Notes and Photographs on the West-Schoch Sphinx Hypothesis

From KMT Vol. 5, No. 3, Fall 1994, pp 40-8.
Reproduced with permission.

Prompted by Professor Robert Schoch’s “Readers’ Forum” response to Dr. James Harrell’s article in the summer 1994 number of this journal, [1] concerning the John Anthony West-Robert M. Schoch hypothesis that the Great Sphinx of Giza is eroded by rain and, therefore, dates to Epipaleolithic or early Neolithic times, I would like to offer here some bibliographic and photographic information in the hopes that it might assist in the evaluation of the West-Schoch proposal.

LIMESTONE STRATIGRAPHY & EROSION ON OLD KINGDOM TOMBS COMPARED TO THAT ON THE SPHINX At one point Professor Schoch writes: “Comparable Old Kingdom rock-cut tombs at comparable elevations on the eastern edge of the Giza Plateau do not show the same weathering features seen in the Sphinx enclosure”, [2] (emphasis mine). Until now the only documentation that Schoch has offered of Old Kingdom tombs that show different weathering patterns than the Sphinx is a photograph and video of the facade of the Fourth Dynasty Tomb of Debehen, southwest of the Sphinx, in the quarry-face below the southeast corner of the Khafre pyramid. He has given no information to substantiate that these are the same layers as those in the Sphinx ditch. In fact, the layers in the Debehen facade are different layers – higher in the geological sequence than those exposed in the Sphinx ditch. [3]

Now, for the first time, Schoch mentions the rock-cut tombs in the eastern escarpment at Giza – that is, east of the Pyramid of Khufu and north of the Sphinx. A comparison between erosion on the Sphinx and on these tombs will not work for relative dating because these tombs are in a stratigraphically lower (= geologically older) and much more durable unit than the Member II layers in the Sphinx ditch, [4] although they may be at the same elevation or even on higher ground than the Sphinx. This is because of the way the entire Mokkatam Formation rises to the north at Giza, while the Member II (the softer layers of the Sphinx) lenses out just north of the Sphinx ditch.

But, for the sake of clarity, we really shouldn’t respond to Schoch’s new comparison until he tells us exactly which tombs he has in mind “on the eastern edge of the Giza Plateau.” He has yet to locate them on a map or offer any stratigraphic correlation with the Sphinx. Therefore, I invite Professor Schoch to identify just which Old Kingdom tombs he is comparing to the Sphinx. For this purpose we have a bibliographic tool, Topographical Bibliography of Ancient Egyptian Hieroglyphic Texts, Reliefs, and Paintings by Bertha Porter, Rosalind Moss and Jaromir Malék. The Giza edition is Volume III, Part 1. Here is a quick way to locate on the map most of the published Old Kingdom tombs, most of which have identifying names or numbers. This could help all of us understand, and allow us to evaluate, Schoch’s stratigraphic correlations (for the strata are by no means continuous from the Sphinx to the tombs in the eastern escarpment, nor to the location of the Debehen facade).

BRICK MASTABAS AT SAKKARA The same holds true for Schoch and West’s comparison of the Sphinx with the First and Second Dynasty mud-brick tombs at Sakkara. In citing these tombs, their logic seems to be as follows: (1) The Sphinx is weathered by rain (which begs the question at hand!); (2) Egyptologists believe that the First and Second Dynasty mud-brick tombs are older than the Sphinx; (3) in which case the rain would have completely washed them away; and, therefore (4), the Sphinx is older than these of the mud-brick tombs of the First and Second dynasties.

But what is the main line of evidence that the Sphinx is older than Egypt’s First Dynasty? That it is eroded by rain!

Perhaps this seems circular, but it is moot anyway if we don’t know exactly which mud-brick tombs West and Schoch have in mind. The importance of this is that many of those tombs were only excavated between 1935 and 1956 by Walter Emery, who found that the superstructures of these tombs had been denuded to within a couple of meters above ground level, and sealed in the debris from the collapse of the walls already by the Third Dynasty. Smaller tombs of the Second and Third dynasties were built around and even on top of those of the First Dynasty. The interior chambers and compartments of the First Dynasty tombs were preserved because of the collapse of the superstructures, or because of sand and gravel fill put in by the builders. The whole cemetery was subsequently engulfed by sand. So West and Schoch might be looking at mudbrick that has only been exposed in the last fifty-nine to thirty-eight years In this case they did not even furnish a photograph of any mud brick tomb until the release of the unabridged version of their video “Mystery of the Sphinx.” There we see West standing down inside what looks like the substructure – or one of the interior compartments – of a mud-brick mastaba and saying, “…these mud-brick walls are in relatively stable condition….” Which mud-brick walls? I invite Schoch to point out the specific mud-brick exposure he has in mind. Again, such an identification is possible because each of these tombs has a number. An easy reference is W. Helck’s article on the archaic Sakkara necropolis in the Lexikon der Ägyptologie (edited by W. Helck and E. Otto), Volume 3, map on page 388. This may be quicker for Schoch and West than going through the volumes of W. Emery and J.E. Quibell, [5] but we would like, of course, to check the specific mud-brick exposures that Schoch refers to in those original excavation reports.

GRANITE FACING AND “TWO-STAGE” CONSTRUCTION ON THE VALLEY TEMPLE Another set of bibliographic references that might be useful to our discussion of the West-Schoch hypothesis relates to their idea that the Khafre Valley Temple and the adjacent Sphinx Temple show “two-stage” construction. In the unabridged “Mystery” video, Schoch says that this is one of the items that most convinced him to take seriously the older date for the Sphinx. Given the enormous ramifications that West and Schoch attach to a rain-eroded Sphinx and to a two-stage Valley Temple (for West it is nothing less than the total revision of cultural history), [6] we would hope that Schoch squared his interpretation with the primary publications of these temples.[7] The Khafre Mortuary and Valley temples were published in 1912 by Uvo Hölscher, Das Grabdenkmal des Königs Chephren (Leipzig). The Sphinx Temple was meticulously mapped and theoretically reconstructed by Herbert Ricke, who published his study in 1970 as ‘Der Harmachistempel des Chefren in Giseh,” in the Swiss Archaeological Institute series, Beiträge zur ägyptischen Bauforschung und Altertumskunde 10, pages 1-43.

Hölscher and Ricke give excellent documentation of the way the walls of these temples were constructed with a crude core of multi-ton limestone blocks, and finished with a granite casing. Stripped of the granite, and the limestone and alabaster pavements, the limestone core-walls of these temples do not and never did represent finished architecture. Core and casing is standard for Old Kingdom stone buildings, whether it is pyramids, mastaba-tombs or temples. But the style of using such huge core-blocks is nearly exclusive to the Khafre temples, the Sphinx Temple and to the Menkaure Mortuary Temple. This last temple was never finished [8] and so it presents an excellent “frozen moment” in the process of building both core and casing at the same time. I refer all who are interested to the excellent 1931 publication by George Reisner, Mycerinus, The Temples of the Third Pyramid at Giza (Cambridge, Massachusetts). Reisner found the leveling lines, cubit notations and names of Menkaure’s work gangs painted in bright red on the limestone core-blocks.

Even today the simultaneous work on core and casing is clear for any reasonable person to see in the north corridor of the Menkaure Mortuary Temple, and on this point I would like to contribute a photograph.

Figure 1 (Author’s photo)

In Figure 1 we see how the workmen had just begun the casing on the south wall of this corridor with nine or ten dark-granite blocks. They left a raised border around each block so as not to chip the edge during handling. The face of the casing would be finally dressed after most of it was complete against the limestone core. The surface of the large limestone core-blocks behind the casing has not appreciably weathered, even in the ninety years since Reisner exposed them. Can we really doubt that the masons cut back the limestone core to fit the hard granite blocks, as opposed to shaping each granite block to fit the limestone, which is what Schoch suggests for the Khafre Valley Temple?

Figure 2 (Author’s photo)

Next, in Figure 2, we move back to the end of the corridor. In the lower left we see a large chunk that another team of masons was about to separate from a limestone core-block by cutting channels in its upper surface. These masons were roughing out the corner of the corridor. They worked at about the same time and just yards ahead of the masons who were setting the granite casing.

West and Schoch have said that the limestone core-blocks on the Khafre Valley Temple are weathered underneath the granite casing – evidence, in their view, that Khafre encased the temple with granite much later than the erection of the limestone core. But they would like to have it both ways on this point, because they also say Khafre’s masons cut away – in a “higgeldy piggeldy” manner – some of the weathering on the limestone core when they were setting the granite blocks! Yet, West and Schoch maintain, at the same time, that Khafre’s masons custom-cut each granite block to fit the already-weathered limestone blocks! If the reader is confused, I offer some dialogue of West-Schoch from their “Mystery” video:

SCHOCH: “The ancient Egyptians had a weathered surface on a very old temple. They cut it back just a little bit to get a more competent surface before covering it with the granite ashlars, but they didn’t cut it back enough to make a nice, smooth surface.”

WEST: “The limestone core-blocks originally had that rolling weathering that you see on the Sphinx. The weathering was cut off and the granite was then married to the limestone core.”

SCHOCH: “I agree.”

WEST: “Can you, as a geologist, tell if the limestone was actually pre-weathered? That is, if it’s old limestone when the granite was put on?”

SCHOCH: “Yah, I think so … You can see that there was an old weathered-feature there which was just sort of skinned down … just a little bit in order to put the new granite on it ……”

Now, so far in the dialogue, the masons in the minds of West and Schoch had the good sense to cut the softer limestone instead of the much harder granite to make the fit (and anyone who has tried to work limestone and granite would endorse this procedure!). But then Schoch adds: “…in fact, the back of the granite was cut to fit the old weathered surface.” Why would the masons shift to carefully shaping each hard granite block to fit the eroded limestone surface they had already begun to cut away?

Figure 3 (Author’s photo)

Figure 3 is a photograph cribbed from Hölscher’s publication showing the facade of the Valley Temple as it appeared in 1909. Although my copy of the old photograph is not very clear, note the squarish cuttings on the limestone core-blocks. These remain, according to the studies of Hölscher, Ricke and Reisner, from the custom-cutting of the limestone blocks to allow a flush fit of the front exterior face of the granite casing – the same procedure we see so clearly at the Menkaure temple.

Figure 4 (Author’s photo)

Figure 4 shows that same facade in 1994. Note how seriously the limestone core-blocks have weathered in just the last eighty-five years since Hölscher exposed them! [9] Down closer to the intact granite casing, the surface of the limestone blocks are better preserved (but note that the two granite blocks farthest right were replaced since Hölscher’s photograph).

Figure 5 (Author’s photo)

Figure 5 is a closeup of the granite against the limestone core on the south side of the south doorway of the Valley Temple of Khafre. While the rest of the limestone core is weathered, the limestone surface cut by the Fourth Dynasty masons to fit the granite casing is still preserved just where the granite had protected it (the limestone surface having developed a brown patina or crust).

SLOPING WALLS IN THE SPHINX DITCH My final photographs concern a point that Schoch has raised repeatedly, namely that the higher layers in the Sphinx middle member (our Member II) are more durable but eroded back farther from a vertical plane than the lower layers of that member, which are less durable. Schoch sees this as evidence that the once-vertical walls of the Sphinx ditch were beaten back into a slope by driving rains.

Now, just to clarify what we are talking about, the bottom rock-member at the Sphinx – which we call Member I – is very hard and has weathered very little in comparison with the higher Member II. Because all the strata dip to the southeast, Member I is found to a height of 3.70 meters at the rump of the Sphinx, and only 1.09 to 0.65 meters at the front paws (under masonry casings at both places). Most of the Sphinx’s lion body and the south and west ends of the ditch were carved in Member II, seven layers that are soft near the bottom, becoming progressively harder near the top. During the American Research Center in Egypt Sphinx Project – following the work of geologist K. Lal Gauri – we gave each layer a number with small Roman numerals i for the soft marly bottom and ii for the harder top. It is the Member II layers that West and Schoch claim to be eroded by rain. It is certain that the most drastically recessed layers are those at the bottom of Member II. This is not only visually apparent; anyone can measure the recesses for themselves.

But what Professor Schoch has in mind is the pronounced batter, or slope, of the walls of the Sphinx ditch. There are only two walls in question: those on the south and west, as Member II is not exposed to the north of the Sphinx, nor to the east.

Figure 6 (Author’s photo)

Figure 6 is a view along the south wall – which is, at the same time, the base of the Khafre Causeway. We see Member II layers 2i, 2ii, 3i and 3ii. At this end of the wall these layers are not drastically weathered into rounded recesses and protrusions – which is the “morphology” that Schoch takes as rain weathered. In fact, that layer coming into the lower-left corner of the photograph practically preserves the original face of the wall. There is no doubt that the masons originally cut the wall at a slope!

Figure 7 (Author’s photo)

In Figure 7 we have moved further west down the line of the south wall. Because the layers rise to the west along their natural geological slope, we now see layer 1ii at the bottom of the wall. Above this layer is 2i, which is softer and more marly. Here this soft layer becomes more recessed, causing layer 2ii to protrude. There is still a good indication that the wall was originally cut to the backward-leaning slope

At this point I would like to call the reader’s attention to that notch in the upper corner of the Sphinx ditch, at the end of the south wall in our view. The notch is filled with small limestone blocks and a patch of mud brick. These materials are all that is left here of huge mud-brick retaining walls that Thutmose IV had built against and around the walls of the ditch circa 1401 B.C., some 1,100 years after Khafre. Thutmose IV’s walls were removed during the excavations of 1925-1936. The notch is the opening of a channel that – according to Selim Hassan – runs along the north side of the Khafre Causeway (the channel is now covered by sand). Hassan took this as evidence that the Sphinx ditch was one of the last things Khafre had quarried, certainly after he had already made the causeway and its channel. Otherwise, the builders would never have allowed the channel to drain into the Sphinx ditch. In his booklet, How Old is the Sphinx, Schoch says on pages 21-22 that Hassan’s point is “seriously compromised” or “negatived” by Schoch’s own evidence that the back of the Sphinx enclosure was not excavated until long after the front and sides.” The back wall, in the evolving West-Schoch hypothesis, was quarried by order of Khafre millennia after the original carving of the Sphinx.

Figure 8 (Author’s photo)

Figure 8 is a photograph showing men that I hired in 1980 to clear out the accumulated sand in the southwest corner of the Sphinx ditch. In the lower part of the frame, a man lifts an excavation basket up onto the terrace or shelf of Member I, hard, natural rock left by the carvers of the Sphinx. To the left a man stands and another kneels beside Member II, layer 1i, which is deeply recessed. In the upper-left corner of the frame another man stands on layer 1ii, which protrudes. This man is just below that notch where the causeway channel opens into the Sphinx ditch. The west wall of the ditch stretches away to the upper right of the photograph.

West and Schoch continually show views of this west wall as their primary evidence of rain weathering, which, in turn, is their primary evidence for dating the carving of the Sphinx several millennia earlier than the time of Khafre. But if it was the latter who had the west wall cut back – as Schoch suggested in his rebuttal of Hassan on the Khafre Causeway channel – why does it show rain weathering?

Like the erosion and stone cutting on the Valley Temple of Khafre, West and Schoch seem to want to have it both ways. When they want the evidence of the Khafre Causeway channel to be negated, they say that the west wall of the Sphinx ditch was cut by Khafre. When they want to show rain erosion, they show the west wall as evidence that the Sphinx is much older than Khafre. They also use computer graphics (in the broadcast and video-cassette versions of their “Mystery of the Sphinx”) to persuade us that all those vertical cracks in the west wall are gullies caused by pouring water, when these cracks were actually in the rock long before the ancient workmen quarried out the Sphinx ditch. [10] West and Schoch also want to see the top of this wall pushed back further than the bottom by driving rain, when, like the south wall, the quarrymen cut it at a backward-leaning slope in the first place.

Hopefully, these references and photographs will help KMT readers assess the West-Schoch dating of the Sphinx. I have little doubt but that we will hear more from them. The writer and geologist must – at the very least – document the monuments to which compare the Sphinx if they expect to be taken seriously about differential weathering – to say nothing of the enormous inferences that they have drawn from these comparisons.

LANDSCAPE FEATURES AND RELATIVE DATING Finally, a bibliographic note on Professor Schoch’s methodology. Again, given the enormous conclusions they draw from “wind- and rain-weathered profiles” at Giza, I expected – when I first heard of their conclusions – that West and Schoch would cite some study that that gives some kind of standard signatures of “classic textbook” wind- and rain-weathered surfaces, as well as established rates of erosion that would serve as chronological yardsticks. Therefore, I was curious when Schoch wrote in his summer 1992 KMT article (page 53), “…modifications to rock surfaces – such as those resulting from weathering, erosion and palesol development – have long been utilized as criteria in dating the relative ages when fresh rock surfaces were first exposed to the elements.” His footnote 5 in this same article is a reference to page 261 of his admirable own work, Stratigraphy: Principles and Methods (New York, 1989). When I turned to that page, I found this sentence pertinent to the argument about the Sphinx erosion: “Physical weathering rates, rates of paleosol development, and rates of geomorphological development (land form and landscape development) have been applied to the problem of estimating numerical and relative dates, primarily for Pleistocene sequences.” There were references to four articles, two in each of two separate volumes. So far I have been able to find only one of these volumes, Quaternary Dating Methods (Amsterdam, 1984), edited by W.C. Mahaney.

The papers therein are part of a symposium about dating methods that, for the most part, concern features, correlations and periods of much greater scale than those involved in the comparison between the Sphinx and the Tomb of Debenen. Nevertheless, these geological issues, and the sensitivity to physical patterns – like those caused by erosion – have great value for archaeology. This, I see as the principal contribution of the West-Schoch hypothesis and the publicity it has received. It focuses attention on the implications of site-formation processes for our reconstructions of ancient societies.

What struck me, though, was the extreme caution expressed by these geologists in their papers and following discussion about landscape features for dating purposes. Robert Schoch cites Donald Coates’s article, “Landforms and Landscapes as Measures of Relative Time” (pp. 247-267). Coates lists the constraints to using landforms for dating. Among these are the Principle of Equifinality. “As applied to landforms,” he writes, “the meaning of this concept is that similar appearing features may have [been] formed by different processes.” In other words, although the surface of Member II Sphinx layers may resemble rain erosion, this does not mean that they were eroded by rain. On the other hand, as Coates states, “… landforms that may have been initiated at the same time, may progress differently if magnitude and frequency of acting processes are not similar.” Acting processes – in the case of the Giza Plateau, agents of erosion – may have been very different at the Tomb of Debehen (located 420 meters out in the desert southwest of the Sphinx and seventeen to forty-three meters higher in elevation) from those acting on the Sphinx at the base of the Plateau, close to the wet Nile flood-plain.

But the number one primary constraint to using landforms for dating purposes, according to Coates (p. 255), concerns lithology and soils: “…the composition of materials determines the effectiveness of denudation processes.” Ignoring this constraint is the primary mistake that Schoch makes more than once in using the limestone layers at Giza for dating purposes. In the unabridged version of West’s and his “Mystery of the Sphinx” video, Schoch commits this error once again when he is standing. on the Sphinx Temple terrace, which is 2.5 meters lower than the floor surrounding the Sphinx. He is at the face of the north ledge cut into Member I and forming a corridor with the north wall of the Sphinx Temple. He dates the cutting of the face of the ledge younger than the walls of the Sphinx ditch because it is so nicely preserved and because it is more vertical. But he is comparing Member I rock with Member II layers that have drastically different intrinsic properties, as well as comparing a face that was originally cut nearly vertical with one that was cut at a slope in the first place. As with the Debehen facade and the Sphinx, he is comparing different rock layers, so the comparison is not valid for estimating their relative ages.

CONCLUSION By now it is clear that the West-Schoch hypothesis and its opposition is not a dispute between geology and Egyptology, as was trumpeted in the press a couple of years ago. If Professor Schoch wants to carry his argument forward, it is incumbent on him to show some evidence that he is comparing the same layers. It is not enough to say, “Harrell questions my stratigraphic correlations and analysis, suggesting that maybe I am comparing more resistant limestone layers to less resistant ones. I reject this argument and stand by my correlations and comparisons.” If West and Schoch want to redate the Sphinx to older than Neolithic times, and build upon this dating the existence of an advanced culture that flourished and disappeared before Egypt’s Predynastic Period, then they should understand why Egyptologists might want a little better documentation of the stratigraphic correlations upon which they rest their case.

Professor Schoch obviously does not take our word about the Sphinx and Egyptian history simply because we are Egyptologists. [11] He should not expect us to take his interpretations and correlations for true simply because he is a geologist and stratigrapher. Notes

1. James A. Harrell, “The Sphinx Controversy: Another Look at the Geological Evidence,” KMT 5:2, 70-74, and Robert M. Schoch’s “Readers’ Forum” response in same, 5-7.

2. Schoch, KMT 5:2, 6.

3.K. Lal. Gauri and John J. Sinai, “The Age of the Sphinx,” (forthcoming); Zahi Hawass and Mark Lehner, “The Sphinx Story,” Archaeology 47:5, 30-47. During the ARCE Sphinx Project, I had the opportunity to spend long hours in the company of geologists Dr. Lal Gauri and Dr. Thomas Aigner, going over the correlation of the Sphinx Member II beds with those seen in the Central Field quarries to the southwest. Initially Aigner concluded that the beds showing in the exposures around the Khent-Kawes tomb, about 250 meters southwest of the Sphinx, are the same as those in the upper part of the Sphinx body, and in the Sphinx neck and head. See Thomas Aigner, “Zur Geologie und Geoarchäologie des Pyramidenplateaus von Giza, Ägypten,” Natur und Museum 112:12 (December 1982), 377-388. Subsequently, we established survey points on the bedrock quarry blocks, which we numbered, between the Sphinx and the Khent-Kawes tomb. We set points on the layers that we hypothesized were the same as those near the top of the back and neck and at the top of the Sphinx head. We mapped these points and measured their elevation. We then compared these measurements to values for the strike and dip of the Member II layers derived from our survey in the Sphinx ditch. These measurements cast doubt on our identification of Khent-Kawes with the upper Sphinx layers. I had the opportunity to return to the question with Dr. Lal Gauri. We traced beds 4 and 5 from the south wall of the Sphinx ditch and down the slope away from the ditch to the south behind the Valley Temple (a slope not conducive to torrents of rainwater washing over the rim of the Sphinx ditch, as we see in the West-Schoch “Mystery” video!). At the bottom of this slope the bedrock disappears under a sand cover, but these layers – and those just above – can be traced west into the Central Field along the “Street of the Priests,” as Selim Hassan named it, to the quarry block in which an anonymous Old Kingdom tomb was cut (see Porter and Moss, Topographical Bibliography III.1, Pl. xxiii); the block, our Q11, lies south of the Tomb of Rawer, north of Wepemnefert, east of Dersemat). The geological beds rise to the west because of the southeasterly slope of the Mokkatarn Formation. Already here, the upper part of this quarry block exhibits layers corresponding to those from which the head of the Sphinx was cut (Member III). Like the head of the Sphinx (in contrast to the body), much of the original surface is preserved on this quarry block. So here is an Old Kingdom tomb that is not eroded like the Member II layers in the Sphinx ditch. But these are different layers, with different intrinsic properties, than the “rain-eroded” Member II layers in the Sphinx ditch! The layers in the Debehen tomb-facade, 375 meters further west, are even higher in the geological sequence than those of the Sphinx ditch. The correlation of geological beds across the Central Field quarries is still not completely resolved. Making these correlations is certainly not as facile as Schoch’s comparison suggests. It is just this kind of discussion and analysis that is completely lacking in Schoch’s publications and the West-Schoch video, wherein which he apparently assumes that we will simply take his word that the Debehen facade shows “the exact same layers” as those of Member II in the Sphinx ditch.

4. Gauri and Sinai (forthcoming); Thomas Aigner, ‘Facies and origin of Nummulitic Buildups: an Example from the Giza Pyramids Plateau (Middle Eocene, Egypt),” Neues Jahrbuch Geologie und Paläontologie Abhandlung 166:3, 347-368.

5. Waiter Emery, The Tomb of Hemaka (Cairo, 1938); The Tomb of Horaha (Cairo, 1938); Great Tombs of the First Dynasty, 3 vols. (Cairo and London, 1949-1958); J.E. Quibell, Archaic Tombs, 1913-1914 (Excavations at Saqqara 6, Cairo, 1923).

6. To set in context John Anthony West’s motive and modus operandi in his sponsorship of Robert Schoch, see his Serpent in the Sky (New York, 1987), p. 198: “If the single fact of the water erosion of the Sphinx could be confirmed, it would in itself overthrow all accepted chronologies of the history of civilization; it would force a drastic re-evaluation of the assumption of ‘progress’ – the assumption upon which the whole of modern education is based.”

7. If Schoch depends exclusively on West as his Egyptological consultant, it might explain why he never refers to the primary publications of these temples. In his Serpent in the Sky, p.199, West writes of the Sphinx Temple, Khafre Valley Temple and Mortuary Temple: “Those temples, in ruins today, are mentioned only in passing popular accounts of ancient Egypt. Even within Egyptological circles, little attention has been paid to them.”

8. That is, the temple was never completed with its massive limestone core and granite casing. Menkaure’s successor, Shepseskaf, finished the temple walls with a casing of plastered mud brick.

9. How shall we interpret the difference in erosion of the surfaces of the core blocks in the Menkaure Mortuary Temple and Khafre Valley Temple in the some ninety years since they were exposed by Reisner and Hölscher respectively? In each case the comparison is at the beginning and end of nine decades, so it is not a question of different ages of these monuments. Is it not common sense and good scientific procedure to question whether this difference is due to different locations across the Plateau, and the different conditions of their exposure?

10. See Gauri and Sinai (forthcoming). Such fractures occur throughout the Giza Plateau and were probably created in post-Eocene geological times when regional tectonic forces lifted the formation at Giza. Underground water dissolved the limestone along the joints to create subsurface channels and cavities. See also Sayed Mohammed Omara, The Structural Features of the Giza Pyramids Plateau, Ph.D. dissertation, Cairo University, 1952, 60-63, charts 7-7, 9; K. Lal Gauri, “Weathering and Preservation of the Sphinx Limestone,” in Book of Proceedings: The First International Symposium on the Great Sphinx, Feisal Esmael, ed. (Cairo, 1992), 47; “Geologic Study of the Sphinx,” American Research Center in Egypt Newsletter 127 (Fall, 1984), 39-41. In print Schoch does not clarify the extent to which he believes these fissures were caused by rain erosion, though in the ‘Mystery” video the Sphinx layers, rendered in computer graphics, are entirely unblemished until torrents of water carve out these features. In KMT 5:2 Schoch cites M.M. el-Aref and E. Refai, “Paleokarst processes in the Eocene limestones of the Pyramids Plateau, Egypt,” Journal of African Earth Science 6:3, 367-377. Curiously, in illustrating the “pronounced stepped terraced escarpments” and “flachkarren” as geomorphological features of the Plateau, these authors show the thirty-meter-high face of the Khafre Pyramid terrace and the gridded quarry in the northwest corner of the terrace (Ibid., 367-368, Fig. 2, Plate 2 1-2)! These are artificial features – made by the pyramid builders. They state that “the body of the Sphinx itself is considered as isolated karst residual hill similar to various others characterizing the area” (Ibid., 375). Again, the rock core for the Sphinx body (even Schoch would agree) was isolated artificially by quarrying out the Sphinx ditch.

11. And so he has rightly rejected use of argument ad verecundiam. “The most crude and ugly form of argument ad verecundiam in historical writing is an appeal to professional status”; David H. Fischer, Historical Fallacies (New York, 1970), 283. I thank Joseph Greene for this reference.

About the Author Dr. Mark Lehner is an archaeologist who teaches Egyptology at the Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago. For the past twenty years he has focused his field work on the Giza Plateau, where he has conducted surveys and excavations. He is regarded as one of the leading authorities on that site and its unique monument, the Great Sphinx.

Webmaster Note: the database date for this article shows the date it was added to the Hall of Ma’at website and not its original publication date in KMT

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