Monday, February 11, 2008

sphinx statues

The Great Sphinx is believed to be the most immense stone sculpture in the round ever made by man. However, it must be noted that the Sphinx is not an isolated monument and that it must be examined in the context of its surroundings. Specifically, like many of Egypt's monuments, it is a complex which consists not only of the great statue itself, but also of its old temple, a New Kingdom temple and some other small structures. It is also closely related to Khafre's Valley Temple, which itself had four colossal sphinx statues each more than 26 feet long.

The material of the Sphinx is the limestone bedrock of what geologists call the Muqqatam Formation, which originated fifty million years ago from sediments deposited at the bottom of sea waters that engulfed northeast Africa during the Middle Eocene period. An embankment formed along what is now the north-northwest side of the plateau. Nummulites, which are small, disk-shaped fossils named after the Latin word for 'coin', pack the embankment. These were once the shells of now extinct planktonic organisms. There was a shoal and coral reef that grew over the southern slope of the embankment. Carbonate mud deposited in the lagoon petrified into the layers from which the ancient builders, some fifty million years later, carved out the Great Sphinx.

The Great Sphinx

The Great Sphinx is to the northeast of Khafre's (Chephren) Valley Temple. Where it sits was once a quarry. We believe that Khafre's workers shaped the stone into the lion and gave it their king's face over 4,500 years ago. Khafre's name was also mentioned on the Dream Stele, which sits between the paws of the great beast. However, no one is completely certain that it is in fact the face of Khafre, though indeed that is the preponderance of thought. Recently, however, it has been argued that Khufu, builder of the Great Pyramid, may have also had the Great Sphinx built.

Magic vands-3

During the New Kingdom, representations of the mighty griffin become considerably more numerous. As an artistic emblem for the display of royal power, as with the sphinx, the king sometimes assumed the appearance of a huge terrifying griffin, and is rendered trampling underfoot the traditional enemies of the country. The form of this beast also gradually underwent a change, becoming more gracile, appearing like a sleek canine, and the head and bill come to resemble those of a large vulture or an eagle, rather than a falcon.

Beginning in the late New Kingdom, griffins can be seen on magical statues and stelae pulling at breakneck speed the chariot of the youthful god Shed, who shoots his unerring arrows at an assortment of typhonic creatures, thereby helping to bring safety to their owners.

Magic vands-2

When placed in burials, these devices apparently could also offer similar protection to their deceased owners. In addition to the now familiar cast of imaginary beasts we have been introduced to, new monstrous characters make their appearance on these wands.
Among the most important, is the lion-man, which later becomes the grotesque dwarf-god Bes, but who, at the same time, is a bit comical looking, and was routinely represented full- faced. Then there is the hippopotamus that stands upright on its hind legs with a long Nile crocodile fused to her back, both dangerous denizens of Nile waters, which later develops into the goddess Taweret.
Both Bes and Taweret become extremely popular in the New Kingdom as magical protectors of the home and family. Their images routinely appear on objects of household everyday use, such as beds, chairs, headrests, toilet articles, and like items.