Forty years of documenting the Great Sphinx of Giza
In 1979, Mark Lehner and James Allen started work on the first comprehensive mapping of the Sphinx. They studied its structure and geology and documented every detail they could, from the ancient masonry layers and tool marks to the geological stratification of the surrounding area. Their goal was to determine how and when this iconic monument was built and to document its then-current state of preservation.
For more than 35 years most of this data remained inaccessible, but thanks to a grant from ARCE’s Antiquities Endowment Fund the original project data is now online and available to the public for study. This archive is especially important as many of the details documented at the time are no longer visible. If you’d like to search the data yourself, good starting points are the project homepage or try browsing some of the over 5500 photographs and 364 maps and drawings and see what you find!
The Great Sphinx
Ancient Egypt – Cheapskate Coffin Makers
About 3,000 years ago, a man named Nespawershefyt, working in the temple of Amun at Karnak (in modern Luxor), commissioned a set of coffins for himself, consisting of an outer coffin and an inner coffin – the smaller of the two to be placed in the larger, much like Russian dolls – and a mummy board that would be placed on top of his embalmed and wrapped body when he was dead. He seems to have commissioned this fabulous funerary assemblage after reaching a reasonably high rank in the temple hierarchy.
Unbeknown to Nespawershefyt, the artisans he had chosen to make his coffins were cheapskates. The wood they chose for the inner coffin was poor and needed lots of patching. They were good at painting though. All the patches were expertly covered with a bright yellow paint and text. The coffins were delivered but not needed for years. Sometime before his death Nespawershefyt decided to update his funerary inscriptions: he had received a promotion at the temple and wanted to mention his new higher-level position on his coffins. You cannot leave your CV out-of-date for eternity, so the artisans set to work once again.
The coffins can be seen at the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge.
depth, 49, cm, width, 60, cm, length, 206, cm, length, 190, cm, length, mummy board, 179, cm
given; 1822; Hanbury, Barnard, Waddington, George
Accession: Object Number: E.1.1822