The Great Sphinx of Giza is one of the most iconic structures of Ancient Egypt. It is a limestone statue of a reclining sphinx (a mythical creature) and is the oldest known monumental sculpture in Egypt. It was cut from the bedrock of the plateau that was also quarried for building the pyramids.

There are many other sphinxes in Egypt - some of which are still being discovered (although some are very small). The Great Sphinx of Giza is one of the great monuments that one should learn about to understand the Great Pyramids of Giza and get the most out of one's trip.


A Brief History of The Sphinx

The Sphinx is a mythical creature and has a human head (apparently pharaoh Khafre - the building of the Second Pyramid at Giza), and a lion's body.

  • Built: Around 2558–2532 BC
  • Depicts: The Mythical Sphinx - With A Lion's Body and (Apparently) Pharaoh Khafre's Head
  • Oldest: One of the Oldest and Largest Monolithic Statutes In the World

When it was built forty-five centuries ago, the Egyptians lacked iron or bronze tools. Instead, the Sphinx would have been carved out mainly with the use of stone hammers, along with copper chisels for detailed finished work.

The Sphinx was intended to be part of a much larger temple complex. But Pharaoh Khafre's vision was never fully completed. In 1978 in a corner of the Sphinx's quarry excavations found three stone blocks, abandoned as laborers were dragging them to build the Sphinx Temple.

  • Temple Complex: The Sphinx Was Part Of a Much larger Temple Complex
  • Unfinished: The Sphinx Temple Complex Was Never Completed

Not only that but segments of the bedrock at the northern edge of the ditch surrounding the Sphinx were found to be only partially quarried. Findings here included a workman’s lunch and tool kit—fragments of a beer or water jar and stone hammers. It would seem that the workmen walked off the job.

Related: Visiting Luxor Temple: A Complete History & Guide

Abandonment, Restorations, And Ancient Tourist Attraction

After the Old Kingdom of Egypt, the massive necropolis that is the pyramids of Giza was abandoned along with the sphinx. The Sphinx was soon buried in sand up to its neck and so for much of history, it was just the head picking out of the sand. The earliest restoration work of the Sphinx was believed to have been by Egyptian prince Thutmose 700 years after it was abandoned.

  • Thutmose: May Have Been The First to Restore The Sphinx

The Sphinx has long been a tourist attraction - including with the ancient Greeks and Romans. By their time, the monuments of Giza were regarded as antiquities and some Roman Emperors visited the Sphinx out of curiosity. The Romans also cleared the Sphinx of sand in the first century AD and built a monumental stairway to the front of the paws of the Sphinx. There was a podium at the top of the stairs to allow for viewing the Sphinx. It was dismantled in 1931 and 1932 during excavation.

  • Nose: Broke Off Between the 3rd ad 10 Centuries AD for Unknown Reasons

Today the original shape of the Sphinx has been partially restored with layers of limestone blocks. The head and body show their long history of weathering and vandalism. Its nose is believed to have broken off between the 3rd and 10th centuries AD.

Related: Here Are Some Theories On How The Egyptian Pyramids Were Built

Great Sphinx of Giza Tunnels and Chambers

The Sphinx is home to a number of tunnels and passages. Some were created by treasure hunters, others by people re-carving the Sphinx, and others are unknown. There is even a shaft at the top of the Sphinx's head. There are even reportedly access tunnels to some large and natural caves directly under the Sphinx.

  • Perring's Hole: A Hole On The Back Of the Sphinx Around 4 Feet Behind The Head 27 Feet. Made In The 1840s By Howard Vyse
  • Eastern Shaft: A Pit Sealed Of With a Trap Door In Restoration Efforts In The 1920s, Located With In the ground Within The Sphinx's Paws
  • Shaft A: A Deep Hole On the Top Of The Sphinx's Head. It May Have Been Used For Affixing An Ancient Headdress to The Sphinx
  • Shaft C: A Square Shaft With a Dead-End At The Back Of The Sphinx
  • Shaft D: Located On The Floor At The Hind Park of The Sphinx, It Goes To The Water Table Below the Sphinx. The Passaged Winds Down Under The Sphinx Around 4.5 Meters Below
  • Keyhole Shaft: May Have Been An Unfinished Tomb

There have long been fables of hidden chambers and a "Hall of Records" lies beneath the Sphinx. However, there has not been any evidence for these claims.