REVIEW of REVIEWS

Sphinx Bared After 6,000 Years

Accumulation of Sand is Removed from Ancient Monument— Figure Shown to be That of an Animal With a Man's Head

September 1 1926
REVIEW of REVIEWS

Sphinx Bared After 6,000 Years

Accumulation of Sand is Removed from Ancient Monument— Figure Shown to be That of an Animal With a Man's Head

September 1 1926

Sphinx Bared After 6,000 Years

REVIEW of REVIEWS

Accumulation of Sand is Removed from Ancient Monument— Figure Shown to be That of an Animal With a Man's Head

DAILY MAIL

IN ALL the six thousand yenrs of its existence, the Sphinx, that ancient monument of mystery, has been uncovered only once. Since the time of the Ptolemys, before the dawn of the Christian era, the sands of the Egyptian desert had been piling up against its base until only the upper part of the brooding figure was visible.

To-day the ancient figure stands uncovered and er-eet, in all its imposing beauty. In describing the work of digging, the Daily Mail explains that many Egyptian methods are prehistoric and this last digging, like those that had preceded it, was done by a circular procession of 800 children scooping up the loose sand and carrying it away on their heads in baskets. The result has been to reveal an entirely differant sort of Sphinx, Instead of a featureless face, rising on limbless shoulders from the sand, it is once more a complete animal. It crouches on the paved floor of an artificial pit, in exactly the attitude of Landseer’s lions at the foot of the Nelson Column.

The head used to be a truncated relic, sticking up from the desert like the top of a Titanic doll. Now that the body and huge forelegs have emerged to keep it in proportion, it has gained in dignity and in significance.

Those mighty paws, stretching straight out in front of the figure, are the most striking feature of the uncovered Sphinx. They are much larger than the hind legs tucked under the quarters, where the shape of the tail, curving over the right haunch, is skilfully molded in the heavy white masonry with which King Thothmes clothed the body when he cleared it from the sand about 2000 B.C.

The ancients regarded the Sphinx as the representation of something coldly bloodthirsty, but now that we have a full view of him again there is no air of ferocity about him. His attitude is the one a big collie dog will take between two scampers. Squatting there with hind legs bent ready to spring to his feet, the Sphinx looks exactly as if he wanted someone to pick up the big stone he guards between his forepaws and throw it away for him to fetch.

I AM glad I first saw the Sphinx before the restorers began their treatment, for they have not been able to resist the temptation to touch him up here and there in the name of preservation. They have plastered his head with a neat new wig of smooth red masonry, and they have filled up the space between this and his shoulder with more stonework. Fortunately no heed was paid to the proposal to restore the features of the flat, mutilated face, whose slow destruction under the friction of desert sandstorms was completed a hundred years ago by the battering of Mohammed Ali’s artillery at target practice.

Many more wonderful relics of past civilizations in the Valley of the Nile must lie closeYiround us, hidden byjjthis insid-

.iotis sand. It is impossible to believe that the earliest Pyramids came into existence without any previous experimental building. Beneath the soil of the Delta, whose level is many feet higher than it was 10,000 years ago, may lie the buildings from which the architecture of the Pyramids was developed.

It is surprising, though, that the more expert an Egyptologist becomes, the less inclined he is to regard the early Egyptians as a race of supermen. They were great contractors, but not great mathematicians, so friends of mine assure me who have spent many years in studying their works. As organizers of slave labor they showed the skill of long experience, but they never discovered the use of pulleys and handled the gigantic blocks of stone of which their monuments are made by means of the lever, the roller and the sledge.

AS ONE looks at the magnificent Tut-ankh-Amen jewellery which has just been put on view in the Cairo Museum, it seems strange that men with the delicacy of mind to do work of a beauty that Bond Street and the Rue de la Paix could not surpass to-day should have left, as the story of their race, only religious and dynastic inscriptions in a language that is both verbose and vague. The brilliant show of golden ornaments which were wrapped in fourteen layers round young Tut-ankh-Amen’s body makes one

feel that the men who produced them must have had minds very like our own. Those golden daggers, sharp as steel, with glass-decorated hilts, and sheaths embossed in low relief of most skilful artistry, might have been wrought by the hands that make the swords of honor presented to new members of the French Academy to-day. And in that six-foot long mummy-case of solid gold, equal in weight to about 40,000 sovereigns, the pressure from within of the dead Pharaoh’s knees is indicated with the grace of Greek sculpture at its best. New and fascinating things like these are constantly increasing in Egypt now,

and better trained and keener brains are employed on the discovery and interpretation of them. Even since I have been in Cairo, new cases of household goods belonging to the Eleventh Dynasty, about 2,500 years B.C., were put on show in the museum. There is a coil of rope which looks exactly like any piece we use to-day, and flat scones that one gets in any tea-shop. And as one looks from the top of the Great Pyramid along the narrow strip of irrigated land where more history has been concentrated than anywhere else on earth, one realizes how likely it is that far greater treasures still remain to be unearthed.