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Biblical Archaeology Review 47:1, Spring 2021

Strata: Who Did It?

Who made the Sphinx smile?

Answer: Adam Henein

Recognized the world over, the Great Sphinx at Giza in Egypt is one of the oldest statues in the world. Constructed during Egypt’s Old Kingdom—the exact date is debated, but most scholars place it during the reign of Khafre (2558–2532 B.C.E.)—the Sphinx has been restored a number of times over its 4,500-year history.

By the time of the New Kingdom (c. 1500 B.C.E.), the Sphinx came to be venerated as Horemakhet (Horus in the Horizon) and served as a cultic site devoted to the royal ancestors. And according to the famous Dream Stele, the already ancient monument had also been significantly buried by the sands. Under the direction of Thutmose IV (1401–1391 B.C.E), who erected the stele at the base of the Sphinx, the great statue was uncovered and restored. As the stele tells the tale, the prince Thutmose fell asleep near the Sphinx, and the god Horemakhet appeared to him in a dream with promises of future glory if he restored the monument.

Over the centuries, the Sphinx has been reburied and restored, with various pre-modern efforts having been made to enforce the statue against erosion and the ravages of time. Many of these efforts, however, did not attempt to match the ancient construction methods and stone, causing the restored segments to stick out. In 1988, famed Egyptian sculptor Adam Henein led a decade-long project to fix new damage, replace mismatched stone and cement, and restore the Sphinx’s base, arm, and chest.

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