'Answer' found to riddle of Sphinx

The riddle of the Sphinx has confounded generations of tourists and experts alike. Who built it, why, and what does it mean? Now a leading Egyptologist believes that he has pieced together the puzzle.

The riddle of the Sphinx has confounded generations of tourists and experts alike. Who built it, why, and what does it mean? Now a leading Egyptologist believes that he has pieced together the puzzle.

After researching the pyramids of the Giza Plateau and their imposing half-human, half-animal guardian for 20 years, Vassil Dobrev of the French Archaeological Institute in Cairo has concluded that the Sphinx was the work of a forgotten pharaoh.

For many years, it has been held that Khafre, a king of the Fourth Dynasty whose pyramid sits behind the Sphinx, built the monument in his own likeness.

But Mr Dobrev believes the Sphinx was in fact created more than four and a half thousand years ago by Djedefre, Khafre's half brother and the son of Khufu, the builder of the Great Pyramid at Giza.

When Khufu died, the people of ancient Egypt were weary, having spent decades building pyramids, says Mr Dobrev. He argues that Djedefre, who succeeded Khufu as pharaoh, built the monument in the image of his father, identifying him with the sun god Ra, as a piece of propaganda to restore respect for the dynasty.

In a documentary for television channel Five, Secrets of the Sphinx, to be shown next Tuesday, Mr Dobrev challenges the accepted version of the origins of the Sphinx and the reign of Djedefre, who came close to being written out of ancient history. "This is the first time it has been proposed that the Sphinx has been built after the death of Khufu by his son Djedefre," said Mr Dobrev.

While Khufu and Khafre constructed towering pyramids at Giza, Djedefre built a smaller pyramid several kilometres away at Abu Roash.

This led the American archaeologist, George Reisner, who excavated the Giza Plateau in the 1930s and wrote the definitive book about the site, to portray Djedefre as an outcast who murdered his elder brother, the heir to the throne. "We have absolutely no evidence to support this, but it was written in a very famous book - and slowly it became the rule," Mr Dobrev said.

Unlike modern-day tourists, who approach the Giza Plateau from the east, from Cairo, ancient Egyptians would have come to the site from the south from Memphis, the capital of the old kingdom, Mr Dobrev argues. From this direction, it is seen in profile, with Khufu's Great Pyramid behind it.

Djedefre was the first pharaoh to insert the name of the sun god Ra in his own cartouche, supporting the theory that he built the Sphinx to represent his father as the deity. Mr Dobrev also believes that the discovery in 1955 of two dismantled wooden boats, buried beside the Great Pyramid beneath stones bearing Djedefre's name, show that he was an important and long-lived ruler who wished to ease his father's passage through the afterlife.

"I think some scholars will have mixed reactions," Mr Dobrev said. "People will be surprised that we can still have something new to say about Djedefre. His reign has to be completely reviewed. It was a longer reign and a more important reign than we thought."

Robert Partridge, the editor of Ancient Egypt magazine and a lecturer at Manchester University, believes that while Mr Dobrev puts forward a logical argument, there is insufficient evidence to prove his theory.

"The fact that Djedefre's name is found at Giza is not surprising. It was the duty of a son to complete the burial of his father," Mr Partridge said. He favours a theory published in the latest edition of Ancient Egypt by the geologist Colin Reader, who argues that the Sphinx was built before the Great Pyramid and therefore could not be the work of Khufu, Khafre or Djedefre.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Life and Style
love + sex A new study has revealed the average size - but does that leave men outside the 'normal' range being thought of as 'abnormal'?
Arts and Entertainment
TV
Voices
The Palace of Westminster is falling down, according to John Bercow
voices..says Matthew Norman
Sport
Steve Bruce and Gus Poyet clash
football
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
News
Graham Norton said Irish broadcaster RTE’s decision to settle was ‘moronic’
TV
Arts and Entertainment
Jake and Dinos Chapman were motivated by revenge to make 'Bring me the Head of Franco Toselli! '
arts + ents Shapero Modern Gallery to show explicit Chapman Brothers film
Arts and Entertainment
Kurt Cobain performing for 'MTV Unplugged' in New York, shortly before his death
music Brett Morgen's 'Cobain: Montage of Heck' debunks many of the myths
Life and Style
life
Sport
Brendan Rodgers
football The Liverpool manager will be the first option after Pep Guardiola
News
Amazon misled consumers about subscription fees, the ASA has ruled
news
Arts and Entertainment
Myanna Buring, Julian Rhind-Tutt and Russell Tovey in 'Banished'
TV Jimmy McGovern tackles 18th-century crime and punishment
Arts and Entertainment
Paul Whitehouse as Herbert
arts + ents
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Media

Ashdown Group: Content Manager - Publishing

£30000 - £35000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glo...

Ashdown Group: Trainee Consultant - Surrey / South West London

£22000 per annum + pension,bonus,career progression: Ashdown Group: An establi...

Ashdown Group: Junior Business Systems Analyst - High Wycombe - £30,000

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Junior Business Systems Analyst role...

Guru Careers: Talent Manager

£30-35k (P/T - Pro Rata) + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienc...

Day In a Page

Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot
Poldark star Heida Reed: 'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'

Poldark star Heida Reed

'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'
The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

Money, corruption and drugs

The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

150 years after it was outlawed...

... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

You won't believe your eyes

Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn