A quarter of a century ago, researchers Robert Schoch and Robert Bauval were at the centre of two controversial debates in Egyptology: Schoch, with his geological redating of the Great Sphinx to a period earlier than its supposed builder, the Pharaoh Khafre; and Bauval, with his ‘Orion Correlation Theory’ that suggested the three famous pyramids of Giza were laid out to mimic the stars in the ‘belt’ of the constellation Orion.
Now, in 2017, Schoch and Bauval have teamed up again to revisit the Sphinx debate. Hot on the heels of their recent book collaboration, Origins of the Sphinx (Amazon US/), the pair have now – along with independent researcher Manu Seyfzadeh – published an academic paper titled “A New Interpretation of a Rare Old Kingdom Dual Title: The King’s Chief Librarian and Guardian of the Royal Archives of Mehit” (free full PDF download available from that abstract page).
Don’t let the rather staid title fool you – the paper continues on in the same vein as Schoch and Bauval’s previous radical Egyptological theories. They point out some textual (i.e. hieroglyphic) evidence suggesting the Sphinx predates Khafre’s reign by many centuries – and also that the hieroglyphs representing it may be suggestive that the Sphinx is guardian of a hidden ‘hall of records’.
One of the more pointed criticisms of the idea of an older Great Sphinx is that no written evidence exists which proves a lion-like monument stood on the Giza Plateau before its currently accepted date of creation during the Old Kingdom, circa 2500 B.C.E. In this paper, we would like to address this contention by showing evidence to the contrary.
Researchers Seyfzadeh, Schoch, and Bauval focus on a part of the title of a number of Old Kingdom Pharaohs’ viziers that hasn’t yet been properly translated. The official title is made up of seven distinct, vertically aligned hieroglyphs: Axe – Reed and Inkwell – Sedge – Bread Loaf – Axe – Bent Rod – Recumbent Lion. The last two symbols – the ‘bent rod’ and ‘recumbent lion’, which are strangely combined, with the rod-like object connected to the back of the lioness – have puzzled translators thus far.
The title has been traced right back to the beginnings of Dynastic Egypt, being found on seals of Narmer imprinted on yellow clay locks used to securely shut vases and pouches. But nobody has so far been able to explain why the bent rod emerges from (or enters) the back of a lioness, or the combined symbol’s connection with royal scribes/viziers and locks used for shutting vessels. However, the trio of researchers say that they now have a possibly theory:
We believe the most likely meaning [for the rod symbol] is “key”… It is known that the ancient Egyptians had developed a lock and key device to secure an entree by at least the Middle Kingdom. By then, the key was a tooth-brush like object used to displace wooden pins obstructing a wooden bolt.
[H]owever, we do not think this word stood on its own. Instead it, in combination with Mehit, formulated the more abstract concept of a guard, explaining why it was used as a symbol on seals imprinted onto clay locks to secure tomb goods such as vases and pouches…
Here, we are now able to associate scribes with a lock-secured facility either dedicated to a lion goddess or, in fact, a facility made in the shape of a recumbent lioness. This is further corroborated by the way the rod symbol ostensibly enters the back of the lioness as if the latter physically bore the lock belonging to this key.
The most obvious choice for a location ‘in the shape of a recumbent lioness’, say the three researchers, “ought to be the monumental Great Sphinx on the Giza Plateau. And what might ‘the facility’ at the Sphinx be?
Seismic probing has also revealed a hollow space beneath the Great Sphinx’s northern paw and the signal demarcations and geometry suggest this space was man-made , raising the intriguing possibility of a hidden and secured stony vault within the bedrock under the Great Sphinx where ancient records may have been kept.
Seyfzadeh, Schoch, and Bauval believe that the name of the Great Sphinx during the Old Kingdom and even before was Mehit, a feline goddess. And they note there may be some further physical evidence to link the two. They point out “a peculiar feature of the neck area of the Great Sphinx” – an oblique limestone ridge – may mimic the ornamental rings depicted on some of the strange ‘recumbent lion’ hieroglyphs. Though it’s unknown whether the hieroglyphs might have been modeled on the Sphinx, or the Sphinx on the hieroglyphs.
In summary, the researchers say…
…we have presented written, hieroglyphically recorded evidence that: a) two, heretofore incompletely translated, tandem titles conferred to Hemiunu, Wepemnefret, and Hesy-Re are semantically interwoven within the context of overseeing the creation and secure storage of scribal documents; b) secure storage was concretely symbolized by a key-like device metaphorically “locking” the Upper Egyptian goddess Mehit; c) this mythical metaphor of Mehit’s aspect as a recumbent lioness guardian so symbolized was based on her physical, monumental stony counterpart on the Giza Plateau long before the Fourth Dynasty, corroborating previous archeo-astronomical, geological, and seismographic evidence that the Great Sphinx is a modification of a much more ancient monument; and d) beneath this monument is a man-made, ornamented palace-like façade, and bolt lock-gated vault with chambers known to both 1st and 18th Dynasty kings, likewise corroborating prior seismographic evidence of a non-random, likely man-made, void beneath the north-east zone of the Great Sphinx. Our interpretation of this textual evidence is unequivocally testable and initially only requires a small drill hole and optic equipment to explore this already known void.
And for those who might be saying “maybe the recumbent lion is just a picture of a recumbent lion?”, Seyfzadeh, Schoch, and Bauval have perhaps one of most quotable counter-responses in an academic paper: “One does not insert a key into a real lioness”. Well, not unless you’ve got some good running legs on you…
Remember too that you can find more up-to-date discussion of the mysteries of the Giza Plateau in Schoch and Bauval’s recent book, Origins of the Sphinx (Amazon US/).