• Imagining History

The Egyptian Sphinx: What Is It? - An Introduction for KS2

Updated: Nov 23, 2020

If you know about the Great Pyramid of Giza, you'll know it's set in a larger complex containing several more smaller pyramids and an intriguing statue of a Sphinx. "What is this Sphinx?" I hear you ask?

The Sphinx:

What is it?

A limestone statue of a Sphinx (a mythical creature with the body of a lion and the head of a human.)

When was it built?

Estimates vary. It was likely in the Old Kingdom, during the reign of the Pharaoh Khafre (approx. 2558 to 2532 BC). In fact, Egyptologists think that it's Pharaoh Khafre's face carved on the Sphinx.

Where was it built?

On the Giza Plateau, on the West Bank of the River Nile. It is part of the Giza Complex that includes the Great Pyramid of Giza.

Why was it built there?

To guard the Pyramid tombs of Giza, ain't no-one gonna mess with a giant Sphinx!

How big is it?

Really, really big.

Can I get some specifics?

Oh alright. It is 241 feet long - that's wider than a football pitch! It's also 66 feet high - that's the same height as four giraffes stood on the top of each other's head. Just imagine that - how would they balance?!

Does it look the same today as when it was built?

Not at all. The Sphinx used to have a beard and a nose. It also would have been painted in bright colours. Archaeologists believe its face and body would have been red, its headdress yellow and its beard blue.

Why did its nose fall off?

Probably erosion but no-one knows. It certainly wasn’t shot off by Napoleon Bonaparte’s cannon!

What happened to its beard?

We don't know what happened to most of it but you can see bits of the beard in the British Museum. Here's a pic:

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