The Great Sphinx of Giza is probably the world's best known relic from the distant past. It is shrouded in mystery.
The Sphinx is not built with quarried blocks like the pyramids and temples it guards, but carved out of the living bedrock. Its makers gave it a man's head (some say it's a woman) and the body of a lion. It is 66' high and an impressive 240' long. It has the most extraordinary expression, like a hundred Mona Lisas all rolled into one. And its eyes gaze forever at the distant horizon due east, at the equinox point, at something not of this world but beyond it, in the sky. Something, perhaps, that is reflected or "frozen" in the essence and age of the Sphinx.
Nothing can prepare a first-time visitor for the awe-inspiring experience of meeting the Great Sphinx face to face. No matter who you are, no matter what your disposition and temperament, the Great Sphinx will not leave you unmoved. John A. West knows this phenomenon well. He has stood in the shadow of this great statue many a time since he started visiting Egypt some thirty years ago. To him the Sphinx had always appeared as a monument apart, and much, much older than anything else he had seen either at Giza or elsewhere.
West's strong "gut feeling" had rarely let him down. One day, while reading a book on Egypt by the French author and mathematician Schwaller de Lubicz (Sacred Science, Paris 1961) an answer to his intuitive hunch came shooting straight at him. Schwaller made a passing remark on what appeared to be water erosion on the body of the Sphinx. Turning to a close-up photograph of the Sphinx, West suddenly realized that the weathering patterns on the Sphinx were not horizontal as seen on other monuments at Giza, but vertical. Now, horizontal weathering is the result of prolonged exposure to strong winds and sandstorms. There sure had been plenty of those in this arid region of the Sahara. Could water have caused the vertical weathering on the Sphinx? Water from where?
Something, clearly, was worth investigating. West knew that most Egyptologists believed that the Sphinx was built in 2500 BCE in the time of the pharaoh Chephren (of Khafre), who is identified with the Second Pyramid at Giza. He also knew that this belief was now so entrenched that it would take an intellectual bulldozer to tug it out. Yet his study had shown him that this believe was more a dogma than anything else. He asked himself if a proof-positive identification between Khafre and the Sphinx would stand in an "open court" under public scrutiny.
The answer was no. There was no inscription either carved on a wall or a stela or written on the throngs of papyri that identified Khafre or anyone else with the construction of the Sphinx and its nearby temples. As for the proximity of Khafre's pyramid to the Sphinx (it is 1700 feet away), this did not prove that both monuments were built as one complex nor, more relevantly, at the same epoch. By such standards, future generations of archaeologists may one day allocate ownership of the Sphinx to the builder of the Sound & Light theater because of its proximity to the Sphinx complex or -- as someone else has put it -- attribute St. Paul's Cathedral to General Gordon of Khartoum just because his statue was found in it. In short, Khafre may well be the quintessential "Kilroy was here" of antiquity. So could the Sphinx be much older than the reign of Khafre, as West had long suspected it was? Could this hypothesis explain, for example, the strange vertical weathering on the statue?
In 1991, Dr. Robert Schoch, a prominent geologist and professor from Boston University examined the unique weathering patterns on the Sphinx and its enclosure. His conclusions, which came after several months of analysis, were to convulse the world of archaeology. The vertical weathering patterns on the Sphinx and its enclosure, Schoch argued, were not caused by wind effect, as had previously been thought, but by water -- water from torrential rains pouring down in sheets over these ancient structures. But how could this be? Was Schoch saying that such heavy rains only fell on the Sphinx area but nowhere else at Giza?
That was impossible, retorted the Egyptologists. Not impossible, said Schoch if it is conceded that the Sphinx was built at an epoch when such rains were common in this region and that the other monuments at Giza were built long after these rains had stopped. Again impossible, replied the ruffled Egyptologists. Schoch politely shrugged his shoulders.
The usual was to happen. John West was branded a charlatan and a sensation-seeker, and Schoch was politely shunned for stepping on the Egyptological turf. John West, however, was relentless. True, he did not have the lofty credentials of his learned opponents, but this did not deter him. Scientific logic was on his side, not credentials. He was now determined more than ever to see that the Egyptologists either prove him wrong with equal or better scientific arguments or concede that he, and not they, was right about the age of the Sphinx. Anything less would be short change.
Astronomy Joins The Sphinx Debate
In 1989, I published a paper in the Oxford Journal, Discussions In Egyptology (vol. 13), in which I demonstrated that the three Great Pyramids and their relative position to the Nile created on the ground formed a sort of 3-D "hologram" of the three stars of Orion's belt and their relative position to the Milky Way. To support this contention, I brought into evidence the inclined shaft in the Great Pyramid which was aimed at the south meridian toward this group of stars, as well as written evidence from the Pyramid Texts that identified the afterlife destiny of the pyramid-kings with Orion.
Later in my book The Orion Mystery, I also demonstrated that the best fit for the Giza Pyramids/Nile pattern with the Orion's belt/Milky Way pattern occurred when the sky was pushed back in time (i.e., precessed) to the epoch of 10,500 BCE. There were good reasons for doing so.
The ancient Egyptians, for example, constantly referred to a remote golden age they called Zep Tepi, the "First Time" of Osiris, which they believed had long predated the Pyramid Age. Osiris was Orion, and the Great Pyramid had a shaft directed to Orion at the meridian. To me, this "silent" astro-architectural language seemed to be spelling out, "Here is Osiris, in the sky when these pyramids were built, yet know, too, that his origins are rooted in the First Time." But the First Time of what? How could the stars of Orion have a First Time?
Well they can. And they do. Provided, of course, that you can read through the allegorical "language" of the ancients via the symbolic architecture and the related Pyramid Texts. Allegory, to put it in another way, is the "Q-Basics" of the master astronomers who designed the Giza complex. When the stars of Orion are observed at the meridian in the precise manner that the ancient Egyptian astronomers did over many centuries, they could not help noting that these stars crossed the south meridian at different altitudes at different epoch. This is, of course, is due to the phenomenon of precession. In short, the stars of Orion can be said to have a starting point or "beginning" at the nadir of their precessional cycle. Simple calculations show that this occurred in 10,500 BCE. Could the ancient astronomers of the Pyramid Age have used their very clever "silent language" combined with precession to freeze the "First Time" of Osiris -- somewhat as the gifted architects of gothic cathedrals froze in allegorical stonework the "time of Christ?"
In 1993, Graham Hancock and I got together to investigate this issue. Graham was quick to realize the important implications this approach could have on the Sphinx problem. He had a hunch that the curious harking back to the epoch of 10,500 BCE by the pyramid builders was an invitation by them to consider the actual age of the Sphinx. If this hypothesis was correct, then the Sphinx must be an "original" time-marker of that remote epoch using a celestial tag valid for 10,500 BCE. But which tag? What could the Sphinx be representing that was in the sky? Could this have something to do with the due east direction of its gaze toward the horizon?
In his Fingerprints of the Gods, Hancock pointed out that the First Time date of 10,500 BCE also denoted the beginning or First Time of the Age of Leo. This was when the Lion constellation would have risen heliacally (at dawn before the sun) on the day of the vernal (spring) equinox. This event brought the celestial lion to rest due east, thus in perfect alignment with the Sphinx. The Sphinx, in other words, was made to look at his own image in the horizon -- and consequently at his own "time." Hancock pointed out that 10,500 BCE was no random date. It precisely denoted another beginning, that of Orion-Osiris defined on the ground with the pattern and alignments of the nearby Pyramids. Could it be possible that some blueprint was put into motion in 10,500 BCE with the making of the Sphinx then to be completed much later by the builders of the Pyramids?
A Lucky Turn Of The Spade
In October 1995, the Egyptian Antiquities Organization finally decided to refurbish the old parking lot east of the Sphinx. While clearing the area in front of the Sphinx and the Valley Temple, a "lucky turn of the spade" from one of the laborers unearthed part of an ancient complex of underground galleries and pathways. Hearing of this providential discovery, Graham Hancock and I planned a short trip to Egypt to see for ourselves what was going on. John Anthony West also was on his way there, and so we decided to meet directly at Giza.
Laborers and masons were digging and clearing the area in front of the Sphinx and its temples. By a stroke of good fortune, the Egyptian authorities had not yet cordoned this area, so we asked one of the inspectors in charge if we could take a closer look. It looked as if part of the area had already been excavated some years ago but then, for reasons unknown, it was covered up again.
This was evident by the botches of modern mortar and iron bars that were left embedded in the ceiling of the ancient pathways, probably in an attempt to reinforce the relics. An inspector standing by seemed to think that these modern-day additions were made either when Egyptologist Selim Hassan was clearing the area for the Egyptian Antiquity Organization in the 1930s or later in the 1950s when the Sons Et Lumieres open-air theater was constructed nearby. But why the vestiges were covered up again, and why and how they came to be forgotten remains a mystery.
These vestiges consisted of a major artery cut into the natural bedrock (some 10 feet wide and 200 feet long from north to south) which runs in front of the Valley Temple and the Sphinx. This artery is itself intersected by two paved pathways coming from the Valley Temple and going due east -- much as two small roads bridge over a straight motorway. These pathways dip very oddly at their eastern end and then vanish into the ground. We also noticed a very curious manhole set in the main artery at the point where it intersects the southern pathway. Its lid, which is made from a single piece of limestone, is broken at one corner, and through it we could see water flowing (mixed with the sewage from the nearby village) and heading toward the Sphinx and the Valley Temple.
The whole complex was obviously very ancient and almost certainly contemporary with the Sphinx. But what could its function have been? And what was the purpose of the underground waterway? According to a prominent Ancient Egyptian myth, the legendary gates of the Afterworld were guarded by two gigantic lions or sphinxes called Aker. In New Kingdom tomb drawings, the aker-sphinx of the eastern gate sits with its hind parts in a hollow. Underneath it can be seen a curious underground stream or duct. Behind the lion towers a huge mound or pyramid, and under it is found a large, oval chamber which appears to be hermetically sealed.
In this mysterious chamber is said to be some lofty secret, no doubt from the "Gods" who ruled the land of Egypt during the remote epoch of Zep Tepi, the First Time. This strange chamber was called the "House of Sokar" in Rostau. The resemblance to the Sphinx complex at Giza is uncanny. Giza in ancient times was also called Rostau, and Sokar (a hawk-headed deity) was identified with Osiris. Odd coincidences? Perhaps. Or will astronomy make "a lucky turn of the spade" that will convert this supposedly cosmic myth into an historical reality?