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Sunset over the right shoulder of the Sphinx. Source: Ministry of Antiquities

Sunset Over the Sphinx Claimed to Prove Equinox Alignment

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An image of the Egyptian Sphinx at Giza on the Spring equinox could revolutionize our understanding of the ancient structure. An eminent archaeologist and former Egyptian Minister of Antiquities believes that the image demonstrates that the figure was constructed to be aligned with the sun on the equinox. This, in turn, was probably related to Ancient Egyptian religious beliefs.

The Egyptian Ministry of Antiquities has published an image of the sun setting just over the right shoulder of the Sphinx. It was taken on the Spring Equinox, the 20 th of March.  The Sphinx is a massive sculpture of a mythical creature which is believed to resemble the likeness of one of Ancient Egypt’s first pharaohs. The image shows the carved figure ‘with the Giza pyramids of Khafra directly behind, and Khufu—also known as the Great Pyramid of Giza —to the left’ according to Newsweek.

Sphinx and the equinoxes

Traditionally the Sphinx position was not regarded as being especially significant. Egypt Today reports that it had long been assumed that the Ancient Egyptians ‘found an ancient rock and turned it into a statue with a human face and an inhuman body’. However, Zahi Hawass, the former Minister of Antiquities, believes that the image taken on the Spring Equinox proves that its position was deliberately selected, based on astronomical calculations. This is contrary to orthodox thinking on the construction of the Sphinx , which claims that the ancient Egyptians chose a rock for the statue by chance, but the rock was chosen specifically for its position.

The Spring and Fall Equinox has often been regarded as being of particular symbolic importance because the night and the day are of equal length. Some experts believe that the alignment between the Sun and the Sphinx happens during the spring and fall equinoxes, twice every year.  The latest image is backing-up their claims.

The Sphinx at Giza ( CC BY-SA 2.0 )

The Sphinx at Giza (  CC BY-SA 2.0  )

The scientific genius of Egypt

Hawass told Egypt Today that ‘the Sun, after falling at sunset on the right side of the Sphinx, heads south, and during the summer it moves to the north’. He believes that this is conclusive evidence that the Sphinx was built with reference to astronomical calculations. Egypt Today states that the discovery of the positioning of the Sphinx shows ‘the tremendous scientific superiority of the ancient Egyptians’. There is evidence that pyramids were aligned based on the movement of the heavenly bodies.

Hawass is quoted by Newsweek as stating that:

‘The sun setting between the pyramid of Khufu and Khafra suggests an astronomical link’.

Ancient Egyptians worshipped the sun and they worshipped it as the god Ra . The Sphinx is believed by mainstream archaeology to have been constructed about 4,500 years ago during the Old Kingdom period. It is widely believed to ‘to have been built for, and to represent, the pharaoh Khafre, who was the son of Khufu’ reports Newsweek.

Sun pyramid of Khufu and Khafra. (Image: octofocus / Adobe Stock)

Sun pyramid of Khufu and Khafra. (Image: octofocus / Adobe Stock)

Pyramids and astronomy

The connection between astronomy and the building of the pyramids has been the subject of intensive investigation for many years. Newsweek states that ‘The Great Pyramid of Giza is known to be almost perfectly aligned to the points of north, south, east and west’. This is a remarkable feat given the limited technology available to the Egyptians . It has been suggested that the remarkable alignment of the pyramid is related to the Autumn or Fall equinox.

Research, undertaken by Glean Dash, an engineer, reported, ‘the Great Pyramid of Khufu, the Pyramid of Khafre and the Red Pyramid… all three were well aligned’ according to Newsweek. All had one small error, they marginally rotated counter-clockwise from the cardinal points (North, South, East and West). He argues that the Ancient Egyptians used a straight measuring rod and they tracked its shadow, to record the movement of the sun during the equinoxes.

Scientific genius

Dash is quoted by Newsweek as saying that the Ancient Egyptians left ‘No engineering documents or architectural plans… that give technical explanations demonstrating how the ancient Egyptians aligned any of their temples or pyramids’.  No compasses or similar tools have been found. This has led Dash to argue that they used the method with the rod to align the pyramids. This method may have also been used during the construction of the Sphinx so that it was aligned with the Fall and the Spring Equinoxes.

The remarkable image could revolutionize our understanding of the ancient carved figure. It may force a rethink on the role of the Sphinx in Ancient Egyptian religion and culture.

Top image: Sunset over the right shoulder of the Sphinx. Source: Ministry of Antiquities

By Ed Whelan

Comments

A compass would be mostly useless for aligning with true north.

A quick check on Google, shows that the Sphinx’s longitudinal axis is oriented due east, but this axis doesn’t coincide with the eastward axis of the pyramid of Chefren. I guess that the general position of the Sphinx was dictated by the presence of the natural rock that was to be sculptured to the form of a Shpinx. And the best the sculptures could do, was to give to the Sphinx a near perfect east orientation. 

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