Khafre’s Monuments as a Unit

Linking the elements

There are a number of elements of Pharaoh Khafre’s monuments (2520-2494 BC) that link them together. Some point to the probability that the Sphinx and its temple were the final elements added to Khafre’s building program at Giza. Other elements tie buildings together architecturally or geologically.

Geological fingerprints

Sphinx Temple blocks are from Sphinx quarry

Sphinx Temple blocks are from Sphinx quarry

The Swiss architect-Egyptologist, Herbert Ricke, concluded in his study of the Sphinx Temple (1967-70) that the Sphinx, Sphinx Temple, and Valley Temple were all part of the same quarry and construction process.

In 1980, geologist Thomas Aigner did a study of sea-floor sedimentation that formed the geological layers of the Giza Plateau. Mark Lehner and Aigner examined the geological layers of the Sphinx quarry and found that a certain number of these layers matched to the geological layers of the Sphinx Temple blocks.

The Sphinx Temple builders probably cut the large limestone blocks for the core of the temple walls (so-called “core blocks”) from the lowest layers of Member II of the Sphinx quarry. We can identify the bedrock layers from where specific temple blocks were cut.

This indicates that the Sphinx and the Sphinx Temple were created at the same time. As we demonstrate in another article, the Sphinx Temple was built after the Khafre Valley Temple, making the lower parts of the Sphinx and its quarry younger than the Valley Temple.

Unfinished business, unworshipped cult

Sphinx Temple blocks are from Sphinx quarry

Sphinx Temple blocks are from Sphinx quarry

The builders abandoned en route several huge limestone blocks intended for the third course of masonry on the Sphinx Temple. The builders stopped work on the temple after raising the core blocks at three corners, placing colossal statues inside the temple, and fitting the colonnade with its granite pillars.

The quarrymen stopped cutting the north edge of the Sphinx quarry, leaving a rock shelf of decreasing width from east to west. The abandoned blocks and the interruption of work on the north edge suggest that the Sphinx and Sphinx Temple were the final elements in Khafre’s building project and were never completed.

There is archaeological evidence indicating the builders never cleared their construction debris from the insides of the Sphinx Temple. Along with the fact that no titles of priests or priestesses of the Sphinx exist in any of the hundreds of Old Kingdom tombs at Giza, the unfinished state of the Temple suggests that the Sphinx cult may never have been active in the Old Kingdom.

Architectural similarity

Khafre Pyramid Temple and Sphinx

Khafre Pyramid Temple and Sphinx

When you compare the plan of Khafre’s Pyramid Temple with that of his Sphinx Temple, you can see that the design of the inner courts are nearly identical. While architectural similarity is not conclusive evidence, the fact that these temples are so similar suggests a high probability that they were designed and constructed at the same time.

There are emplacements for colossal statues in Khafre’s Sphinx Temple and Valley Temple. In contrast, temples built by Khafre’s predecessor, Khufu (2551-2528 BC), show no such accommodation for cult statues, arguing against Khufu being the pharaoh for whom the Sphinx complex was built.

Sphinx quarry looking south towards the causeway

Sphinx quarry looking south towards the causeway

The Sphinx quarry

The south side of the Sphinx quarry is the north side of the Khafre causeway foundation. The causeway precedes the Sphinx quarry in construction sequence indicating that the lower parts of the Sphinx (and its enclosure or sanctuary) were carved later than Khafre’s pyramid, Pyramid Temple, causeway, and Valley Temple.

The temple terrace

Sphinx Temple and Valley Temple share a terrace

Sphinx Temple and Valley Temple share a terrace

The fronts and the backs of Khafre’s Valley Temple and the Sphinx Temple are nearly aligned and they sit on the same prepared terrace below the Sphinx.

This broad terrace was cut for a reason and since there is no archaeological evidence of earlier structures, we conclude that the two Khafre temples were built as part of the same program. Archaeological evidence supports the idea that the Valley Temple was built before the Sphinx Temple.

The causeway drainage channel

Drainage channel for Khafre causeway

Drainage channel for Khafre causeway

Khafre’s builders cut a drainage channel along the north side of the eastern end of the pyramid causeway. The channel opens into the upper southwest corner of the Sphinx quarry. They would not have cut a channel that drained water into the Sphinx enclosure ditch so the channel must have had a function that predated and was made obsolete by the quarrying of the Sphinx enclosure.

More than one thousand years after the Sphinx was created, Thutmosis IV cleared the sand away from the monument and established the cult of Hor-em-akhet, or “Horus in the Horizon.” Today you can see mud brick from Thutmosis IV’s enclosure wall blocking the drainage channel.

Conclusion

Some Egyptologists propose that Khufu (2551-2528 BC) or Djedefre (2528-2520 BC) built the Sphinx. The archaeological evidence shows, however, that Khafre’s builders:

  1. Completed Khafre’s Valley Temple with its granite casing.
  2. Built a northern enclosure wall for the Valley Temple that clearly respects the Temple’s granite casing.
  3. Built the Sphinx Temple, incorporating the northern Valley Temple enclosure wall.
  4. Built the Sphinx Temple with blocks geologically linked to the Sphinx quarry.
  5. Abandoned work on the Sphinx Temple and Sphinx quarry shortly before either were completed, indicating they were the last elements to be added to the project.

Furthermore, Djedefre ruled for a relatively short time and built his funerary complex north of Giza at Abu Roash.

No matter what might be proposed about the giant Sphinx face resembling the only known image of Khufu (a tiny ivory figurine in the Egyptian Museum), and no matter how much the Sphinx fits some Egyptologists’ ideas that Khufu identified himself as the sun god, the Sphinx is integrated with, but later in sequence, than the other Khafre monuments, making Khafre the most probable candidate as the Sphinx’s owner.

For more on AERA’s work with the Sphinx, see AERAGram Vol. 5 No. 2, Spring 2002.