1902 Encyclopedia > Architecture > The Great Sphinx. The Serapeum. The Labyrinth.

(Part 9)

Ancient Egyptian Architecture (cont.)

The Great Sphinx. The Serapeum. The Labyrinth.

Next to the pyramids in massive grandeur comes the Great Sphinx, and an additional interest has lately been associated with this statue, from the findings of an inscription, which seems to prove that it was sculptured before the time of the builder of the first pyramid. The Egyptian sphinx was quite different from the Greek, which usually had a female head body of a winged lion; whereas the Egyptian was wingless, and had usually the head of a man, bearded and capped, and thus represent strength and wisdom. Those with the head of a ram, or crio-sphinxes, are supposed to be dedicated to Amen (Jupiter Ammon); those with the head of a hawk are called hieraco-sphinxes, and are sacred to Ra, or the sun. The Great Sphinx at Ghizeh [Giza] has the body of a lion crouching close to the ground; the height from the floor, or platform on which it lies, to the top of the head is 100 feet; the total length is 146 feet; across the shoulder it measures 34 feet. The head, from the top to the chin, is 28 feet 6 inches, and is calculated to be 40,000 times the bulk of an ordinary human head. A small temple or sanctuary was built between its paws. With the exception of this, and the paws themselves, which are masonry, the whole appears to be carved out of the solid rock. Indeed, it may be safely be assumed to be solid; for Colonel Vyse drilled a hole 27 feet deep into the shoulder, and found that, so far at least, it was so.

Figures at Thebes images

Fig. 19 -- Figures at Thebes.

Temple between the paws of Great Sphinx

Fig. 20 -- Temple between the paws of Great Sphinx.
From Vyse.

Another grand memorial of the old dynasty must be mentioned, viz., the Serapeum, near the pyramid of Sakkara, discovered in 1851 by M, Mariette, and excavated 30 feet deep in the solid rock. It contains the mummies of the sacred bulls, placed in gigantic sarcophagi, 11 feet high, 7 to 8 feet wide, and 13 to 18 feet long, each of which is placed in a chamber. The chambers, forty in number, are excavated on each side of galleries about 12 feet wide, the ceilings being cut (not built) to the form of an arch.

No great distance beyond Sakkara, in the district called the Fayoom, was the famous Labyrinth, an immense mass of buildings mentioned by Herodotus as the places built for twelve kings. From this description of its appears to have been as great a work as great a wonder as the pyramids themselves. It was close to Lake Moeris, and contained in the time he wrote 3000 chambers, half above and half below the ground, beside immense halls, corridors, courts, gardens, &c. the roofs were wholly of stones, and the walls covered with sculpture. On one side stood a pyramid 40 orgyiae, or about 243 feet high. It appears from the ruins that huge masses of buildings once occupied three sides of an open quadrangle, about 200 yards square in the inside -- the two wings being out 300 yards long, and the third side about 400, measured on the outside. The pyramid, as stated by the various authorities, occupied the greater part of the fourth side, and measured about 348 feet square. There are a multitude of small chambers in two stories, as described by Herodotus; and Canina supposes there was a third story above these supported on columns -- a sort of open gallery.

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