Author: Kirsty Rice

A student's clay reconstruction of The Great Sphinx.

The Great Sphinx

Kirsty Rice

The Great Sphinx has been seen as the symbol of both ancient Egypt and even for Egypt today. The Sphinx is an iconic symbol that is so widely recognized it is crazy to think that there is so much we don’t know about it. Although it is largely recognizable that information that we have about it is fleeting. The Sphinx is in many ways on of the greatest ancient mysteries; from it creation to the always changing face. The origin date of the Sphinx is unknown, the most common and agreed upon date is that it was constructed in the 4th Dynasty (2575 – 2467 BCE) by the Pharaoh Khafre. “However, an accumulating body of evidence, both archaeological and geological, indicates that the Sphinx is far older than the 4th Dynasty and was only restored by Khafre during his reign.”(Gray) Along with the indefinite creation date we struggle to figure out what the original face looked like on the sphinx. With all these questions I was intrigued to see how my own personal recreation would come out based on what I learned from my research.

As I’m sure many would assume that task of reconstruction such an enigmatic figure was not an easy one. All the decision’s I made in the building of my replica where thought out and double-checked. My approach involved a lot of research and comparisons of information to see what I agreed with and thought to be most likely accurate. This was not the easiest task considering there are thousands of different opinions on what the sphinx originally looked like, who it was modeled after and when it was originally constructed. Once I finished my first step, which was research, I moved on to step 2: materials. The sphinx, “varies from a soft yellowish to a hard grey limestone. The massive body is made of the softer stone, which is easily eroded, while the head is formed of the harder stone.”(Gray) Since I am in no way equipped to handle carving stone I moved to something I knew could harden to have the effect of stone but could also be easily manipulated: clay. My decision to use clay was based on what I though would be the closest I could get to stone and still make it something in which I could manipulate it to get an accurate portrayal of what I wanted to accomplish. With clay I knew I could make the sphinx in blocks like it was made from blocks of stone but I could also smooth it down like many believe the sides originally were before they were eroded away by the sand and wind. The sides of the sphinx over time have been distressed because of the sand and wind, “The archaeological record confirms that Thutmosis did indeed free the Sphinx of sand.” (Hawass) When we learned that the sphinx was discovered with sand covering its body it was easier to understand how so much erosion could have occurred to the body of this fig (Orcutt) (Hill)ure. Making the body appear to be more rough and angular then smooth on the sides.

This is a picture of the smoothed down body of my sphinx.
This is a picture of the smoothed down body of my sphinx.

My third step was the actual construction of the sphinx. The building of my sphinx took about two hours. Once I figured out the measurements of the original sphinx scaled down to my one foot long replica the building was not very hard. I made the sphinx one and one hundred- fiftieth of the size. The hardest part in making the sphinx was wanting to fix it so that it was proportional. Making that body the appropriate size made the head appear to be to small and the head alone appeared to large. This was hard to ignore while I was putting the two pieces together. I found it hard to remember that it was not mine to fix and make proportional. But once I looked past the discrepancies in size I then made it a point to spend time on the face. I think the head was a step in-and-of itself.

This is a close up of my face early on. I was working on making the eyes uneven and the mouth off center.
This is a close up of my face early on. I was working on making the eyes uneven and the mouth off center.

Step 4 of my reconstruction project was the head. The reason I see the head as its own step is because most of the controversy that surround this historical object is around the head and more specifically the face of the sphinx. Still to day we lack a confirmed identification on who the sphinx is modeled after. “In ancient Egypt, it wasn’t so much the physical similarity of a statue to its owner that lent its identity, but rather the name on the inscription. Statues were idealized representations, even in the Old Kingdom, and the figure could only be related to a particular individual when the inscription was added.”(Orcutt) And this is something that doesn’t help us much considering we know the sphinx to be thousands of years older than when we have the first inscription into it. Another problem we see with the face is that it was rushed work. “Its left (north) eye is higher than its right (south) eye, and its mouth is a bit off-center. The axis of the outline of the head differs from the axis of the facial features. The quality of details apparent on the face of the diorite Khafre are absent from the face of the Sphinx.”(Orcutt) With information like this we can assume that the workers who built the face where not working while the person whom this was modeled after was alive. Along with the face there is a great debate about whether or not the sphinx had a beard. A beard was found in pieces around the Sphinx and now resided in the British Museum. Although this beard was found and may have been on the sphinx at some point there is not accurate record that the beard was an original piece because that beard with the head dress are more New Kingdom and we know that the Sphinx was created before then. “There is some evidence that a ceremonial beard was added to the Sphinx some time after its original construction.”(Hill) That’s why in my reconstruction I did not include a beard on my Sphinx. My replication of The Great Sphinx is what I believe to be the closest to what the original Sphinx may have looked like. Reconstructing something so enigmic real opened my eyes to all the different studies and theories that surround history.

This is my Final result!
This is my Final result!


Works Cited

Gray, Martin. The Great Sphinx Facts. 1982-2014. <>.

Hawass, Dr. Zahi. The Sphinx Book: “The Secrets of the Sphinx Restoration, past and present”. Published by Samir Gharieb Director of the Development Fund of the Ministry of Culture in Collaboration with Mr. Mark Linz, Director of the American University in Cairo press, 1988.

Hill, J. The Great Sphinx of Giza. 2010. <>.

Orcutt, Larry. The Sphinx Indentity. 2000 . <>.





Sculpture of the head of a cow goddess.

Head of a Cow Goddess: Hathor

One of the most complex goddesses in ancient Egypt was the goddess Hathor. Hathor was the mother of all gods and goddesses in ancient Egypt. “With her name meaning “the house above”, it is little surprise that Hathor was an Egyptian celestial Goddess, the Mistress of the Heavens.” (Billinghurst 1) Hathor wasn’t only seen as a mistress of the Heavens, she also was the “Egyptian patroness of lovers, the protector of women and children, and beloved of both the living and the dead.” (Billinghurst 1) Hathor was so important to the Egyptians that she adapted many different roles but she really stood out because of her influence in both the living and the death of Egyptians. Goddess Hathor was represented as cow because she is seen as giving sustenance to her people, or a beautiful woman with the horns of a cow on her head. She was very popular with the old kingdom and she represents Upper Egypt.

Hathor worshipers originated very early on (3rd millennium BCE). “In ancient Egyptian religion, goddess of the sky, of women, and of fertility and love.” (Encyclopaedia Britannica) Although she had a strong role in the living she played a large role in death as well. Hathor was seen as welcoming the dead to the other side and she would keep them safe during their journey. Hathor also has a holy day on September 17th when mirrors are place around her temple because mirrors where sacred to her and she is the goddess of beauty afterall. “The festival of the Valley” is also associated with Hathor, which took place in Thebes. “During this festival the kas (or spirit) of the dead were revived. A lightened torch was extinguished in a bowl of cow’s milk, symbolizing rebirth and the successful return of the dead to Hathor.”(Billinghurst 3) Hathor played many different roles and was worshiped for many different reasons and in many different ways.

The image above is “The Head of a Cow Goddess (Hathor)”. This image is a picture of a sculpture made out of diorite that represents the goddess Hathor when she is represented as a cow. We not only see a beautiful face of a cow but the cow has some human assets to go along with it. The cow has a full head of hair like a human women would and sitting atop of the cows head is a crown showing its importance. This is not a particular large statue, which implies that this was something that people could pray in front of in a temple or it could be moved around to always have a part of the goddess with them. This statue was most likely made to honor the Goddess Hathor and was made at this size so that people could move it around with them if need be, to show Hathors importance in many different aspects of life.

By: Kirtsy Rice



“Hathor”. Encyclopædia Britannica. Encyclopædia Britannica Online.

Encyclopædia Britannica Inc., 2015. Web. 12 Mar. 2015



Billinghurst, Frances. Temple of the Dark Moon. Insight, 2005.

An obelisk inscribed with hieroglyphs.

Repatriation and the Ownership of Antiquities

The current issue surrounding the talk of antiquities lies in ownership or rather the lack there of, of antiquities. This is a debate that has been surrounding Archeology and its ethics for centuries. The ownership of antiquities has been something that many people have split opinions about. The division roots from the argument of whether or not artifacts should be returned to their origin instead of being on display in encyclopedia museums across the world. Over time as more and more nations have developed and become their own independent entities more nations have reached out to collect artifacts that they believe belong to them as a culture. They want to recover these artifacts and have them on display in their own countries because after all they are part of their history. Globalization plays a large role in this issue because the world is never going to always be stable or on the same page. One nation is going to be suffering and one is always going to be prospering. The understanding that there will always be somewhere better spreads the understanding that different areas need to be treated differently than others. Meaning that rules surrounding antiquates varies in different parts of the world to protect counties so they don’t get bullied by larger more powerful nations. But looking back encyclopedia museums have a right to these artifacts (minus a small number of slip ups) everything they own they took with permission. This is something that many natives of these other countries do not agree with because they see these artifacts as part of their homeland. While others find the beauty in the educational availability to encyclopedia museums. How their linking of nations and art can show the world has a whole while simultaneously highlighting different places differences and unique traits. I think this is a situation that will never make everyone happy but it is important that countries are not bullies or neglected because of their size. The distribution and home of antiquities is a challenging and divided topic.

The debate about ownership of antiquities has two sides. Those who believe that antiquities belong to the countries in which they originated or to the encyclopedia museum that funded their finding and took it with permission from a prior government. One argument is that encyclopedia that have taken all proper steps in the gaining of artifacts should not be forced to return artifacts to a country. If encyclopedia museums had funded the finding of artifacts and met with the government at the time to gain permission and to formulate an agreement in which to follow in order for it to be a just and fair process they have not broken an laws. In most agreements they would give ten artifacts of the government’s choice to them, then everything else would be slip between the archeologists and the government in power. Although these agreements were legitimate some countries feel that they should not have been made and that their artifacts should be back where they belong, which to them is home soil. The other side of the argument argues that their artifacts should have never been taken in the first place. That there right to these objects is still something to be discussed presently. These artifacts where found on their soil and where left there-by-there ancestors so they are an extension of themselves and their society. They see them as a valid part of there culture. With these two very loaded and substantial arguments it’s hard to see a clear right or wrong answer to who really owns these antiquities.

Prior to the research I did on this debate of ownership of antiquities I could not see how this was something that affected me as an individual. That was until I did my research and found out that I do have an opinion on this topic. Both sides have very respectable reasons for why they think they are right and with those reasons they both have a rather large following willing to fight for what they believe to be fair and just. But early into my research it became very apparent to me that I to have a side in which I am fighting for. I held an opinion on something I didn’t even know could affect me so greatly up until I realized just how wide spread this topic and debate was. Through my research I realized that I was a strong supporter of encyclopedia museums and their ownership of antiquities.

My decision to side with encyclopedia museums stems for my love for them and their vast array of different artifacts and paintings from different times and different places all under one roof. “Museums encourage curiosity and promote a cosmopolitan worldview.” (Cuno 122) I share Cuno’s out look on the impact in which museums play in society. In my opinion the planning and presentation done in these museums only enhances the importance of these pieces of art. The fact that they are surrounded by other artifacts that either they may have been inspired by or that were the inspiration themselves just really give a better appreciation for it. Not to mention the amount of people that have the ability to see this artwork because it is in a major museum that also is home to so many other things only amplifies the impact these encyclopedia museums have.

Although I support encyclopedia museums and their ownership of antiquates that does not mean I turn a blind eye to faults in the system. The collection of antiquities done properly to further the education and appreciation of an artifact is a beautiful thing, it should be able to be shared and should be displayed for people to see. But I do not support when the removal of an antiquity is detrimental to the integrity of the piece. A piece of art should never be taken from its homeland just to be owned by another country if it hurts the piece in any way. “Ere it be too late, ere the winters of New York shall have done for Cleopatra’s needle what a score of centuries have not done, and could not do.” (Long 412) In Long’s retelling of the destruction that Cleopatra’s needles was received by the environment and neglect in New York is makes me sad to think that it was harmed by being brought to us. While the appreciation of art and the interest to have it be available on a bigger stage for more too see is the dream it is something that should not be done if it effects the integrity of the piece of art it’s self.

The balance of these two sides is hard to juggle but it is something we should not give up on. Many new ideas are being passed around in order to try and make other nations feel more included in there own cultural art. The idea of museums loaning out piece for periods of time and a cycle of different art around in order to spread the work. (Cuno 128) For the artifacts to seems as if they are not being held hostage by a different nation.

In conclusion the ownership of antiquities has two sides both in there own right have valid arguments. With these two very loaded and substantial arguments it’s hard to see a clear right or wrong answer to who really owns these antiquities. There are encyclopedia museums and their educational impact. They have the ability to reach millions of people while simultaneously sending messages that span countries and centuries. Though while they do so much we have to be careful to remember that they are not always ours to take. With that in mind we must remember the importance of the other side, which is the preservation and taking back of previously owned artifacts to original countries. Both sides have very strong arguments but I support my decision in the endorsement of encyclopedia museums.

By: Mary Kirsty Rice


Cuno, James. “Culture War.” Foreign Affairs (2014).

Long, Chas. Chaillé. “Send Back the Obelisk!” The North American Review 143.359 (1886): 410-413.