The Construction of the Great Sphinx of Giza, Egypt – a Contested Timeline

The colossal east-facing Sphinx monument (pictured) is widely recognised and admired. It sits on Egypt’s Giza plateau and has been the subject of much deliberation. Many Egyptologists have assumed, without scientific evidence, that the monument dates back to ~2,500 B.C., attributing it to the Pharaoh Khafre (of the Old Kingdom’s 4th Dynasty). Nevertheless, this estimated age does not follow the science. Some earlier archaeologists, from even the late 19th and early 20th centuries, have suggested that the Sphinx doesn’t belong to its assigned timeline; although they also had no evidence to corroborate their intuitive leaning. 

French Egyptologist and mystic René Adolphe Schwaller de Lubicz popularized the idea  that constructions adhered to sacred geometry in ancient Egypt. His work was examined by author and lecturer John Anthony West, who suspected that the monument was much older than was widely advocated. West was a proponent of the Sphinx water erosion hypothesis. In 1989, Robert M. Schoch, a geologist and associate professor of Natural Sciences at Boston University, accompanied West to Egypt to analyse the monument, with the aim of corroborating his hypothesis. On inspection, Schoch was adamant that the age of the Sphinx and its enclosure (the walls around the Sphinx) had been greatly underestimated. Schoch has also been an advocate of the Sphinx water erosion hypothesis since 1991 and his analysis demonstrates that the original construction of the Sphinx occurred before the end of the Younger Dryas (the last ice age, ending ~9,700 B.C).

Firstly, it’s understood that the Sphinx was carved out of the limestone bedrock, with only its head initially above ground. Noting the monument’s extensive repair work and focusing on the original construction, Schoch applied his expertise and swiftly concluded that chemical weathering of the limestone by precipitation had occurred. Rainfall runoff, flowing on the softer parts and into small cracks of the limestone, created deeper fissures. This explains the vertical fissuring and the eroded, undulating features of the limestone seen today on the Sphinx’s body and enclosure. He admits the evidence is verifiable and rejects previous hypotheses that attribute the weathering to wind and sand erosion. He also states that Nile flooding would give a different erosional characteristic.  

Schoch attributes the erosional features to thousands of years of rainfall, and/or from  extreme episodic rainfall events, and observes that ~5000 years ago, the dry Saharan climate was not responsible. Climate change, involving a coronal mass ejection observed in isotope analysis, ended the Younger Dryas, increasing atmospheric moisture leading to precipitation and probably heavy flooding. Subsequent rainfall would have continued to erode the monument and its enclosure, producing the erosion we see today. The Giza savannas, as a result of climatic changes, became transformed during the Holocene (our current epoch) into what is now the Sahara desert plateau. Schoch consequently concludes that the initial construction of the Sphinx monument and its enclosure (before any modifications) occurred prior to the end of the Younger Dryas, and that Dynastic Egypt (currently assumed to be ~5000 years ago) was instead a legacy of an earlier cycle of civilization. 

Blocks weighing many tonnes, carved out from around the Sphinx during its construction, were transported to construct the Sphinx Temple and the Valley Temple. Notably, the Sphinx’s head is greatly disproportionate to its body, suggesting a later remodelling of the larger, original head, perhaps at Pharaoh Khafre’s request. Access to the network of underground tunnels beneath the Giza plateau is denied, adding to Egypt’s enigma. 

Due to its east-facing position, I suggest that the Sphinx dates back to when sun-worshipping was practised, before the introduction of polytheism. Possibly, this former  practice of ‘sun veneration’ had influenced the Pharaoh Akhenaten (formally Amenhotep  IV, father of Tutankhamun and husband of Nefertiti) during his reign in the 18th Dynasty. He changed his name to Akhenaten to tie in with the monotheistic worship of the Aton, or Aten (the sun’s disc), after abandoning the previous polytheistic worship of his predecessors. 

A multi-disciplinary approach provides a better insight into the past, enhancing our  appreciation of our ancestor’s magnificent achievements, of how they lived and thrived.   



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