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The Sphinx

Updated on February 23, 2012

The correct name for the huge sphinx of Giza is Harmakhis, meaning 'Horus on the Horizon'. The sphinx was carved from a natural outcrop of rock near the pyramid of El Giza nearly 5000 years ago to act as a guardian of the Nile Valley. The face of the sphinx represents King Khephren, who ruled Egypt during the fourth dynasty (2900-2750 BC).

The sphinx is in the form of a crouching lion and is a personification of the rising Sun and a symbol of life after death. It was meant to be a symbol of comfort to the king and also his guardian. The monument is about 20 meters in height and over 60 meters in length but despite its size it has frequently been buried by the desert sands. Today the sphinx is uncovered but the rock is very eroded.

Between the animal's front paws is a stela, which tells how the sphinx appeared in a dream to Thutmosis IV before he became king in about 1412 BC. At the top of the stela are two pictures of Thutmosis worshiping Harmakhis. In the dream the sphinx spoke to Thutmosis as he slept in its shadow and it ordered him to remove the sand that was covering it, in return for which the sphinx would grant him his wishes and protect him when he became king. Thutmosis obeyed his dream and uncovered the sphinx. The stela celebrating this event is dated around 1420 BC by historians.


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