Scholars have traditionally attributed the monument to the Egyptian King Khafra, who ruled from 2558 to 2534 BCE. However, in the early 1990s, the writer John Anthony West (collaborated by geologist Robert Schoch and geophysicist Thomas Dobecki) found evidence substantiating a prehistoric date for the Sphinx- a period for which there is no known government and civilization, supposedly just “hunters and gatherers”.

Observations by John Anthony West. Independent Egyptologist John Anthony West decided to take a serious look at the Sphinx. West compared the erosion on the Sphinx, on its temples, and on the enclosure walls to the erosion of other structures on the Giza plateau. On the Sphinx and its nearby walls, the rock was worn badly, giving it a sagging appearance. Edges were rounded and deep fissures were prominent. On structures elsewhere on the plateau, the surfaces showed only the sharper abrasion of wind and sand.

SphinxEgypt experienced periods of heavy rainfall in the millennia that marked the post-glacial northward shift of the temperate zone. This period lasted from about 10,000 to 5000 BCE and by its end the Sahara had turned from green savanna into a desert. A shorter but more intense period of rainfall lasted from about 4000 to 3000 BCE, tapering off by the middle of the third millennium. West thought that flooding from the post-glacial transition caused the distinctive weathering on the Sphinx complex, which meant that the Sphinx must have been carved during or before the transition.

Evaluation by Schoch. Orthodox archaeologists refused even to consider West's hypothesis. But in 1990 West persuaded Robert M. Schoch, a geologist at Boston University, to determine non-invasively whether the rock underneath showed evidence that could be interpreted as weathering, and if so, to what depths. Curious, Schoch agreed and the two visited Giza in June 1990.

Schoch observed that erosion was heaviest on the upper parts of the Sphinx and enclosure walls, not around the base, where flooding should have undercut the monument. [Archaeologists agree that the Sphinx complex stood close to earlier flood levels and that flooding probably reached the base of the Sphinx on occasion. This finding by Schoch refutes this assumption. Further, flood levels have declined since Old Kingdom times- the water table lay too far below the enclosure floor to be a serious factor.]

This upper surface weathering was typical of damage by rainfall, as were the undulating impaction pattern and fissures on the Sphinx and nearby walls. Schoch noticed that the limestone blocks on the Sphinx and Khafra Valley Temples were similarly eroded and that some of the refacing stones appeared to have been form-fitted to the eroded blocks behind them. Inscriptions suggest that the refacing stones dated from the Old Kingdom, which suggested that the original walls eroded long before.

Seismic Survey. On a second trip to Giza in April 1991, West and Schoch brought Thomas Dobecki, a geophysicist from Houston, Texas, to carry out a seismic survey of the enclosure foundations to determine whether the underlying rock showed evidence of precipitation damage.

SphinxThe degree of subsurface weathering could be measured by bouncing sound waves off of deeper layers of rock. With the permission of the Egyptian Antiquities Organization, the team carried out sound-wave tests through the floor of the enclosure. Schoch and Dobecki discovered that the enclosure floor in front and alongside of the Sphinx had weathered to a depth of six to eight feet. They also discovered that the back of the enclosure had weathered only half as far. Schoch agreed that the floor behind the Sphinx had been excavated during the Old Kingdom but he concluded that the sides and front of the monument were twice as old.

Assuming a linear rate of weathering, Schoch estimated the date of the Sphinx and most of the enclosure to between 5000 and 7000 BCE, far earlier than the date of 2500 assumed by archaeology. This validated earlier observations by West. However, Schoch noted that weathering could have been non-linear, slowing as it got deeper because of the increasing mass of rock overhead. On this assumption, the Sphinx could have been significantly older than 7000 BCE.

Conclusion. The evidence for an earlier Sphinx raises additional questions: If the Sphinx complex is so much older, who built it and why? Archaeology has found no evidence of civilization in Egypt that far back. The Egyptians of the post-glacial transition were primitive "hunters and gatherers" who could not have built such a monument.

John Anthony West has suggested that an ice age date for the Sphinx raises anew the question of a lost ice age civilization, possibly the Atlantis of ancient legend.

The evidence dating the Sphinx to an earlier time does not prove such legends. But if the hypothesis of rainfall erosion is true, it does call the known chronology of African and indeed world civilization into question.

[1] http://www.s8int.com/page17.html
[2] http://www.davidpbillington.net/sphinx2.html

Photos courtesy and copyright of John Bodsworth