The Great Sphinx bears the honor of being the world’s largest and oldest statue. The Sphinx measures 185 feet long (57 meters), 20 feet wide (6 meters), and stands 65 feet tall (20 meters). Questions about its origin and whom it depicts have been dubbed collectively “The Riddle of the Sphinx” (unrelated to the Greek myth involving Oedipus).

Most veteran Egyptologists agree the statue represents Pharaoh Khafra, also known by his Hellenized name Chephren. Khafra also is believed to have been the builder as well, which would date the Sphinx construction to between 2520 BC and 2494 BC. However, the evidence for this attribution is both circumstantial and ambiguous, which has left open a doorway to debate.

Among the more prominent theories are those of Robert Bauval and his co-author Graham Hancock, which argues that the Great Sphinx was built in 10,500 BCE and that its lion shape represents the constellation Leo, the attributed astrological age of the era. Bauval and Hancock contend that the Great Sphinx supports their Orion Correlation Theory for the construction of the pyramids at Giza. Some geologists have supported an older age for the Sphinx, among them Robert M. Schoch and David Coxill. They argue that the effects of water erosion on the Sphinx indicate that parts of the monument must originally have been carved between 7,000–5,000 BCE at the latest. Most mainstream Egyptologists reject this theory, saying that the apparently accelerated decay of the Sphinx is more likely caused by sand scouring, differences between limestone layers in the monument, temperature changes causing the stone to crack, or industrial pollution. A French scientist, R. A. Schwaller de Lubicz, first discovered water erosion evidence on the Sphinx Enclosure walls in the 1950s.

Though the Great Sphinx and Egypt‘s many pyramids have withstood the stresses of millennia, tourists who wish to see these monuments of antiquity probably should make their visits as soon as possible.

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