The Great Sphinx at Giza.

A statue with a royal head and the body of a lion is called a sphinx. The word is Greek but its origin may be Egyptian, from the expression shesep-ankh, "living image". Many examples are known and the largest and most famous, the Great Sphinx, is at Giza. It is close to one of the temples associated with the pyramid of King Rakhaef (also Khaefre, or Khephren) who reigned between 2518 and 2493 BC. It is about 73.5 m long and 20 m high. Scholars still argue about the purpose of the Great Sphinx at Giza. Most likely it represented a deity which guarded the entrance to the temples and other buildings which formed Rakhaef's funerary complex. The pyramid, inside which the King's burial chamber was situated, was the most important part of this complex.

In later times, the Great Sphinx at Giza was regarded as a statue of the god Haremakhet, the special form of the local god Horus.

The photograph, taken by Bonfils in about 1880, shows the Great Sphinx at Giza. Griffith Institute photo. 4225. © Griffith Institute, Ashmolean Museum, Oxford.

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