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Giza: The Sphinx (French Expedition 1798)


The Sphinx at Giza, being measured by French surveyors (drawing by Vivant Denon; Descrip. de l'Egypte 1802).

The French expedition visited the large pyramid and tomb complexes at Giza in 1798, producing detailed plans of these sites. French artists including Vivant Denon also made drawings of individual features, such as the renouned Sphinx, and the sealed entrances to the chambers beneath the Great Pyramid of Cheops.

The Sphinx, a huge (20 meter-high) statue of a lion with the head of a man,
was carved during the 4th Dynasty from an outcrop of limestone at the head of the causeway to the Pyramid of Cephren (also called Khafre), who ruled from 2558 to 2532 BC. The statue is thought to represent the rising sun aspect of the Egyptian sun god, named Re-Horahkte. The human head is usually associated with Cephren, but a rival theory identifies it with his brother, Ra’djedef, who ruled for 9-10 years before Cephren, and is buried along with his wives in a funerary complex at Abu Roash, 8 km north of Giza (Hobson 1987; Clayton 2006).

 Denon's drawing of the Sphinx shows it being measured by surveyors of the French expedition, in the process of mapping the area. 
The lower portions of the Sphinx, as well as its related temple, were at that time buried beneath the sand.

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