Photo: What happened to the Sphinx’s nose?

December 8th, 2009 by Smithsonian Journeys
The mysterious Sphinx and the Great Pyramid

The mysterious Sphinx in front of the Pyramid of Khafre on the Giza Plateau, Egypt

Legends have passed over hundreds of years regarding the simple omission in this photograph of the Sphinx and the Pyramid of Khafre, part of the Giza Pyramid (or Great Pyramid) complex in Egypt. Where is the Sphinx’s nose? Many of us have heard the tale that a cannonball fired by Napoleon’s soldiers hit the nose and caused it to break off. Sketches of the Sphinx by the Dane Frederic Louis Norden were created in 1737 and published in 1755, well before the era of Napoleon. However, these drawings illustrate the Sphinx without a nose and clearly contradicts the legend. So what really happened?

The Egyptian Arab historian al-Maqrīzī wrote in the 15th century that the nose was actually destroyed by a Sufi Muslim named Muhammad Sa’im al-Dahr. In 1378 CE, Egyptian peasants made offerings to the Great Sphinx in the hope of controlling the flood cycle, which would result in a successful harvest. Outraged by this blatant show of devotion, Sa’im al-Dahr destroyed the nose and was later executed for vandalism. Whether this is absolute fact is still debatable.

Have you seen the Sphinx up close? Share your story below.

How big is the Sphinx? See it in person on our Ancient Civilizations of the Red Sea  tour, featuring free air for a limited time.

Tags: , , , ,





2 Responses to “Photo: What happened to the Sphinx’s nose?”

  1. Mehrnaz Says:

    I love Egypt and its history. I wish I could travel to Egypt one day.

  2. Allan Kear Says:

    Why doesn’t the Egyptian government assemble a crew to fully restore Khafre’s face on the Great Sphinx? (That’s right. Pharaoh Khafre built the second Pyramid, the sphinx, and the Sphinx temple during the Old Kingdom.) if we don’t deal with this now…. the Sphinx will no longer be reverred as an international marvel. ‘Nuff said.

Share Your Comments