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Study suggests that nature played a role in the origins of the Great Sphinx

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The Great Sphinx of Giza is a limestone statue of a reclining sphinx, a mythical creature characterised by the combination of a human head and a lion’s body.

The Great Sphinx is the oldest known monumental sculpture in Egypt, standing on the Giza Plateau on the west bank of the Nile in Giza,

Based on archaeological evidence, the construction of the Great Sphinx dates back to approximately 2500 BC during the reign of Pharaoh Khafre, who oversaw the construction of the Second Pyramid at Giza.

Many mysteries enshroud the Great Sphinx, including its original appearance and the symbolism it was intended to convey. Surprisingly, there has been relatively little focus on the study of what the landscape was like before its creation and how the natural environment may have influenced its design.

In a new study by researchers from New York University (NYU), scientists have replicated conditions that existed 4,500 years ago to demonstrate how wind moved against rock formations that could have shaped the monument.

“Our findings offer a possible ‘origin story’ for how Sphinx-like formations can come about from erosion,” explains Leif Ristroph, an associate professor at New York University’s Courant Institute of Mathematical Sciences and the senior author of the study, which has been accepted for publication in the journal Physical Review Fluids. “Our laboratory experiments showed that surprisingly Sphinx-like shapes can, in fact, come from materials being eroded by fast flows.”

The study centred on duplicating yardangs, distinctive rock formations found in deserts formed by the accumulation of wind-blown dust and sand. According to the researchers, there is the possibility that the Great Sphinx may have initially started as a natural yardang, later enhanced and sculpted by humans into the iconic monument we know today.

Natural Yardangs – Image Credit : Shutterstock

To support this theory, the study authors from NYU’s Applied Mathematics Laboratory worked with soft clay mounds containing embedded less erodible material, simulating the landscape of northeastern Egypt where the Great Sphinx is located.

They then subjected these formations to a rapid-flowing water stream, mimicking the erosive action of wind, which gradually carved and reshaped them, eventually leading to the emergence of a structure resembling the Great Sphinx.

The harder or more resistant material within these mounds took on the role of forming the “head” of the lion, while various other features, including a sculpted “neck,” “paws” resting on the ground in front, and an arched “back,” began to take shape.

“Our results provide a simple origin theory for how Sphinx-like formations can come about from erosion,” observes Ristroph. “There are, in fact, yardangs in existence today that look like seated or lying animals, lending support to our conclusions.”

NYU

Header Image Credit : Shutterstock

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Archaeology

Study indicates that Firth promontory could be an ancient crannog

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A study by students from the University of the Highlands and Islands has revealed that a promontory in the Loch of Wasdale in Firth, Orkney, could be the remains of an ancient crannog.

A crannog is a partially or entirely artificial island, typically built in lakes and estuarine waters of Scotland from the prehistoric period onward.

Crannogs were used as dwellings, taking advantage of the natural surroundings that may have served to provide a defensive purpose.

Despite significant variations in methodology, most crannogs on mainland Scotland were built by driving timber piles into the loch bed and filling the interior with peat, brush, stones, or timber to create a solid foundation.

In largely treeless regions like the Western Isles, these island dwellings utilised a diverse mix of natural, artificially enlarged, or entirely artificial islets.

The discovery was made by students from the UHI Archaeology Institute, who were conducting test-pitting on a promontory at the northern end of the Loch of Wasdale.

According to a press statement by UHI: “It appears as an islet on the 1882 Ordnance Survey map. Little is known about the site, but the fact the shoreside edges appear to show the remains of walling led to the suggestion it may be a crannog.”

In his Reminiscences of an Orkney Parish, John Firth (1838-1922) wrote that this islet was once home to a kirk: “During the Middle Ages several chapels existed in the district now known as the parish of Firth – one on the island in the Loch of Wasdale.”

The test-pitting revealed large quantities of cairn-like rubble, in addition to more structural remains or a stone surface, indicating that the entire promontory/islet is artificial.

Martin Carruthers, a lecturer at UHI, said: “A structure made up of some very large masonry seems to lurk at the heart of the cairn makeup. Constructing this ‘monument’ must have been a very substantial undertaking.”

“In terms of artefacts, apart from some later post-medieval glazed pottery, we recovered a single worked flint, probably a ‘thumbnail’ scraper, which is most likely later Neolithic in date,” added Carruthers.

Header Image Credit : Shutterstock

Sources : UHI

This content was originally published on www.heritagedaily.com – © 2023 – HeritageDaily

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Archaeologists identify the original sarcophagus of Ramesses II

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Archaeologists from Sorbonne University have identified the original sarcophagus of Ramesses II, otherwise known as Ramesses the Great.

Ramesses II was the third pharaoh of the 19th Dynasty during the New Kingdom period.
His reign is often regarded as the most celebrated in Egypt’s history, marked by several major military campaigns and numerous monument construction projects.

Based on supporting historical accounts, most Egyptologists suggest that Ramesses II assumed the throne in 1279 BC and reigned until his death at the age of around 90 in 1212 or 1213 BC.

His remains were interred in a tomb complex (designated KV7) in the Valley of the Kings, located opposite the tomb of his sons (KV5), and near the tomb (KV8) of his son and successor, Merenptah.

During the reign of Ramesses III during the 20th Dynasty, the tomb of Ramesses II was looted by grave robbers. Ancient texts record that priests moved his remains to the tomb of Queen Ahmose Inhapy, and then to the tomb of the high priest Pinedjem II.

His final resting place was a tomb (designated TT320), located next to Deir el-Bahari, in the Theban Necropolis opposite Luxor. The tomb is a Royal Cache containing the mummified remains of more than 50 kings, queens, and other royal family members of the New Kingdom period.

The mummy of Ramesses II was discovered in TT320 during excavations in 1881. He was found placed in a simple wooden coffin, suggesting that this was meant as a temporary measure until a more permanent resting place could be determined.

A new study, published in the Revue d’Égyptologie, suggests that a fragment of a sarcophagus discovered in 2009 at Abydos was part of the original sarcophagus of Ramesses II.

The sarcophagus fragment was found in a Coptic monastery and has recently been re-examined by Egyptologist Frédéric Payraudeau from Sorbonne University.

According to the study author, the decoration and texts on the sarcophagus fragment indicate that it was first used by Ramesses II (evidenced by the cartouche of Ramesses II), and later reused by a high priest of the 21st Dynasty, Menkheperre (around 1000 BC) who likely had the sarcophagus transported to Abydos after KV7 was looted.

Header Image Credit : Sarcophagus fragment – Kevin Cahail

Sources : cnrs | Le sarcophage de Ramsès II remployé à Abydos – Published in the Revue d’Égyptologie.

This content was originally published on www.heritagedaily.com – © 2023 – HeritageDaily

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