Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Has the Mystery of the Sphinx Been Solved?

Interesting article (it is five "pages" but it reads quickly) by Mark Lehner at Smithsonian Magazine online, summarizing some of his research over the past 30 plus years and conclusions about the Giza Sphinx: Uncovering Secrets of the Sphinx Very well written, and Lehner's conclusions are cogently presented. But - I have a couple of questions. I quote: The Sphinx itself, it seems, symbolized the pharaoh presenting offerings to the sun god in the court of the temple.” Hawass concurs, saying the Sphinx represents Khafre as Horus, the Egyptians’ revered royal falcon god, “who is giving offerings with his two paws to his father, Khufu, incarnated as the sun god, Ra, who rises and sets in that temple.” Horus is a falcon, not a lion. No explanation is given in the article for the transformation of Horus from falcon to lion (and, for all we know, it could have actually been a lioness. After all, is there any evidence of a mane?) So then, I am intrigued by this quote from the article: “The Egyptians didn’t write history,” says James Allen, an Egyptologist at Brown University, “so we have no solid evidence for what its builders thought the Sphinx was....Certainly something divine, presumably the image of a king, but beyond that is anyone’s guess.” Likewise, the statue’s symbolism is unclear, though inscriptions from the era refer to Ruti, a double lion god that sat at the entrance to the underworld and guarded the horizon where the sun rose and set. It was some months ago, I don't remember exactly when - I am sure I read something about a theory being floated of a "double Sphinx" - with a twin Sphinx situated on the other side of the Nile. And who is Ruti, the "double lion god?" Ah ha! Found it - I actually posted about it nearly a year ago: A Second Sphinx? was the name of the article I read and posted about. Not much on Ruti: From, copying from Encyclopedia Mythica:
Ruti by Micha F. Lindemans A pair of lions worshipped in Egyptian Letopolis. But this is interesting - Aker - from Wikipedia (oh I know, I know, but the Smithsonian article also mentioned Aker and the horizon, and a particular optical illusion that occurs with the Sphinx and other objects on the Giza Plateau during a certain time of year, which gives credence to the information recorded at this Wikipedia entry: Aker (god) From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia In Egyptian mythology, Aker (also spelt Akar) was one of the earliest gods worshipped, and was the deification of the horizon. There are strong indications that Aker was worshipped before other known Egyptian gods of the earth, such as Geb. In particular, the Pyramid texts make a sinister statement that the Akeru (plural of Aker) will not seize the pharaoh, as if this were something that might have happened, and was something of which to be afraid. Aker itself translates as (one who) bends, and thus Akeru translates as benders, though in what sense this is meant is not fully understood. As the horizon, Aker was also seen as symbolic of the borders between each day, and so was originally depicted as a narrow strip of land (i.e. a horizon), with heads on either side, facing away from one another, a symbol of borders. Since the sun reaches its peak (its solstice) in the zodiac of Leo, these heads were usually those of lions. Over time, the heads became full figures of lions (still facing away from each other), one representing the concept of yesterday (Sef in Egyptian), and the other the concept of tomorrow (Duau in Egyptian).[1] Consequently, Aker often became referred to as Ruti, the Egyptian word meaning two lions. Between them would often appear the hieroglyph for horizon, which was the sun's disc placed between two mountains. Sometimes the lions were depicted as being covered with leopard-like spots, leading some to think it a depiction of the extinct Barbary lion, which, unlike African species, had a spotted coat. Since the horizon was where night became day, Aker was said to guard the entrance and exit to the underworld, opening them for the sun to pass through during the night. As the guard, it was said that the dead had to request Aker to open the underworld's gates, so that they might enter. Also, as all who had died had to pass Aker, it was said that Aker annulled the causes of death, such as extracting the poison from any snakes that had bitten the deceased, or from any scorpions that had stung them. As the Egyptians believed that the gates of the morning and evening were guarded by Aker, they sometimes placed twin statues of lions at the doors of their palaces and tombs. This was to guard the households and tombs from evil spirits and other malevolent beings. This practice was adopted by the Greeks and Romans, and is still unknowingly followed by some today. Unlike most of the other Egyptian deities, the worship of Aker remained popular well into the Greco-Roman era. Aker had no temples of his own like the main gods in the Egyptian religion, since he was more connected to the primeval concepts of the very old earth powers. Well - the weirdest damn thing just happened; I just turned (like three seconds ago) to hit the remote to a new channel on the television; it was the end of a PBS show and lo and behold, up flashed on the screen a golden-colored head of a carved lioness in an advertisement for shows on PBS Channel 36 and then poof, it was gone in a flash. Hmmm.... That was on channel 36-4 in Milwaukee. Okay - back from One Step Beyond. I note that in the description of Ruti - the lions face opposite each other, on either side of an imaginery line representing the horizon. So, that rather nixes any thought of twin Sphinxes facing each other across the Nile River. But - might there be a twin Sphinx somewhere on the opposite end of the Giza Plateau facing away from the Sphinx we know? Hey, who knows? New discoveries are routinely being made even in places thought to have been thoroughly excavated 100 years and more ago. So, the tantalizing possibility exists that, someday, when the ever-shifting sands of the Giza Plateau shift yet again, some tiny fragment may come to light, some small piece of rock that trips an unsuspecting horse and once again a female American tourist stumbles to the plain as she tumbles from the horse and - ouch - a new discovery is made...


Anonymous said...


The thing you have to remember about Kemetan polytheism is that it bears a resemblance to Hindu practices in that one deity can be interchanged with another simply because of variations in local practices. Gods of one area are the parents but in another city or nome those same gods are the children of other deities. Following this line of thought, the "form" of a deity can easily be shifted, provided that god has sufficient "powers of heaven".

If you look hard enough, you will find some references to Horus as a lion, hawk, and a variety of other animals and duties.
He was busy guy.

Jan said...


One of the remarkable things I've learned over the years about ancient Egypt is that their gods and goddesses followed a pretty much linear progression. In the pre-dynastic and early dynastic periods, the gods and goddesses were sharply delineated and claimed one city or another as a home base. It was only as the unity of Upper and Lower Egypt was consolidated into one entity (never accomplished 100%) that one sees introduction of parallel/similar gods and goddesses from upper and lower kingdoms and a "merging" takes place (but never accomplished 100%). As time went on, there was also evolution and waxing and waning of power among the priesthoods of the gods/goddesses as royalty and nobles shifted favors and loyalties from city to city. This is perhaps best exhibited in the great upheavals that took place during the reign of the "Heretic Pharaoh" Akhnaten.

There seems to have occurred a great disruption and introduction of many foreign elements with the advent of the Hyksos dynasties in the 17th century BCE. The New Kingdom, advent some 100 plus years later, attempted to re-establish the "old order" - at least, for a time - but was ultimately unsuccessful because by then there was full-fledged trade with many foreign nations and the idea of royalty marrying foreigners (who imported their foreign gods/goddesses) was no longer anathema. As more cities shared powerful priesthoods of old and not so old gods/goddesses, blending and mergings took place, for the sake of political expediency.

Well, this is a short and not too coherent summary of what happened. Khemetian history was never frozen in time, nor were the gods/goddesses. As far as I am aware, Horus did not take on any leonine attributes until long after the Great Sphinx was covered almost entirely with sand - a thousand years, probably more, to the introduction of the New Kingdom. It was a New Kingdom Pharaoh who decided to dig "him" out of the sand.

We can only guess how many records were lost and how garbled the history of this old god or goddess symbol may have been at that point in time. There is also the distinct possibility that the priests and scholars of that day may have had trouble reading any surviving inscriptions from 1000 years before (or even 500 years before), not to mention how many records and what knowledge may have been irretrievably destroyed and lost forever during the Hyksos interloper period and during the unstable times that led up to that invasion. Scrolls burned; scholars killed. Inscriptions chisled out of stone or entire inscribed slabs broken away and destroyed.

"Book burning" is very old. And, as Mr. Don is fond of telling me, it is the victors who write the history.

MissPris said...

Have you ever heard of there being another sphynx on the moon? The moon is said to be where souls go to die or the underworld. This would make alot of sense that there are 2.

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