vendredi 8 avril 2011

“Guizeh avant la Quatrième Dynastie” : une étude de Colin Reader sur l’âge du Sphinx

Colin  Reader est un géologue anglais, secrétaire de la Manchester Ancient Egypt Society.
Après avoir visité le site de Guizeh comme simple touriste, il s’y est intéressé sous un angle professionnel, notamment à la recherche de la véritable datation du célèbre Sphinx.
À partir d’une argumentation basée sur des études d'archéologie "climatologique" et d’érosion des roches due à la pluie (à l’instar des études menées par ailleurs par Robert Schoch), il conclut que le Sphinx date d’avant la Quatrième Dynastie. Donc qu’il a été sculpté dans la pierre du plateau de Guizeh avant la construction des pyramides et des tombes environnantes.
Avec la collaboration de l’architecte Jonathan Foyle, il a déduit de ses observations que la tête du Sphinx est disproportionnée par rapport au corps, et qu’elle devait être initialement celle d’un lion. Par la suite, les bâtisseurs de la Grande Pyramide l’ont sculptée à nouveau pour lui donner les traits du pharaon Khoufou.
L’étude de Colin Reader est reproduite ici (en quatre parties successives) avec l’aimable autorisation de son auteur et d’Anthony Sakovich, qui l’a publiée sur son site internet The Giza Building Project (All Rights Reserved), à partir de Journal of the Ancient Chronology Forum (JACF) 9 (2002), pp. 5-21. Reproduced with the author’s permission.
Cette étude date de 2002. Elle a fait l'objet d'une mise à jour en 2006, que l'on consultera en fin de quatrième partie.

There has been a great deal of debate about the age of the Great Sphinx of Giza, much of which has focussed on the weathering of the limestones from which the Sphinx was excavated. (1) This debate tends to have focussed on the Sphinx itself without addressing the wider implications of an early Sphinx for the Giza necropolis or ancient Egyptian history in general. It is geologist Colin Reader's view that the evidence provided by the weathered and eroded limestone rocks at Giza, clearly indicates that the Sphinx pre-dates the 4th Dynasty. However, rather than suggesting that the early Sphinx is an isolated relic of a long-lost culture, without context or provenance, the geo-archaeological investigations of Giza are beginning to lift the veil on a little-appreciated Early Dynastic origin for the site.

Photo Marc Chartier
With few exceptions, (2) standard Egyptological texts state that the Great Sphinx of Giza was built during the reign of Khafre (fourth ruler of the 4th Dynasty, OC - c. 2520-2494 BC). Over the last decade, however, much has been said and written to challenge this orthodox date, with some of the more credible articles focussing on the evidence provided by the limestones from which the Sphinx has been excavated. After over five years of research, it is my conviction that the geological evidence is not consistent with the attribution of the monument to Khafre or, for that matter, to any other pharaoh of the 4th Dynasty.
In this paper, I will explore both the case for the attribution of the Sphinx to Khafre and some of the alternatives. In this latter group, I include my own theory which, I hope to demonstrate, goes further than any other in reconciling the available evidence.

The Sphinx and its setting
As a monument of ancient Egypt, the Great Sphinx of Giza is unique. At over seventy metres long and twenty metres high, the Sphinx was hewn out of the limestone bedrock which extends across much of this part of the greater Cairo area. With the body of a lion and the head of a man, the Sphinx has been linked to ancient solar worship. (3)
Across much of the Sphinx's body - particularly the lower lying parts - a veneer of masonry covers the limestone core. Much of this masonry was added during the various phases of its restoration, the first of which, or so it is argued, being undertaken during the reign of the 18th-Dynasty pharaoh, Thutmose IV (OC - 1392-1382 BC (4). However, it has also been suggested that some of this masonry formed part of the original construction, in order to accurately model some of the finer detail of the lionine body. (5)
Fig. 1: Sketch plan of the Sphinx and Sphinx enclosure

As shown in Figure 1, the Sphinx sits within a low-lying area (known as the Sphinx enclosure) which is bounded to the south and west by a high face cut into the same limestone beds from which the body of the Sphinx was excavated. To the north, the enclosure floor rises by means of a single terrace reaching up to the modern tourist road. To the east are the remains of the 'Sphinx temple'.
There are also a number of other features within the Sphinx enclosure which date from the later periods of Egyptian history - such as the temple of the New Kingdom pharaoh Amenhotep II (OC - 1427-1392 BC) and the remains of mudbrick walls built by Thutmose IV.
Although remarkable in its own right, the Sphinx is just one element of the Giza necropolis which is arguably the most famous archaeological site in the world. The three great 4th Dynasty pyramids of Khufu, Khafre and Menkaure were constructed on a north-east/south-west trending ridge which crosses the site. In addition to the pyramids, a multitude of tombs belonging to the royal family, the nobles and the courtiers were also built in a series of mastaba fields and other related cemeteries (see Figure 2).
Fig. 2: Plan of Giza showing the features discussed in the text

Attribution of the Sphinx to Khafre

There are two main arguments used to support the conventional Old Kingdom dating of the Sphinx. The first is the strong 4th Dynasty context provided by the Giza necropolis in general and, more specifically, by the adjacent mortuary complex of Khafre. In addition, there is alleged to be a reference to the pharaoh Khafre on the so-called Dream Stela, erected between the paws of the Sphinx to commemorate the restoration undertaken by Thutmose IV.
The location of the Sphinx
Although not supported by some recent publications, (6) it has often been argued that the Sphinx was carved from a block of poor quality limestone, left-over from the quarrying of the site during the reign of Khufu. This sequence of development is favoured by the advocates of the conventional age of the rock-cut colossus as it clearly identifies the Sphinx as a post-Khufu monument. It is also common to find standard texts implying that Khafre's workmen were able to select the location of the Sphinx so that it formed a late addition to that pharaoh's mortuary complex, being placed next to both Khafre's pyramid causeway and his valley temple.
The quarry-block hypothesis assumes that original ground levels at Giza were above the level of the head of the Sphinx and that ancient quarrying had brought about a major change in the Giza landscape. Not only is this view now rejected by a number of eminent Egyptologists, (7) but it is also inconsistent with the geomorphology of the site.
To the north of the Sphinx (just beyond the modern tourist road) there is a low cliff - the bank of an ancient wadi (see Figure 1). (8) Prior to any ancient development, this wadi cut down through the limestones of the plateau, separating the Sphinx and the areas to the south from the massif upon which the Great Pyramid of Khufu was built.
In addition to the wadi erosion to the north of the Sphinx, the areas to the south also appear to have been naturally low-lying, with original ground levels still preserved in the construction of a number of tombs. (9)
These surviving elements of the natural topography of the plateau clearly indicate that, in the vicinity of the Sphinx, the original ground profile was generally low lying, but rose to form a small natural hill from which the Sphinx was carved. Controlled by the topography in this way, there was little potential for the ancient builders to have 'selected' the site for the Sphinx, as many Egyptologists have argued.
A reference to Khafre on the Dream Stela ?
"Dream Stela"
When the Dream Stela was first excavated in the early 1800's, many of the lowest lines of hieroglyphic text had been lost as a result of the weathering of the granite from which the stela was carved. On one of the surviving lower (but highly fragmented) lines of text it is alleged that the hieroglyphs Kha-f were present, enclosed in a broken cartouche. The presence of the cartouche identified this as the royal name Khafre. However, it has now been claimed that there was, in fact, no cartouche and that, as a consequence, this text never referred to the 4th Dynasty pharaoh who is generally credited with creating the Sphinx. (10) Unfortunately, as a result of further weathering, the disputed line of text has now been completely lost.
The Dream Stela was excavated by Caviglia in 1818 during his attempts to clear the Sphinx of wind-blown sand. Records of Caviglia's excavations were made by Henry Salt. However, Salt failed to publish his diaries during his lifetime and it was not until the early 1840s that part of the record of Caviglia's work was included in Howard Vyse's 'Operations Carried on at Gizeh'. Vyse's extract from Salt's diary incorporates a meticulous drawing of the Dream Stela showing the disputed line of text. This copy indisputably includes a cartouche, containing two of the three elements of the name 'Kha-f-[re]' The combination of these two hieroglyphs - the sun rising above a hill {kha) and the horned viper (f) - are unique to Khafre.
Although Vyse's publication leaves little doubt that the Dream Stela does indeed refer to Khafre, the implications for the age of the Sphinx are less easily determined. The broken text makes no reference to Khafre as the builder of the Sphinx. In fact the text was so badly damaged that the basis for the reference to Khafre remains completely obscure. The Dream Stela does not, therefore, provide the strong case for Khafre as the builder of the Sphinx that some would argue.
Another New Kingdom stela - that of Amenhotep II - was also found within the Sphinx enclosure by Selim Hassan during his extensive excavations at Giza in the 1930s and 40s. The Amenhotep II stela is interesting for the Sphinx debate because it mentions both Khafre and Khufu - but without any apparent reference to either Old Kingdom pharaoh as its creator.

He (Amenhotep II) yoked the horses in Memphis, when he was still young, and stopped at the sanctuary of Haremakhet [i.e. the Sphinx cult centre]. He spent a time there in going round it (in his chariot) looking at the beauty of the sanctuary of Khufu and Khafre, the revered ones. (11)

So, the evidence for the attribution of the Sphinx to Khafre is somewhat circumstantial. This was certainly the view expressed by Selim Hassan who, in the 1946 report on his extensive clearance of the Sphinx enclosure, stated :

Taking all things into consideration, it seems that we must give the credit of erecting this, the world's most wonderful statue, to Khafre, but always with this reservation that there is not one single contemporary inscription which connects the Sphinx with Khafre, so sound as it may appear, we must treat the evidence as circumstantial, until such time as a lucky turn of the spade of the excavator will reveal to the world a definite reference to the erection of the Sphinx.

Hassan's work included the first complete and modern excavation of the sand which, over millennia, had accumulated within the Sphinx enclosure. Hassan, therefore, had unique access to the stratigraphy of the accumulated debris and to the archaeological evidence in its proper context. This circumstance has not been available to subsequent investigators. Despite a wealth of finds, Hassan was still not able to attribute the Sphinx to any specific king.

The alternative case
There is nothing new in the idea that the Sphinx was built at a time before the reign of Khafre. In his 1893 book The Mummy, Wallis Budge refers to an inscription found by Mariette which states that the Sphinx existed at the time of Khufu. This inscription is carried on the so-called Inventory Stela - a late (26th Dynasty, 664-525 BC) artefact which tells how Khufu found the Sphinx and a nearby Temple of Isis in a ruinous state which he set about restoring. The stela was discovered in a small temple known as 'Isis, Mistress of the Pyramid', built onto the east side of one of the Khufu satellite pyramids.
The execution of the Inventory Stela is poor and the names used for the various deities mentioned in the text are clearly those employed during the Late Period. This has led many to argue that the Inventory Stela is a fake - a fraudulent attempt on the part of the Late Period Egyptians to re-discover a past which was, even then, of great antiquity.
Although the Inventory Stela may be a 'pious fake', the possibility should not be discounted that it is a copy of an earlier artefact. There are precedents for this - for example, a black granite stela of Shabaka (c 712 to 698 BC) states that the pharaoh found an original document 'being eaten by worms'. Shabaka ordered the writing 'to be made anew', and so the wooden or papyrus original was recarved in stone. (12) Furthermore, the Inventory Stela refers to the tail of the Sphinx's nemes head-dress being struck by a 'thunderbolt'. As both Hassan and Mark Lehner have confirmed, there is indeed damage at this location, consistent with a strong blow, together with the apparent remains of ancient repair work. (13)
It is not only the earlier Egyptologists, such as Selim Hassan, who retain a somewhat open view over the age of the Sphinx. Rainer Stadelman also argues for an earlier date for the monument - principally on the basis of the shape and iconography of the head of the Sphinx (especially the nemes head-dress). Stadelman uses this iconography to date the Sphinx to the reign of Khufu.
Stadelman's comments make very interesting reading, particularly as his arguments regarding the causeway of Khafre echo my own independently-arrived-at thoughts on this feature of the Giza necropolis (see below) :

The causeway of Chephren takes account in its slanting course of something earlier, something important that already stood there; from the situation as it stands, this can only have been the Sphinx. (14)

Statuette de Khoufou
However, the attribution of the Sphinx to Khufu on the basis of iconography is difficult to substantiate - especially as the only statue known for certain to be of Khufu is no more than 8 cm high and does not show the pharaoh in a nemes head-dress. But Stadelman does make the interesting point that the nemes worn by the Sphinx is pleated all over, whereas those typically found on statues of Djedefre and Khafre (Khufu's immediate successors) show only the frontal lappets as pleated. Beyond that, though, there is little that can be said with any certainty. Fully pleated nemes head-dresses were worn in the Early Dynastic Period (for example the serdab statue of Djoser) and also feature during the New Kingdom (e.g. Tutankhamun's golden funerary mask). It therefore seems that iconography cannot be called upon for accurate dating as Stadelman argues. Despite this, I find his assertion that the Sphinx predates the reign of Khafre significant.
During his earlier work on the Sphinx, Lehner also appears to have been drawn towards the idea of a pre-4th Dynasty date for the Sphinx but then, after reconsidering the evidence, returned to the conventional position.
Lehner identified two types of restorative masonry on the Sphinx, the oldest of which consists of large limestone blocks, up to lm in length, which had been placed directly against the in situ limestone. (15) These larger blocks were then overlain by a second layer of later, brick-sized limestone masonry. Lehner initially considered that the earliest masonry was placed as part of the original (4th Dynasty) construction and was intended to make good any natural discontinuities in the limestone. To demonstrate this, he sought evidence for tool marks on the in situ limestone underlying the large masonry. However, as his report states '... the profile of the core seems in all cases to be one of severe erosion, leaving the softer yellowish bands and harder intermediate strata showing a profile of successive rolls and undulations. These considerations would seem to indicate that the core-body of the Sphinx was already severely eroded when the earliest level of large-block masonry was added to it.’
In an attempt to reconcile these findings with the established 4th-Dynasty date for the Sphinx, Lehner has since re-attributed the earliest masonry to the 18th Dynasty restoration made by Thutmose IV. A revised sequence of development, in which the origins of the Sphinx lie before the 4th Dynasty, would, on the other hand, make it possible to reconcile Lehner's 'severe erosion' with a much earlier restoration which Hawass has more recently confirmed to be of Old Kingdom date. (16)
However, by far the most notable recent theory must be that of geologist Robert Schoch and his associate John Anthony West. West is an advocate of the esoteric ideas of the Belgian 'philosopher' Schwaller de Lubitcz who made a comment (almost it seems in passing) that the body of the Sphinx appeared to have suffered damage from being flooded. As West noted, the state of the limestones exposed around the Sphinx are indeed different in many ways from the majority of other limestone exposures at Giza - despite (under the conventional chronology) these exposures being of the same 4th-Dynasty age as the Sphinx.
A water-worn Sphinx, of course, clearly runs counter to the general theories of the history of the Sphinx and the contemporary Egyptian climate which is generally regarded as having been arid. The apparently water-worn Sphinx therefore suggested to West that the monument had a very much earlier origin.
Fig. 3: The banded degradation as it appears on the body of the Sphinx today

In order to investigate this proposal further, West teamed up with Schoch in the hope of confirming that the degradation of the Sphinx was in fact due to water. Schoch was able to provide this confirmation but, rather than supporting a flood, he advocated erosion by rainfall. (17) In addition to the banded appearance of the Sphinx - with alternating projecting and recessed near-horizontal limestone beds (Figure 3) - Schoch identified what he referred to as a 'coved appearance' in which individual beds of the Sphinx enclosure were cut by deeply incised near-vertical features, with the limestone between each of these vertical features being rounded as if worn by water run-off (Figure 4). In Schoch's view, there has not been any substantial rains in Egypt since about 5000 BC. He further argued that this evidence of erosion by water provided a latest possible date for the excavation of the Sphinx. In order to provide sufficient time for rainfall to have eroded the Sphinx and its enclosure walls, Schoch went on to date the construction of the monument to between 7000 and 5000 BC.
Fig. 4: The 'coved' degradation on the western enclosure wall

Schoch also carried out some geophysical work within the Sphinx enclosure, using seismic methods to establish the depth to which the limestones, exposed across the floor of the Sphinx enclosure, had been weathered. Schoch argued that the depth of weathering would be related to the period of time since the surface had been exposed. His studies suggested that there were indeed variations across the floor of the enclosure, with the deepest weathering in the east. Schoch thus argued that, if the shallow weathering was in areas excavated in the 4th Dynasty, the weathering which his seismic work indicated to be 50 to 100% deeper must be 50-100% older. Again, this dating placed the construction of the Sphinx to a period before 5000 BC.
Fig. 5: The western face of the Sphinx enclosure cutting showing the 'coved' heavy,
rounded vertical degradation

Having advocated a pre-5000 BC date for the excavation of the Sphinx, Schoch attempted to establish a role or context for his early Sphinx model. In search of such a context, links with Jericho (from where stone masonry is known, c. 8000 BC) and stone artefacts from the Nabta Playa in southern Egypt (from about 6000 BC) were suggested.

1. See also C. Reader: “A geomorphological study of the Giza Necropolis, with implications for the development of the site” in Archaeometry 43:1 (2001).
2. For example see, R. Stadelman: 'Royal Tombs from the Age of the Pyramids' in Schulz and Seidel (eds): Egypt - the World of the Pharaohs (Konemann, 1998).
3. For example see, S. Quirke: The Cult of Ra (Thames and Hudson, 2001).
4. J. Baines and J. Malek: Atlas of Ancient Egypt (1980), p. 36. For consistency all conventional dates used in this paper have been taken from this reference.
5. For example, see: M. Lehner et al; 'The ARCE Sphinx Project - A Preliminary Report” in Newsletter of the American Research Center In Egypt, 112 (1980), pp. 3-33.
6. M. Lehner et al, op. cit. [5], n. 6, p. 20.
7. For a discussion of the disposition of quarries within and adjacent to the Giza necropolis see M. Lehner: ‘The Development of the Giza Necropolis - The Khufu Project' in MDAIK 41 (1985).
8. F. El-Baz: 'Environmental Considerations in the Conservation of the Sphinx' in Proceedings of the First International Symposium on the Great Sphinx (Cairo, 1992), fig 4, p. 245.
9. The tomb of Kausert, for example (B. Porter and R. Moss, vol. III, (Memphis, 2nd Edition 1994), p. 286 and plan XXIII, grid D-10), is partly rock cut (much of the original masonry superstructure is now missing), however, the upper rock surface of this tomb preserves the original slope of the ground. That the original ground levels in this part of the site rise towards the north is confirmed by M. Lehner in his paper “Notes and photographs on the West-Schoch Sphinx Hypothesis” (KMT 5:3 (1994), pp. 40-48.) '... from the south wall of the Sphinx ditch and down the slope away from the ditch to the south behind the Valley Temple [of Khafre] ...'. Here Lehner is referring to the topography to the south of the Sphinx, describing how the ground at this location falls away towards the Main Wadi in the south.
10. G. Hancock: Keeper of Genesis (Heinemann, 1996), p. 12.
11. Based on a translation by S. Hassan: The Great Sphinx and its Secrets - Excavations at Giza 8, p. 76.
12. Ibid, p.117.
13. M. Lehner et al, op. cit. [5], p. 19.
14. R. Stadelman, op. cit. [2].
15. M. Lehner et al. op. cit. [5].
16. Z. Hawass: Abstract for the First International Symposium on the Great Sphinx (Egyptian Antiquities Organisation, Cairo, 1992). “It seems that the Sphinx underwent restoration during the Old Kingdom because the analysis of samples found on the right rear leg proved to be of Old Kingdom date.”
17. R. M. Schoch: “Redating the Great Sphinx of Giza” in KMT 3:2 (1992), pp. 53-59 & pp. 66-70.

Deuxième partie