We are pleased and proud to welcome Robert Temple as the June 2009 Author of the Month. His latest work is The Sphinx Mystery http://www.sphinxmystery.info/sphinx_mystery.html and http://www.robert-temple.com/

PROFESSOR ROBERT TEMPLE is author of a dozen challenging and provocative books, commencing with the international best-seller, The Sirius Mystery. His books have been translated into a total of 44 foreign languages. He combines solid academic scholarship with an ability to communicate with the mass public. He is Visiting Professor of the History and Philosophy of Science at Tsinghua University in Beijing, and previously held a similar position at an American university. For many years he was a science writer for the Sunday Times, the Guardian, and a science reporter for Time-Life, as well as a frequent reviewer for Nature and profile writer for The New Scientist. He is a Fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society, and has been a member of the Egypt Exploration Society since the 1970s, as well as a member of numerous other academic societies. He has produced, written and presented a documentary for Channel Four and National Geographic Channels on his archaeological discoveries in Greece and Italy, and he was at one time an arts reviewer on BBC Radio 4’s ‘Kaleidoscope’. In 1993, his translation of the Babylonian epic of Gilgamesh was performed at the Royal National Theatre in London. With his wife, Olivia, he is co-author and translator of the first complete English version of Aesop’s Fables, which attracted a great deal of international press attention at the time of it release because of the first translation of the fables which had been suppressed by the Victorians because of prudery. Temple was a colleague of the late Dr. Joseph Needham of Cambridge, in association with whom he wrote The Genius of China, which has been approved as an official reference book (in Chinese) for the Chinese secondary school system, and which won five national awards in the USA. He has done archaeometric dating work and intensive exploration of closed sites in Egypt with the permission of the Egyptian Supreme Council of Antiquities. His research into historical accounts of the Sphinx is the first comprehensive survey ever undertaken.

What is wrong with the Sphinx?

Have you ever thought there was something seriously wrong with the Sphinx? Next time you are there (assuming you are so fortunate as to be able to go), just stop and look closely. What do you see?

  1. The Sphinx is a gigantic statue the size of an ocean liner with a tiny pimple for a head. Does that look right to you? If we know anything about the ancient Egyptians and their statues, we know that they always got the proportions right. In fact, we could say that they were evidently obsessed with correct proportions in everything. So why would they carve what is still even today the world's largest stone statue and get the proportions wrong?

  2. Why is it sitting down there in a hole in a ground like that? If you wanted to carve the world's largest stone statue, would you stick it in a hole in the ground? Even if you suffered from excessive modesty yourself, would it not be irreverent to the gods to put a sacred statue down in a pit below surface level? Isn't that a bit like sticking a crucifix in a dustbin? Wouldn't any normal person want to flaunt the world's largest stone statue rather than hide it? After all the Great Pyramid is not built in a pit, it is built on a hill. So why is the Sphinx so hidden that from the pyramids you can barely even see it sticking up a bit from a hole in the distance?

  3. Why is it that the Sphinx, which we have always been told is a lion does not actually look like a lion at all? Do lions look like that? You have to ignore the lion-like paws, because they are a more recent construction, purposely made to resemble lion's paws by people doing what they call 'restoration'. We have no idea what the original paws looked like, since they had been rendered unrecognisable by Roman times. But if anyone has ever been to the zoo, he or she knows that lions do not look like that. When Olivia and I first saw the Sphinx we both blamed ourselves, we thought we did not have a certain ability which other people obviously had, an ability for seeing lions. We thought that we must be lion-dyslexic. We looked and we looked and no matter how hard we looked there was still no lion. Continuing to stare did not help. There is no rising chest, no mane, there just is nothing there which is remotely leonine at all.

So we were faced with these problems and we took them personally. We eventually felt that it was our duty to do something about the fact that there were several things wrong with the Sphinx. If nobody else was going to shout that the Emperor has no clothes, we would do it.

It was obvious to us that the head of the Sphinx had been re-carved. We were by no means the first to think this, as it has been suggested by several other people, though their comments have had no influence on 'mainstream opinion'.

It was equally obvious that the Sphinx had once had a much larger head.

It was obvious that there must have been a reason for putting the Sphinx in a hole in the ground.

It was obvious to us as we stood there looking at the Sphinx for the first time that the Sphinx was a crouching dog.

That made sense, because crouching dogs looking outwards with their backs turned towards something are guard dogs, protecting what is behind them. And in this case, behind the Sphinx was the sacred necropolis of Giza. So the Sphinx was symbolically protecting Giza. And who was the traditional guardian of the necropolis in Egyptian tradition? It was the god Anubis, and Anubis was a dog. Furthermore, the best known image of Anubis is the Anubis statue found inside the tomb of King Tutankhamun, which shows him as a crouching dog.

It was all very well to come to these conclusions, but we could not just write them down on a page of A-4 and hand them round to our friends and consider our job done. Clearly there was a lot of work to be done. And when I say a lot, I mean a lot.

It took ten years.

During the course of all this work I accumulated one of the world's largest collections of Sphinx images, in addition to all the photos which Olivia and I took. Together, these form most of the 375 illustrations in our book.

There were also other mysteries about the Sphinx which I felt we had to examine properly. For instance, we could see that there was obviously water erosion on the Sphinx and on the walls of the Sphinx pit. How could this possibly be accounted for? The water erosion on the Sphinx itself had first been pointed out in 1961, in passing, by Schwaller de Lubicz. It had later been taken up as an issue requiring investigation by John Anthony West, in an article which I myself published in a magazine called Second Look of which I was then co-editor. Six months later, West published his book on this subject. West's answer to this enigma was reasonable enough. He suggested that this water erosion must have been caused by rain. But when? He did some research and concluded that the rain could not have been more recent than 12,500 years ago, when the climate in Egypt was different. Taken in isolation, the conclusion that the erosion has been caused by 'ancient rain' is logical. However, taken in context, I found it impossible to agree with this theory. It meant that we would be faced with a period of at least seven thousand years during which no artefacts were preserved of a civilisation capable of carving the Sphinx. That just seemed impossible to me. However, I put this dilemma aside for a while in the hope that some better hypothesis would appear at some time in the future, and it eventually did.

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Photograph by Olivia Temple

There were also other mysteries about the Sphinx which I felt we had to examine properly. For instance, we could see that there was obviously water erosion on the Sphinx and on the walls of the Sphinx pit. How could this possibly be accounted for? The water erosion on the Sphinx itself had first been pointed out in 1961, in passing, by Schwaller de Lubicz. It had later been taken up as an issue requiring investigation by John Anthony West, in an article which I myself published in a magazine called Second Look of which I was then co-editor. Six months later, West published his book on this subject. West's answer to this enigma was reasonable enough. He suggested that this water erosion must have been caused by rain. But when? He did some research and concluded that the rain could not have been more recent than 12,500 years ago, when the climate in Egypt was different. Taken in isolation, the conclusion that the erosion has been caused by 'ancient rain' is logical. However, taken in context, I found it impossible to agree with this theory. It meant that we would be faced with a period of at least seven thousand years during which no artefacts were preserved of a civilisation capable of carving the Sphinx. That just seemed impossible to me. However, I put this dilemma aside for a while in the hope that some better hypothesis would appear at some time in the future, and it eventually did.


Graham Hancock and Robert Bauval were also enthusiastic about the erosion problem at the Sphinx, and they adopted West's theory about the 'ancient rain', as they could see no other possible answer. They did not adamantly hold out for a more acceptable solution like I did. I hope they might revise their theories now that a more reasonable answer has appeared. They and West are all to be congratulated for having insisted upon the water erosion at the Sphinx. There is no disgrace in having come up with the wrong explanation to it, there is rather the praise in their having noticed the need for an explanation at all. After all, all conventional Egyptologists were united in their vitriolic condemnation of the water erosion problem being raised at all, and they all violently insulted West, Hancock, and Bauval. That is no way to carry on a dialogue, but then the conventional Egyptologists did not consider a dialogue necessary. Even to take notice of the fact that West, Hancock, and Bauval even existed on the face of the earth and lived, breathed, and had the audacity to think and speak as well, was considered beneath their dignity. Or should I say beneath their arrogance?

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Photograph by Robert Temple

It is unfortunate that intelligence and arrogance are often in direct proportion to one another. It is a major human weakness that the more educated you are, and the brighter you are, the more you are tempted to view yourself as being somehow superior. People of less knowledge or of less intelligence are viewed as untermenschen, not even worth spitting on. This type of intellectual vanity has always made me sick. I spent so many years in so many universities, I have met so many famous intellectuals (58 Nobel Laureates included), that I have had an overdose of vanity and intellectual pride.

Then there was also the problem of the chambers. Were there any chambers in, under, or near the Sphinx? People kept saying this, and it was a recurring theme of the alternative literature. Robert Bauval and Simon Cox even wrote a book with the shocking and suggestive title Secret Chamber. They insisted there really was a secret chamber beneath the Sphinx, and they weren't talking only about the 'rump tunnel' at the very back, with a little scooped-out hole in the bedrock, which everyone now knows about; they were talking about the real thing.

But there was a slight problem: they had no evidence.

The fact that a psychic named Edgar Cayce had once said in a trance that there was a chamber beneath the right paw of the Sphinx was interesting. But then, the world is full of psychics who say all kinds of things, sometimes true, sometimes false. This is not evidence.

And so began my odyssey of exploration of early texts. Eventually I had tracked down no less than 281 years' worth of eye-witness accounts by people who had seen a secret chamber beneath the Sphinx, described it, and given its precise location. Many of these were not in English and had to be translated. Olivia translated all the French ones. All of these accounts are published in English at the back of our book.

The chamber described by these people was directly beneath the haunches of the Sphinx, and was reached by a vertical shaft, the precise width and breadth of which were measured, and the entry's precise distance from the head and the rump were also measured. The chamber was described as a proper burial chamber with hieroglyphic inscriptions on the walls and traces of a wooden coffin remaining inside. It had been plundered in antiquity. It appears that this shaft and chamber were intruded into the Sphinx at a date later than the carving of the original Sphinx, and that the burial was that of a later king, perhaps the king named Amasis whose tomb was said by Pliny in the first century AD to be directly under the Sphinx.

In the back of our book, we publish all of the descriptions of the Sphinx from the Roman author Pliny (no Greek account survives) to 1837, with the many foreign ones all translated into English.

So the mystery of the secret chamber is now solved! It was rendered inaccessible in 1926 when a Frenchman named Émile Baraize poured concrete down into it, as an exercise in 'tidying-up' for the nascent tourist trade.

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PLATE X. Olivia, accompanied by Graham Hancock’s daughter, tries to peer down into the rump cavity underneath the rear of the Sphinx. All of the stones seen in this photo are modern repair blocks, except for those directly above the entry hole. A rusting metal frame has been erected round the interior of the hole in modern times, and may be partially seen here. (Photo by Robert Temple)

As for the hole in the ground and why the Sphinx was in it, I came to realize that this was intimately associated with the water erosion problem. The fact now seems inescapable that the Sphinx Pit was really the Sphinx Moat. The Nile used to rise right up to the doors of the Sphinx Temple for three months of every year during the period of what was called the Inundation. The Inundation does not happen anymore because of the Aswan Dam.

In our book I publish the photos I took of the bolt-holes and other signs of water sluices which were used in the corridor between the Sphinx Temple and the Valley Temple to control the inflow of water into the Moat, and its blocking during the remaining 9 months of the year.

Egyptologists are always moaning and whingeing about the 'fact' that the Sphinx is never mentioned in the Pyramid Texts, or any other texts for that matter. But they are looking for the wrong thing. They are looking for a giant lion with a man's head. But the Sphinx was never a lion, and as I discovered, it did not have a man's head until the Middle Kingdom period, which commenced about 2000 BC. The face on the Sphinx is that of the third pharaoh of the 12th Dynasty, whose name was Amenemhet II. The photographic evidence of this is given in our book. The human head was carved out of the neck and stump of the Anubis head, which was vandalised during the First Intermediate Period at the end of the Old Kingdom, when chaos reigned and the Giza Plateau was sacked by rampaging violent mobs.

As for the erosion, that was caused as a result of the Moat. The Sphinx itself has horizontal erosion, because it was sitting in a lake, the level of which rose and fell with the seasons. But the walls of the pit have both horizontal and vertical erosion, hence the earlier suggestion that the vertical erosion must have been caused by descending rain. But what I believe really caused this was the continual dredging of the moat, which was always being filled with windblown sand which had to be removed. As everyone knows, when you dredge, the water pours down as you remove the solid things. And as this happened, particularly on the south side, the dredging water poured down heavily, scouring out the vertical crevasses.

And as for the lack of the Sphinx in the ancient texts problem, that could be explained too. The Sphinx was often mentioned in the Pyramid Texts, but not in a way which the Egyptologists could recognise. I quote the many references in the Pyramid Texts and the Coffin Texts to a giant Anubis at Giza, which is twice specifically described as sitting beside a causeway, and which was surrounded by a body of water with various names, the most famous of which is Jackal Lake, and another being the Winding Waterway. Those texts also describe the crucial ceremonies which were carried out beside and upon that sacred lake. The son of the deceased pharaoh was required to wash the entrails of his father, in their four jars, in Jackal Lake, during the period of his father's mummification, a process which took 70 days. This purification ritual was considered essential as part of the freeing of the deceased pharaoh's spirit to rise up to the sky and become an akh, a glorified spirit. The Sphinx was thus both the guardian of the sacred necropolis and the focal point of the pharaonic resurrection cult.