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No. 79: Jan-Feb 1992

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A Terrestrial Riddle

The ancient Egyptians apparently built the enigmatic Sphinx by first excavating a limestone formation and then clearing away the debris to expose a huge stone block over 240 feet long and 66 feet high. From this, they carved a lion with a human head out of the soft natural rock.

Once the soft limestone was exposed, the rain and atmosphere began to erode it. R.M. Schoch, a Boston University geologist, studying the weathering patterns on the Sphinx, found signs of water action up to 8 feet deep in the front and sides of the colossal statue. Other structures in the vicinity, made from the same limestone, supposedly at the same time (about 2500 BC), do not display such deep erosion. Based upon the depth of the weathering, Schoch dates the Sphinx at 5000-7000 BC -- much older than the mainstream date of 2500 BC. In fact, Schoch opines that work on the Sphinx could have begun as early as 10,000 BC. Egyptologists, of course, will have none of this. C. Redmount, a Univerisity of California archeologist specializing in Egyptian artifacts, said, "There's just no way that could be true."

Some non-establishment archeologists, such as A. West, have long maintained that the Sphinx is much older than 2500 BC. Supporting the claims of much earlier dates is the massive stone wall and tower of Jericho, whose construction is now placed in the ninth millennium BC. Who knows, the Neolithic peoples of 10,000 BC might have been more precocious than we give them credit for.

(Wilford, John Noble; "A Very Old Sphinx May Be Older Yet," New York Times, October 25, 1991. Cr. J. Covey. Also: Anonymous; "Experts at War over Age of Sphinx," Los Angeles Times News Service, October 24, 1991. C. F. Hurlburt)

From Science Frontiers #79, JAN-FEB 1992. 1992-2000 William R. Corliss