Great Sphinx of Giza
The Great Sphinx of Giza or just the Sphinx, is a limestone statue of a reclining sphinx, a mythical creature with the body of a lion and the head of a human. Facing directly from West to East, it stands on the Giza Plateau on the west bank of the Nile in Giza, Egypt. The face of the Sphinx is generally believed to represent the Pharaoh Khafre.
Cut from the bedrock, the original shape of the Sphinx has been restored with layers of blocks. It measures 238 feet (73 m) long from paw to tail, 66.3 ft (20.21 m) high from the base to the top of the head and 62.6 feet (19 m) wide at its rear haunches. It is the oldest known monumental sculpture in Egypt and is commonly believed to have been built by ancient Egyptians of the Old Kingdom during the reign of the Pharaoh Khafre (c. 2558–2532 BC).
The Sphinx is a monolith carved into the bedrock of the plateau, which also served as the quarry for the pyramids and other monuments in the area. The nummulitic limestone of the area consists of layers which offer differing resistance to erosion (mostly caused by wind and windblown sand), leading to the uneven degradation apparent in the Sphinx's body. The lowest part of the body, including the legs, is solid rock. The body of the lion up to its neck is fashioned from softer layers that have suffered considerable disintegration. The layer in which the head was sculpted is much harder.
The Great Sphinx is one of the world's largest and oldest statues, but basic facts about it are still subject to debate, such as when it was built, by whom and for what purpose. These questions have resulted in the popular idea of the "Riddle of the Sphinx," alluding to the original Greek legend of the "Riddle of the Sphinx."
First century writer Pliny the Elder mentioned the Great Sphinx in his Natural History, commenting that the Egyptians looked upon the statue as a "divinity" that has been passed over in silence and "that King Harmais was buried in it."
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