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April 22, 2012

Book Review: The Sphinx Mystery

One of the great mysteries of the ages is: just who or what is the Sphinx? You know what the Sphinx is, of course. That huge statue that's sitting there in the Egyptian desert on the Giza Plateau, an animal creature with a human head?

You know, this?

(Thanks to Kewl Wallpapers)

The mystery has always been who made this? Just how old is the Sphinx? Whose head is that on the Sphinx?

Those questions may never be officially answered, but one man thinks he has done so.

In The Sphinx Mystery: The Forgotten Origins of the Sanctuary of Anubis, Robert Temple and his wife Olivia claim that they have figured out everything about this giant monument.

Is he right?

Not being an expert in all of this, I can't really say yay or nay. I'm a book reviewer. All I can comment on is the book itself, and whether or not it's convincing.

I reviewed the book back in 2009, and apparently I wasn't posting my book reviews here, or I did it before I actually started this blog. Either way, it never showed up here. So, in keeping with my Egyptian theme this week ("theme" meaning at least two posts, because I'm not going to tie myself down any further than that, though there could be more!), here's my Curled Up With a Good Book review of Temple's tome.

You'd like an excerpt? I thought you'd never ask.
"Yes, I did say "Sanctuary of Anubis" in the last paragraph. One of the obvious things about the Sphinx is that the head is much too small for the huge body atop which it sits. Was it recarved into a pharaoh's image? If so, whose? Temple not only makes the case for who actually did the recarving, but he also has an interesting theory about what the Sphinx was before its current incarnation. He states that the Giza plateau, on which stand all of the Great Pyramids, the Sphinx just off to the side, is a sacred entrance to the realm of the dead, and that the Sphinx is the guardian of that entrance. While the Sphinx is commonly described as having the body of a lion, Temple says there is no way that this is a lion: instead, it's a giant statue of the god Anubis, the dog/jackal that deals with those crossing over from the living to the dead. He proposes that the statue was disfigured during the 150 years of chaos between the Old and Middle Kingdoms of Egypt, and that a pharaoh decided to make it his own face instead."
I had never thought of it before, and I don't know much about lions and how they sit, but Temple is certainly right that the way the Sphinx is sitting on the ground does look a lot more like a dog than what our image of lions sitting is.

What about the age of the Sphinx, though? Aren't there erosion patterns (as some authors have claimed, more about which later this week) that indicate the Sphinx has to be vastly older than just 5000 years or so? These claims make it up to 10,000 BC or even earlier, which is amazing given the state of civilization (as in there wasn't much of one) back then?

Temple's solution to that is very nicely done. I have no idea if it's bullshit or not, but it does make sense.
"The Nile river flowed near Giza back in ancient Egypt, and would regularly flood every year. He claims that there is a channel around the Sphinx so that, for religious reasons, the Sphinx was an island unto itself for a large part of the year. Water flowed in and out of what he calls the "Sphinx Moat," either from the river itself or from collected rainwater (there was much more rain in Egypt back then) that the Egyptians funneled into the moat. The constant inflow and outflow of water into this moat accounts for the water erosion. It's a fascinating theory for those who are familiar with the other arguments."
Again, I have no idea whether Temple's theories are way out there or right on the mark.

What I do know is that the book is fascinating (though loses its way a bit toward the end, but by then you're already hooked). Added to this is Temple's "old-man" crankiness about the state of History and Archaeology today and how people actively avoid paying attention to evidence that's right in front of them.

That makes entertaining reading no matter what the subject. This book is great for those with an interest in Egyptian archaeology.

Let me know what you think of the review, too, in addition to your thoughts on the Sphinx itself.


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