Egypt Landmarks

Great sphinx of Giza

Egypt Holidays Cairo Tour

GIZA PLATEAU – IMPORTANT ANCIENT SHRINE

Giza Plateau formed some 50 million years ago, when the Eocene limestone (so called Mokkattam Formation) was exposed above the sea level. The dry desert plateau is overlooking the wide valley of Nile and rises some 30 – 60 m above the fertile plains.

As one of the first civilizations in the world – Ancient Egypt – started to develop here, Giza Plateau became an important sacred place. Plateau is suitable for this – it is above the flood level of Nile and consists of good construction stone. Most likely before the construction of pyramids and sphinx here was located an important shrine of the Sun.

As it happens worldwide and in many cultures, the men of weight in Egypt wanted to preserve their status after death. One way to achieve this is to be buried in a sacred place. This rises the deceased to the status of gods. The sacred Giza Plateau was used as the necropolis of pharaohs and other important people since the 27th century BC. Here were built most amazing structures of the antique world – Great Pyramids and Sphinx.

SPHINXES

Sphinx – mythical creature with a body of animal and human head – is very ancient symbol. The oldest known depictions of sphinxes were made in Neolithic Age. Some of the oldest are in Nevali Çori site (Turkey): approximately 11,500 years old, small, exquisite sculptures of these beings.

Great Sphinx of Giza in 1858, half buried in the sand
Great Sphinx of Giza in 1858, half buried in the sand  / public domain

The purpose of this mythical creature is not clear with certainty. It seems: often sphinxes “served” as guardians of sacred places – temples, important burials. Such ancient, stone carved guardians spread from Levant to Egypt, Persia, India, Indonesia and elsewhere.

In Greece sphinx was a demon of evil, bad luck. There is a famous legend about Oedipus who saved the city of Thebes from a monster with the head of women and body of lion. Monster stopped all travellers and asked a riddle: “What is it that has one voice and yet becomes four-footed and two-footed and three-footed?” None knew the answer, and sphinx strangled and devoured her hapless victims.

Oedipus knew the answer: “This is man – he crawls on all fours when he is child, walks on two in manhood and leans on a staff when he is old”. Upon hearing this sphinx cast herself from the rock.

Name “sphinx” also comes from Greek language and means “to bind” or “to squeeze”.

THE OLDEST EGYPTIAN SPHINX

Great Sphinx of Giza is the oldest known sphinx in Egypt.

This is a riddle – exactly when and why was it shaped – but this Sphinx is the oldest monumental sculpture in the world. Many specialists consider that it was built in the time of pharaoh Khafra who reigned in 2558 – 2532 BC, but there are no direct proofs to this.

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