Ancient Mediterranean + Europe
- Predynastic and Early Dynastic, an introduction
- Old Kingdom and First Intermediate Period, an introduction
- Palette of King Narmer
- Palette of Narmer
- Step Pyramid complex at Saqqara
- The Great Pyramids of Giza
- Pyramid of Khufu
- Pyramid of Khafre and the Great Sphinx
- Pyramid of Menkaure
- King Menkaure (Mycerinus) and queen
- The Great Pyramids at Giza
- Seated Scribe
by Dr. Amy Calvert
Size and appearance
The second great pyramid of Giza was built by Khufu’s second son Khafre. At the very top, a section of outer casing stones like those that would have originally covered all three of the Great Pyramids still survives. Although this monument appears larger than that of his father, it is actually slightly smaller but was constructed 10 meters (33 feet) higher on the plateau.
The interior is much simpler than that of Khufu’s pyramid, with a single burial chamber, one small subsidiary chamber, and two passageways. The mortuary temple at the pyramid base was more complex than that of Khufu and was filled with statuary of the king—over 52 life-size or larger images originally filled the structure.
Khafre’s valley temple, located at the east end of the causeway leading from the pyramid base, is beautifully preserved. It was constructed of megalithic blocks sheathed with granite and floors of polished white calcite. During excavation, a magnificent just over life size statue of the king carved of an extremely hard stone known as gneiss was discovered buried under the floor of the Valley Temple. This sculpture shows the king seated on a lion throne that has on its sides a symbol of the two heraldic plants of Upper and Lower Egypt, the papyrus and lotus, bound around a hieroglyph for “stability.” This important emblem, known as a sema-tawy (“binding the Two Lands”), represents the king’s primary duty—to “bind” the country under the authority of a single ruler. The king is supported in his task by the Horus falcon that wraps protectively around the back of his nemes headdress. Statue bases and other fragments indicate that this was one of about 23 such images of the pharaoh that were originally located in this temple.
The Great Sphinx
Right next to the causeway leading from Khafre’s valley temple to the mortuary temple sits the first truly colossal sculpture in Egyptian history: the Great Sphinx. This close physical association (along with other evidence) indicates that this massive depiction of a recumbent lion with the head of a king was carved for Khafre.
The Sphinx is carved from the bedrock of the Giza plateau, and it appears that the core blocks used to construct the king’s valley temple were quarried from the layers of stone that run along the upper sides of this massive image.
The lion was a royal symbol as well as being connected with the sun as a symbol of the horizon; the fusion of this powerful animal with the head of the pharaoh was an icon that survived and was often used throughout Egyptian history. The king’s head is on a smaller scale than the body. This appears to have been due to a defect in the stone; a weakness recognized by the sculptors who compensated by elongating the body.
Directly in front of the Sphinx is a separate temple dedicated to the worship of its cult, but very little is known about it since there are no Old Kingdom texts that refer to the Sphinx or its temple. The temple is similar to Khafre’s mortuary temple and has granite pillars forming a colonnade around a central courtyard. However, it is unique in that it has two sanctuaries—one on the east and one on the west—likely connected to the rising and setting sun.
Essay by Dr. Amy Calvert
Want to join the conversation?
- Who ruled Egypt the time that the sphinx was constructed(9 votes)
- The Great Sphinx of Giza is commonly believed to have been built by ancient Egyptians of the Old Kingdom during the reign of the Pharaoh Khafra (around 2558–2532 BCE)(8 votes)
- don't sphinx have female heads and eagle wings?(6 votes)
- Minimally, a sphinx had a lion's body and a human head. The Greek sphinx typically had lion haunches, great bird wings, and the face of a woman. But, unlike the Greek sphinx, the Egyptian sphinx was typically shown as a man (an androsphinx) and may omit bird features. The Great Sphinx of Giza, for example, is a lion body with what is believed to be Pharaoh Khafra's head.(9 votes)
- was the STATUE of khafre ever restored, broken, moved, or altered?(3 votes)
- There is no evidence that this statue was reworked in modern times. It is an extremely hard stone and the finish is consistent throughout, which would not be the case is portions were reshaped. While ethnocentrism was definitely an issue in early Egyptology, following cultural beliefs of the time 18th - early 20th century, modern Egyptologists fully embrace the reality that ancient Egypt was a mixed race culture. The Egyptians themselves depict their population with a wide range of skin tones and features, although they did distinguish themselves from sub-Saharan groups in their depictions. It is important to recognize that being 'Egyptian' to them had nothing to do with appearance and everything to do with behavior. Many academic books have been written on this subject; I suggest that if you are interested in this aspect of the culture, you seek out a source that has evidence, references, and archaeological support behind it rather than a random video someone threw up on youtube.(4 votes)
- what was the sphinx made of?(3 votes)
- The Great Sphinx of Giza is made of limestone, and was carved into the bedrock of the Giza plateau. It is a monolith, meaning that the entire Sphinx was carved from one piece of stone.
Because the Sphinx was carved right into the ground, it contains all the layers (or "stratification") that geologists would find if they started digging deep into the ground. Over time, the stronger layers have weathered better than the softer layers. This is why the legs and head have lasted longer than the upper body and neck.
Hope this helps!(2 votes)
- How old is the pyramid of Khafre(2 votes)
- when was the pyramid built, please help(2 votes)
- Help is on the way! YOu can find out all you need here: http://www.cheops-pyramide.ch/khufu-pyramid/pyramid-construction.html(1 vote)
- Was the valley temple around in the ancient times?(1 vote)
- Why did they make the Great Sphinx?(2 votes)
- https://www.ducksters.com/history/ancient_egypt/great_sphinx.php this will tell you about why hopefully this helps(1 vote)