From tmandrsn@ix.netcom.com Fri Sep 25 12:13:36 1998
Date: Sun, 2 Jun 1996 12:16:37 -0700
From: Thomas Anderson ,
To: Athena-Discuss@info.harpercollins.com
Subject: Age of the Sphinx (4)

Thomas Anderson wrote:

>> I really didn't think you were serious.  I'm not exactly sure how 
>>high Mt. Rushmore is, but I would guess that long before 
>>archaeologists got that deep they would be at bedrock that was laid 
>>down a geologic age ago. Furthermore, you clearly suggest that 
>>archaeologists must go deeper to find evidence of societies of, say, 
>>8,000 years ago.  That simply isn't the case, excavations have 
>>already uncovered earlier remains in the Nile valley.

S. Thomas replied:
>I can't imagine how you would *know* that that is not the case.

TA answers:
Sorry, I'm not sure what you mean here?  Do you mean I (or 
archaeologists) do not know if some of the sites they have excavated 
date to 7,000 years ago, or 10,000 or whatever?  Or do you mean
that I don't know if bedrock would be reached before achieving a depth 
equal to Mt. Rushmore's height?  If the latter, are not the pyramids 
themselves built on bedrock?  If the former, do not c14 tests convince 
you of the approximate age of such sites?

 
>> ST also wrote:
>>>  I also asked the implied question whether future archaeologists
>>>digging around an outcropping bearing the likenesses of
>>>four U.S presidents carved into the rock, would find the
>>>essential evidence of 20th century U.S civilization, and wouldn't
>>>they instead have to look fairly far away, in New York city
>>>or Washington, DC.  The same might be the case for the
>>>sphinx.
> 
>> TA replies: (earlier)
>> Not comparable situations, unless you suppose the Egyptians (scratch
>> that, the putative pre-Egyptian builders of the sphinx) had modern
>> conveniences.  The Nile river was the "highway" of ancient Egypt and
>> any evidence of a society that built the sphinx would have to be in 
>> the vicinity of the valley of the Nile.

ST answers:
>Two reactions: (1) Re modern conveniences, don't be so 
>literal-minded--I'm not saying go look in what is now Cape Town, or 
>Dakar.  I'm merely saying that the remains of the society that built 
>the sphinx need not be in the *immediate* vicinity of the rocky 
>outcropping they chose for the purpose of carving the sphinx.  They 
>may be miles away. 
>(2) If the region of the sphinx was not yet desert, why would the 
>remains of the builders *have* to be in the vicinity of the valley of 
>the Nile?

TA answers:
First, you are the one who used New York or Washington as examples (as 
opposed to Denver or even Rapid City SD).  As one who has hitchhiked 
across this country twice, and rock-climbed in sight of Mt. Rushmore,  
let me remind you that New York to Mt. Rushmore is about 2,000 miles. 
However, I wasn't being that literal.  If we are still presuming that 
it would take a civilization as complex as that of the Old Kingdom to 
build the sphinx, then evidence is not going to exist in only one site, 
but in several.  So it shouldn't be that hard to find some sign of 
their supposed existence.  Secondly, workers would have to be collected 
and housed and fed.  The logistical realities demand ease of transport 
from settled communities to the place of construction.  These 
considerations make a Nile-based civilization a necessary precondition 
of any theory of construction in my opinion.  Feeding large groups of 
people at any distance from supply sources for any length of
time without riverine or marine transportation was not feasible in any 
of the societies of antiquity.  


TA, in response to PKM, also wrote:
 
>> Even if the Sothic calendar does date to sometime in the fifth
>> millennium BCE, that still means that it _post-dates_ the putative
>>Schoch/West age of the sphinx by 1,000 to 3,000 years.

Paul replied:
>True, but it does suggest an earlier civizilation than
>currently accepted.

ST replied:
>So?  I don't see that Schoch-West have to account for the Sothic
>calendar.

TA answers:
I have no real opinion on the date of the Sothic calendar, although,  
the ancient claim that its origin (a first day of the year helical 
rising) was exactly contemporary with the accession of the first
pharaoh of the First Dynasty cannot be taken seriously.  The point I 
made was that even accepting for the sake of argument that the Sothic 
calendar is about 1600 years older than current convention, the  
revised date is still 1,000 to 3,000 younger than the Schoch/West date 
for the age of the sphinx.  Therefore, an earlier Sothic calendar does 
not support the Schoch/West theory.

TA wrote:
>> Also, yes there are new discoveries quite often, but they are mostly
>> well within the historical period--like the discoveries associated 
>> with Rameses II reported last year.  Those that are not within the
>> historical period have only extended the range of known neolithic
>> (or proto-neolithic) settlement further up the Nile--still no signs 
>> of an early complex civilization predating dynastic Egypt by
>> millennia, but plenty of signs confirming current archaeological
>> theory.


Paul answered:

[cuts]
**********
>I agree, but wouldn't you agree that archaeology is a field
>full of surprises?  We can't consider the lack of evidence
>as conclusive, but at most as suggestive.  

>I think all of us now agree that if the geologic community
>backs up Schoch/West then we have to accept it, at least,
>as a valid theory in search of archaeological confirmation.


Tom responds:
That is still a little too positive a statement for me to accept 
without qualification.  If the geologicalcommunity backs up 
Schoch/West, then, to borrow a phrase from Martin Bernal, I would 
consider the theory competively plausible.  What would still bother me 
is the generality of geological conclusions.  Archaeology is founded on 
the particularities of individual sites, the building up of models of 
distinct societies and institutions specific to time and place.  It 
seems dangerous to abdicate such particularity to the geologists who 
simply say all rain-induced erosion looks this way and no other force 
can account for the way the sphinx appears: generalities are (useful)
abstractions, but reality is found in the details.

     Let me change the focus a bit.  I've obviously been doing some 
thinking about this.  However, I don't have many resources at hand that 
deal specifically with the sphinx.  My memory though is that, while the 
common view is that its face is supposed to be that of Khafra, it has 
been argued that it was the face of his predecessor.  I seem to 
remember that this has been suggested because of some ambiguity in the 
sources: Khafra might only have claimed to restore the sphinx, not 
build it.  I have not yet read the article by Hawass & Lehner, so I 
don't know if they suggest this or not...but, presuming for the sake of 
argument that their position has merit, if the sphinx was carved during 
the reign of Khafra's predecessor (or even somewhat earlier), the act 
of construction itself could have weakened the stone and caused the 
internal water to leech out, necessitating its restoration after a 
short period and accounting for the reported ambiguity in Khafra's 
claims.

     Another possibility has also occurred to me, presuming that the 
Schoch/West dating scheme for the age of the sphinx is accepted.  We 
presume that it would take a complex civilization to construct the 
sphinx.  What if it is this idea that is flawed?  What if it only took 
a relative handful of neolithic villagers to carve it?  Stonehenge was 
built by a pre-civilized society; the "man in the ice" discovered a few 
years ago demonstrated that things like the fletcher's art existed 
earlier than thought previously and did not require a complex society.  
I am not endorsing the idea that neolithic villagers fashioned the 
sphinx, just musing. 


Regards,

Tom


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