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Interpreting the Evidence

Front View of the Sphinx, 1927

  • Documents in this Activity:
  • Historical Eras:

    Turn of the Century and WWI (1890 - 1930)

  • Thinking Skill:

    Historical Analysis & Interpretation

  • Grade Level:

    Lower Elementary
    Upper Elementary
    Middle School
    High School
    College University

  • Topics:

    Global History and Geography

  • Primary Source Types:


  • Regions:


  • Creator:

    NYS Archives Partnership Trust Education Team

  1. Load Front View of the Sphinx, 1927 in Main Image Viewer

Suggested Teaching Instructions

Document Description
A front view of the Sphinx in Egypt showing the paws. Photograph taken March 1927.
Historical Context
The Sphinx has the body of a lion and the head of a pharaoh (representing the sun god, Ra).  This mythical creature was supposed to have great strength (lion) and wisdom/intelligence (man).

Most people believe that Pharaoh Khafre, son of Khufu (Cheops) had the Sphinx built around 2500 BCE to guard his pyramid.  However, some researchers think that the Sphinx looks more like Khafre's older brother, Pharaoh Djedefre.  Others think that the Sphinx was built much earlier.  Evidence of water erosion as well as wind and sand erosion suggests that the Sphinx may have been constructed before 5000 BCE, when the climate in the Nile River Valley was wetter.

Over the past several thousand years, the body of the Sphinx has been buried several times.  In 1905, the sand was cleared away to reveal its true size and splendor.  Its paws are 50 feet long, its total length is 240 feet, and it is approximately 65 feet high. It was carved into the bedrock, revealing different colors and layers of rock. The head and base are carved from a better-quality stone than the body, which means that the body has deteriorated more quickly.

Essential Question
How does geography influence the development of culture?
Check for Understanding
Describe the scene in the photograph and discuss the influence of geography on this monument.
Historical Challenges
Research the original colors of the Sphinx and produce a model or a drawing of the Sphinx as it was originally created.
Interdisciplinary Connections
Math: Using the dimensions of the Sphinx, go outside and mark off the measurements so you can visualize its actual size.
Science: Find out what is causing the erosion of the Sphinx. What could be done to prevent further erosion?
English Language Arts: Write a short story explaining Khafre's need to have the Sphinx built.