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The Sphinx and the Lion


The Great Sphinx of Giza is a mystery as there are still many unanswered questions about its origin and meaning. Let’s focus on the issue of its dating, first. An interesting though controversial theory concluded that the construction of the Great Sphinx dates back to around 10500 B.C., that is 8000 years older than the date most accredited among traditional Egyptologists. The theory rests its foundation on two assumptions. In accordance with the first one, the base of the Great Sphinx would show evidence of rain erosion, which must have necessarily occurred before the establishment of the arid climate that already characterized the ancient Egypt; but simply asserting that the statue was geologically older than 2500 B.C. still does not allow any dating. The second assumption stems from a conjecture proposed by Graham Hancock in Fingerprints of the Gods (1995) and Heaven’s Mirror (1998). The basic assumption of Hancock’s narration is complex and implies the combination of two crucial facts: who built the Sphinx had to know the precession of the equinoxes, and also attribute to the constellations of the zodiac signs the same symbolism we use today, where some stellar configurations correspond to the Pisces, the Aries, the Taurus and so forth. Now, whilst on the one hand, the precession of the equinoxes is an astronomical fact, on the other, to argue that the civilization that built the Great Sphinx had to associate a group of stars to the zodiacal sign of Leo, as it is supposed in order to determine the date, is a fascinating argument, but totally arbitrary. In accepting this idea, in fact, we should also imagine that 12500 years ago, a civilization had at least the same understanding of some astronomical phenomena as we have it today, but which was not apparently the case at the time of Leonardo da Vinci and Isaac Newton just 500 and 300 years ago, respectively, because simply they were not aware of them. The idea that the Great Sphinx could have been erected there in 10500 B.C., from where it was facing easterly the point of sunrise transiting the constellation of the Lion, is therefore just that, an idea. As much as we do efforts in interrogating the Great Sphinx, unfortunately, it does not give (more) answers to us and we must try to find another way to unravel the mystery.

When we observe the Great Sphinx from side, we get the clear impression that the human head surmounting the lion body is incoherent with its original shape: the head is in fact too small and forward. Our reasoning then starts from acknowledging that the statue was actually a lion in origin. But, unless it was a tribute to a Pharaoh, a will which could justify whatever whim indeed, we can see another problem: what was actually the value of that image for the people who built it? Even in the simplicity and immediacy of the evocated figure, a statue of lion longer than seventy meters represents, from a social perspective, a concept rather complex. The model of Machiavellian Intelligence of Gavrilets and Vose supposes that a minimum number of generations is required for an intelligent and socially organized species prior to become capable of managing complex memes like that. That statue cannot be therefore the product of a species having just reached some generic capability of conceptual abstraction and a certain degree of social behaviour. Based on fossil finds (that….), the Homo sapiens sapiens in about 20-25000 generations (250000 years) could have had sufficient time to develop such a capability, whilst the Homo neanderthalensis, with his only 10-12000 generations (160000 years) before his extinction, simply could not. It is therefore likely that in a given time, significantly prior to 10500 B.C., let’s say 100000 years ago, even the modern mankind could not be able to conceive and realize a great work like the Lion of Giza. Common sense would suggest not to think about times more ancient than 12500 years ago, but this is exactly what we shall do here.

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