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The Sphinx and its nose

The Great Sphinx of Giza is the largest monolith statue in the world (73.5 m long, 19.3 m wide and 20.22 m high), representing a mythical creature: a lion with a human head. It is also the oldest known monumental sculpture: it was probably built more than 2500 years B.C. during the reign of Pharaoh Khafra.

The Great Sphinx with no nose
The Great Sphinx
(from Pixabay)

The story of how the Sphinx lost the nose has several variants: Napoleon’s soldiers firing it with cannons, British soldier practising the artillery, Mamluks having some fun firing at it….

Well: none of this is true.

The Arab historian al-Maqrīzī wrote about the Sphinx and its nose in the XV century: this alone makes all the previous allegations void! He went further: he attributed the loss of the nose to Muhammad Sa’im al-Dahr, a Sufi Muslim, who, in 1378, after finding that the locals were making offerings to the Sphinx in the hope of a better harvest, was so angry that he destroyed the nose. He ended up being hanged for vandalism.

It has to be acknowledged that, most likely, the damage in the XIV century just accelerated a pre-existing erosion process….


Inspired by The Book of General Ignorance by Lloyd, Mitchinson & Fry

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