Cultural Postcards + [Near East]

Heritage: Conservation works on the Sphinx in progress
The Giza Plateau was a hive of activity yesterday as workers supervised by restorers and Egyptologists installed iron scaffolding around the body of the Sphinx, 16 years after the decade-long project to restore it ended in 1998, writes Nevine El-Aref.

Conservation works on the Sphinx in progress
Salvage operation at the Giza plateau [Credit: Al-Ahram]

The director general of Giza Monuments, Kamal Wahid, explains that the conservation work includes two sections of the Sphinx’s body: a 24-cm wide block in the rear that was last restored in the late-Pharaonic period and has slid out of position; and a 31-cm-wide section of the neck affected by air pollution and erosion.

“This is a periodical maintenance of the great Sphinx which will last for only two months,” said Wahid.

Since it was carved during the Fourth Dynasty (2600-2500 BC), the Sphinx has for millennia acted as guardian of the western gateway to the Giza Plateau.

During the reign of the New Kingdom Pharaoh Tuthmosis IV, craftsmen covered the Sphinx’s body with limestone slabs, the surface having eroded into a series of deep recesses and rounded protrusions.

Further work was undertaken in the reign of Ramses II and during the 26th Dynasty, when limestone was inserted to consolidate the earlier restoration.

During Roman times some blocks were replaced with relatively soft and friable limestone, an example of a restoration attempt that did more harm than good. In the 1981-1987 restoration, according to Wahid, restorers removed all of the Roman-era casing and replaced it, at certain points, with cement, causing a large chunk of limestone to fall from the southern shoulder in February 1988.

The 10-year restoration project that ended in 1998 involved the removal of the casing stones, and the harmful cement and gypsum mortar used in earlier restorations.

Author: Nevine El-Aref | Source: Weekly Ahram [September 11, 2014]