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Egypt's Great Sphinx Was Not Entirely Shaped by Humans, Study Finds

Before ancient Egyptians refined the Great Sphinx of Giza, natural forces may have helped carve the iconic monument's massive feline shape.
20.11.23 | Source: science alert

Fluid dynamics experiments reveal the structure's 'reclined lion' shape could have been carved not by human hands, but fast-flowing wind.


"Our findings offer a possible 'origin story' for how Sphinx-like formations can come about from erosion," says experimental physicist and applied mathematician Leif Ristroph from New York University.


"Our laboratory experiments showed that surprisingly Sphinx-like shapes can, in fact, come from materials being eroded by fast flows."


Speculation over nature's hand in carving the Sphinx isn't new. As far back as the 1950s, it's been suggested the statue's body may have been weathered by ancient waters.


While there is sufficient evidence to discount the possibility of rains or floods being responsible, other experts have suggested wind – though less powerful – may have scoured the overall shape out of the right mix of rocks.


This idea dates back to the early 1980s, with a scenario suggested by a former NASA geologist named Farouk El-Baz.


"The ancient engineers may have elected to reshape its head in the image of their king," wrote El-Baz in 2001. "They also gave it a convincingly lion-like body, inspired by forms they encountered in the desert. To do so, they had to dig a moat around the natural protrusion."