't know if they are right or not. But we cannot
let anyone to hurt the Sphinx. The Sphinx
is a national monument and we cannot let any one to hurt the Sphinx
or excavate room. We are restoring the Sphinx. We are caring about
the Sphinx. We cannot let people to drill, to open Sphinx. I mean,
this is an international heritage. It's for everyone. We are really
permitting scientists only. We cannot permit amateurs to work on our
HOWE: Right, well, I was referring to... I thought, perhaps,
scientific investigation. There was a man in New York, a Mr.
Schor, I thought, that was underwriting an expedition at the end
HAWASS: That Mr. Schor worked last October with Florida
State University. They applied to work around the Sphinx. It still,
there is the permanent committee, which is the only committee that
they permit scientists to work. They did not look at that proposal
HOWE: Oh, I see. So there has not been any authorization for
HAWASS: Nothing, nothing.
HOWE: And yet, I understood that, anyway, Mr. Schor was
preparing to go to Egypt in the end of October? Is that...
HAWASS: I'm telling you that I am not the one who permits
things like that -- there is a permanent committee who meets maybe
about 20 days from now, we don't know really when, and that
committee are the only ones that decide if anyone gets to work or
Seems Dr. Hawass is
still in charge. However, as of December 1996, there has been no
documentary... and, evidently, no excavations. Or have there...?
On his radio show, Art Bell set the latest "wild,
unsubstantiated rumor" in motion when he told of a journalist friend
who attended a meeting having to do with the opening of the Sphinx
chambers. According to this un-named friend, round-the-clock guards
have been placed at the Sphinx where chanting has been
heard, and a blue light seen, coming from the chambers. The guards
are supposed to have been frightened by the phenomena. In addition,
a drill they were using was said to have broken after encountering
something reportedly harder than diamond. None of this can be
confirmed through traditional news sources.
Has Zahi Hawass been replaced? Will John Anthony West be
allowed to continue his research? Are there chambers under the
and/or F.S.U., and/or the Schor Foundation
involved? Who really was replaced and/or transferred in Egypt? Are
there blue lights, broken drill bits, and frightened guards? Has
Steven Spielberg or Cris Carter considered making a film
of this mystery? And from another of my sources, I heard that the
transfer of Hawass is, perhaps, being confused with the
replacement of Dr. Abdel Halim Nour Eldin, Minister of
Culture. We'll see.
But the Sphinx goes on...