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Is This What the Ancients Witnessed?

For centuries, the mysteries surrounding the structures of Ancient Egyptian have baffled researchers.

A new study published in the journal Physical Review Fluids and conducted by a team of scientists at New York University posits that the Egyptian Sphinx may have been created through natural means, rather than through manpower alone.

While the exact process undertaken to erect the structure is unclear, it is generally understood that the approximately 66 foot tall and 240 feet long statue made in the image of a lion’s body and man’s face was carved from a single piece of limestone.

Thought to have been constructed approximately 4,500 years ago, the Sphinx was buried up to its shoulders for thousands of years until it was eventually excavated in the 1930s, according to the Smithsonian Magazine. Over the course of thousands of years, the statue has experienced major deterioration due to a combination of weather and vandalism.

The question the team of researchers, led by senior author and associate professor at NYU’s Courant Institute of Mathematical Sciences Leif Ristroph, was attempting to explain is the formation of the foundation itself.


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The hypothesis put forth by the scientists is that when the site of The Great Sphinx of Giza was found by the Ancient Egyptians, it was already in an animal-like formation, and the Egyptians then carved the appearance of a human face into the limestone.

For the researchers to test this hypothesis it was necessary to conduct experiments that simulated the environmental conditions that would have existed during the perceived time when the Sphinx was created.

According to The Jerusalem Post article on the study, “the researchers closely examined how wind shapes and affects unusual rock formations known as yardangs. These low ridges, carved by wind in flat deserts, served as the basis for their experiments. By using mounds of soft clay infused with a harder, less erodible material to replicate the surface found in northeastern Egypt, the team simulated wind erosion by subjecting the formations to a high-speed stream of water.”

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The result of the simulated erosion was a clay structure that closely resembled the outline of a Sphinx-like formation. “Our results suggest that Sphinx-like structures can form under fairly commonplace conditions,” the study concluded.

According to an Oct. 31 New York University article on the experiment, “The harder or more resistant material became the ‘head’ of the lion and many other features — such as an undercut ‘neck,’ ‘paws’ laid out in front on the ground, and arched ‘back’ — developed.”

“Our findings offer a possible ‘origin story’ for how Sphinx-like formations can come about from erosion,” Ristoph said. “Our laboratory experiments showed that surprisingly Sphinx-like shapes can, in fact, come from materials being eroded by fast flows.”

Further supporting this claim Ristoph pointed out, “There are, in fact, yardangs in existence today that look like seated or lying animals, lending support to our conclusions.”

“The work may also be useful to geologists as it reveals factors that affect rock formations—namely, that they are not homogeneous or uniform in composition.”

While we attempt to understand the world in which we reside, it is remarkable how little we really know, and the great structures of Ancient Egypt are an example of that.


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Ironically, one of the questions that has baffled scientists for centuries required advanced technology in order to arrive at the simplest explanation of all: One of the great statues in the world today was created naturally and was only modified with human intervention.

The significance of the study may point to the idea that there are additional structures throughout the world that are given human attribution while the role of God’s nature goes unrecognized.

To applicably quote the Italian poet and author of “The Divine Comedy,” Dante Alighieri, “Nature is the art of God.”

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