Before reading this article about the Sphinx, I knew just three things about it: It was large, it was old, and it was in Egypt. Last night I read "Uncovering Secrets of the Sphinx," by Evan Hadingham on Smithsonian.com, and learned a lot about the Sphinx. I love articles like this that fill one of the many holes in my knowledge about all the great things in the world.
A small snip from the long article:
Nobody knows its original name. Sphinx is the human-headed lion in ancient Greek mythology; the term likely came into use some 2,000 years after the statue was built. There are hundreds of tombs at Giza with hieroglyphic inscriptions dating back some 4,500 years, but not one mentions the statue. “The Egyptians didn’t write history,” says James Allen, an Egyptologist at Brown University, “so we have no solid evidence for what its builders thought the Sphinx was....Certainly something divine, presumably the image of a king, but beyond that is anyone’s guess.” Likewise, the statue’s symbolism is unclear, though inscriptions from the era refer to Ruti, a double lion god that sat at the entrance to the underworld and guarded the horizon where the sun rose and set.
The face, though better preserved than most of the statue, has been battered by centuries of weathering and vandalism. In 1402, an Arab historian reported that a Sufi zealot had disfigured it “to remedy some religious errors.” Yet there are clues to what the face looked like in its prime. Archaeological excavations in the early 19th century found pieces of its carved stone beard and a royal cobra emblem from its headdress. Residues of red pigment are still visible on the face, leading researchers to conclude that at some point, the Sphinx’s entire visage was painted red. Traces of blue and yellow paint elsewhere suggest to Lehner that the Sphinx was once decked out in gaudy comic book colors.
What articles on other subjects do you recommend as hole-fillers?