The Great Sphinx is a limestone statue of a mythical creature with the body of a lion and the head of a human. It stands on the Giza Plateau on the west bank of the Nile and is said to have been built in the Fourth Dynasty to protect Pharaoh Khafre, whose huge pyramid lurks in its shadows. But that theory was contested by geologist Colin Reader, who suspected something looked out of place over the rock cuttings of the structure.
Mr Reader, who is part of the Manchester Ancient Egypt Society, suggested during the Smithsonian Channel’s ’Secrets’ documentary that the Sphinx could date to the early dynastic or late predynastic period.
He said: “When you stand and look at the Sphinx from this direction, the proportions are wrong.
“When you look at the head of the Sphinx it is too small – the body is long, it’s too tall and the head is not in proportion.
“For the ancient Egyptians to have got the proportions so wrong does not make sense.
“They were masters at working stone. There is something we must be missing with this.
“There has to be another piece of the jigsaw.”
The series went on to reveal how Mr Reader found “that answer lying in the stone itself,” using his expertise to analyse the rock.
Mr Reader added: “We know for most of its life, the Sphinx has been buried up to the shoulders and neck in sand.
“I’ve seen at other places in Giza that the sand tends to protect the rocks that are buried beneath it.
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The narrator explained: “For Reader, the Sphinx is much older than the pyramids and started out as something very different.
“Thousands of years ago, the climate here was much wetter and there were greater numbers of wild animals.
“The top predator here and the animal the Egyptians most revered was the lion.
“Reader has discovered a sacred carving of a lion on a stone tablet created many decades before the pyramids.
“He thinks it’s an important clue.”
Mr Reader then showed viewers the inscription of a lion he had found nearby, placing it next to a drawing of the Sphinx.
He said in 2013: “This is an image from a time before the pyramids were built and we know it is important and is connected with a pharaoh by the inscription with it.
“The significance of the lion for me is when you consider that profile in comparison with the Sphinx, it all begins to make sense.
“You overlay it with the Sphinx and everything drops into place.
“It’s clear to me that it was first built as a lion.”
Though there has been conflicting evidence and viewpoints over the years, most modern Egyptologists agree that the Great Sphinx was built in approximately 2500BC for the Pharaoh Khafre, the builder of the Second Pyramid at Giza.
Statues of the pharaoh buried along with other debris at the site support the mainstream hypothesis.
Theories held by academic Egyptologists regarding the builder of the Sphinx and the date of its construction are not universally accepted, and various others have proposed alternative dates.