Study finds ancient Egyptian inspiration in nature
The Great Sphinx of Giza in Egypt may have been shaped by the wind, according to a new study. And the ancient Egyptians then “refined” the appearance of the impressive stone figure.
Scientists have explored a theory, sometimes put forward by researchers, that the original Great Sphinx of Giza may have been a natural landform in the shape of a lion, which the ancient Egyptians modified to give the stone figure a cat-like face, reports arkeonews.net .
A team of New York University scientists has replicated the conditions that existed 4,500 years ago when the Sphinx was built to show how wind influenced the rock formations, possibly shaping one of the world's most recognizable statues for the first time.
Geologist Farouk El-Baz argued in a 1981 Smithsonian magazine article that, unlike the pyramids, the Sphinx was not entirely built by the ancient Egyptians, but rather that it was a “celestial facelift” rock was applied by ancient masons after desert winds shaped the structure's overall shape.
Now scientists at New York University have tested this theory by creating miniature lion-like landforms out of clay using fluid dynamics and discovered , that perhaps the shape of the rock inspired the Egyptians to create the Sphinx. Their work has been accepted by the journal Physical Review Fluids.
“Our results suggest a possible ”origin story" of how sphinx-shaped structures can form as a result of erosion, explains Leif Ristroph, an associate professor at New York University's Courant Institute of Mathematical Sciences and senior author of the study, which has been accepted for publication in the journal Physical Review Fluids. – Our laboratory experiments have shown that remarkably sphinx-like shapes can actually be formed from materials destroyed by fast currents.
The work focused on reproducing yardangs — unusual rock formations found in deserts as a result of wind-blown dust and sand – and an exploration of how the Great Sphinx could have emerged as a yardang, which was later detailed by humans into a well-known statue.
For this, Ristroph and his colleagues at New York University's Applied Mathematics Laboratory took mounds of soft clay with harder, less erodible material inside – mimicking the terrain in northeastern Egypt where the Great Sphinx is located.
They then washed these formations with a fast stream of water – to reproduce the wind, — who carved and reshaped them, eventually achieving a formation similar to the Sphinx. The harder or more resistant material became the “head” lion, and developed many other features, such as a cropped “neck”, “paws” lying in front on the ground, and an arched “back”.
“Our results provide a simple theory for the origin of what how sphinx-like formations can form as a result of erosion, notes Ristroph. – In fact, today there are yardangs that look like sitting or lying animals, which confirms our findings.”
“This work may also be useful to geologists, since it reveals the factors influencing rocks, and precisely that they are heterogeneous in composition, — adds the scientist. – Unexpected shapes arise from the way flows are directed around harder or less eroded parts.