Wednesday 29 March 2017
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An Undiscovered Sphinx of Giza, Part II
Incubation of dreams and the Sphinx
In my previous article I have demonstrated that the Sphinx still harbors many secrets completely overlooked, having discussed, among other things, the mysterious inscription in Greek found at the Sphinx in 1817 (later concealed by a covering), which deems the Sphinx to be an island, surrounded by water, dating back "to the immortal gods." Then I referred to evidence indicating that the Sphinx, much older than we think, was in its distant origin a representation of Anubis, as confirmed by the last monumental work (560 pages!) by the serious researcher and English scholar Robert Temple.
Today, I will focus on the use that was made - at least at certain times - of the Sphinx "Ankh-Sheshep", "The Statue of Life" as it was called in the Middle Kingdom.
North face of the Sphinx (Photo Gigal)The Sphinx from the back (Photo gigal)
This requires first that I should give you the most accurate report of what the Sphinx contains (here I would not speak of very small abnormalities detected by radar in the ground around the sphinx that for the moment have not led to any excavation) and this without speculation as it has been referenced in so many writings. And you'll be surprised! In fact, the reality is simply incredible and you will see with me that it has been a completely overlooked jumble of approximate information and disinformation that has obscured the Sphinx for a very long time. Indeed, if we were to make a thorough investigation, it would be complicated by the fact that many serious documents pass unnoticed, buried in silence, as if a desire not to show the truth is there, and one realizes that major discoveries have been made of which we have never heard. So, certainly, very few of you know for example that there are exactly three tunnel-wells in the Sphinx.
You have a tunnel dug at the rear of the Sphinx itself which is the best known one, another dug behind the head, and finally, the most overlooked which is located on the northern flank of the Sphinx.
The rear very small entrance (Photo Gigal)Sphinx enclosure
I'll start with this one which illustrates well what is unspoken about the monument. The tunnel located on the northern flank of the Sphinx at ground level, was opened in 1926 by Emile Baraize who finally sealed it with cement blocks. There was even a door that Baraize walled with stones that he found at the time in the vicinity. What is amazing is that Baraize left no account of what he found and explored in this tunnel, he was so busy with his work of cleaning and restoring the Sphinx. Yet, two pictures taken in 1926 by Pierre Lacau exist (in archives at the Golenischeff center in Paris) of the interior of the tunnel, but even a scholar such as Temple had no right to see them! All that is known is that the tunnel is very old because its entrance is blocked by the collection of stones (beneath the stones of Baraize) from the earliest restoration. The Sphinx has undergone many restorations in effect in the past, under different pharaohs. And we wonder why we do not reopen this passage to see where it leads and to explore it as we should? A very great mystery!
The pit dug behind the Sphinx's head and measuring 6m was, it seems, dug in the 19th century in an effort to explore the interior of the sphinx and it ends in a cul de sac. We still have the tunnel at the rear of the Sphinx, which is of particular interest to us today and which Henry Vyse found in 1881 but found that many travelers in the more distant past had already mentioned. Thus, the traveler Pancirolli Guido (1523-1599) had detailed in his book published in 1599: "The history of memorable things lost." We see in the passing that in 1599 there were discoveries made on the Sphinx that have already been forgotten! But this tunnel, according to a 1994 publication by Hawass (leader of the Supreme Council of Antiquities), was reopened and explored in 1979. Why wait more than 15 years to talk of a discovery of such importance? This tunnel, very narrow (room for only one rather thin person) and bare, in which one enters through a small opening at ground level at the rear of the Sphinx, begins with a 6m vertical descent. A iron ladder, affixed recently enables you to hold on for balance. The problem today is that this space is full of debris and rubble and a support girder that takes up a lot of space. Then the tunnel, back about 8m, is reinforced by wooden beams to where Baraize (him again) had poured cement in 1926 up to the hips of the Sphinx because a serious flaw existed there. Nonetheless, everything suggests that the tunnel continues to the head of the sphinx. It is unfortunate that we can not know in what way it continues beyond the cement! But what we see in the visible part is a round space that is widened enough to allow a person to lie down perfectly. More so, that's probably the therapeutic use of this mysterious cave, of which I want to talk today. Before speaking to you about it, I must give you similar information about the other two existing cavities:
There was a conical and irregular hole 2m deep on top of the head (cemented since) that Coutelle had already seen during Napoleon's expedition in 1798 which had enclosed other elements of the headdress of the Sphinx.
And then there is an interesting cavity whose entrance is covered by a sheet of metal (modern) that lies between the two legs of the sphinx. It leads to a small underground chamber on the vertical, where Henry Salt had walled (him too!) a subterranean entrance in 1817. Still another tunnel of which we know not today where it goes! Many researchers think that this cave was used by a priest so that he could talk without being seen by the crowd and thus give an oracle in place of the Sphinx. This oracular practice was widespread in the late Ptolemaic period where they tried to re-motivate the faith of people and we found in Fayoum (the fertile oasis of the pharaohs, 100km south of Cairo), many altars with secret rooms inside for this purpose. There may be a trail as Temple outlined in 1579 with the testimony of a traveler Johannes Heffrich who says that this chamber is a secret passage for a priest, without being seen, to go through a tunnel in the Sphinx's head and talk to the crowd invisibly ... We see anyway that the Sphinx still has many secrets to deliver even despite modern methods today.
Fissure hanches du sphinx cimentée par BaraizeYellow point at the rear of the sphinx the cement from Baraize
Hence, I've just told you of all of the known caves already explored in the Sphinx, but before returning to the one before us today, to fully understand its possible function, I must speak first of the origin of the therapies and medicine of Egypt and especially of the leading character: the indispensable Imhotep, the one who claims that he built the pyramid of Pharaoh Djoser at Saqqara, around 2600 BC.
Not only was Imhotep, whose name means "One who came in peace," the prime minister of Djoser, the grand architect of the kingdom, High Priest of Heliopolis, Grand Magus and chief of all the priests of northern Egypt, but he was also a great doctor, probably the first with his own school of medicine and temple. These buildings were located around the underground complex of the Serapeum, north of Saqqara. Last month, we also just discovered ancient surgical instruments at Saqqara. More than 2200 years before the birth of Hippocrates in Greece, still known as the father of our medicine, Imhotep himself, in Egypt, knew how to diagnose and treat over 200 diseases using anatomical terms of divisions and practicing surgery. We can find mention of this in the famous Edwin Smith Papyrus. The great Egyptologist James Henry Breasted says of Imhotep: "In priestly wisdom, in magic, in the formulation of wise proverbs, in medicine and in architecture, this remarkable figure of Zoser's reign left so notable a reputation that his name is not forgotten to this day." In the Royal Canon of Turin recognized by Jean-Francois Champollion as a document of historical importance ("The Turin Papyrus" written in hieratic script and found at Thebes in 1822, of which remains 160 fragments that form a papyrus 170cm wide and 41cm high, now in the collection of the Museum of Turin), a list containing the names of Ramses II's predecessors, including the names of gods supposed to have ruled Egypt before the pharaohs themselves, we find the name of Imhotep who is designated as a "son of the god Ptah". Along with Amenhotep, we have the only Egyptian mortal or hybrid who managed to attain the full position of a god.
But what is interesting here is that later, when the Greeks settled in Egypt, the Egyptian Imhotep was equated with their god Aesculapius: Asclepius the god of medicine whose school of medicine was called Asklepieion. It is quite possible that both Aesculapius and Imhotep, are one and the same person as we shall see and as a great number of researchers already claim... But what else is said about Asclepius? We are told that he is the divine son of Apollo and a nymph Koronis-Arsinoe (Arsinoe is also the name of a place located south of the southern edge of the Giza Plateau at Fayum), so he is a demigod. We are told that he was raised in an underground cavern by the centaur Chiron (the last centaur on Earth according to the ancient Greeks), who taught him all about medicine and more ... because Asclepius did not seem only to heal but he also raised the dead. The god Zeus, agitated by Asclepius' zeal to immortalize the land and thus disturb the established order of things, struck him with a blast of lightning and turned him into the constellation Ophiuchus ("the serpent holder")... there is a teaching of the ancient Egyptians that when the the gods died they were transformed into constellations or stars. ... The fact is that Ptah and Zeus are often associated with lightning.
The Turino Papyrus Sphinx
What is very important to remember, is how Asclepius cured; and mostly it was through the "incubation", the common practice then of sleeping through the night or several nights in a sacred temple enclosure to provoke a dream full of meaning and consequently be healed. Either Asclepius appeared in dreams to the priests and revealed to them the remedies for their patients or patients themselves received them in a dream and were cured.
Asclepius was portrayed with a stick upon which a snake is coiled, the symbol of medicine (not to be confused with the caduceus of Mercury, he with two snakes, symbolizing commerce and communication). A snake, for the oracular and medical functions of this medicine was also effected by the presence of a source of sacred water as we shall see, through water from out of the ground that with "the slow journey into the depths of the ground, allowed it to learn what was, what will be" said Rene Ginouvès in his remarkable work, and this water is symbolized by the "meandering" of the snake.
Asclepius had three sons and six daughters, including: Hygiene, Panacea and Meditina. Note that our Hippocrates (the father of medicine, from whom we derive the oath our doctors take) is recognized as a descendant of Asclepius from his paternal side... It is to him we owe the words: chronic, endemic, epidemic, convalescence, paroxysm, etc., and though Western medicine invokes him, in reality, his conception of medicine was very different from ours. Dr. Houda says for example that "the Hippocratic treatment is rather a meditation on death." Remember, Hippocrates went to Egypt to study medicine with the chief priests and he appeared to be an initiate of Pharaonic medicine. In fact, the medicine of Hippocrates was a carbon copy of that of Asclepius which was practiced around the temples. These places would include a temple-sanatorium on the surface, subterranean caves and an underground water source. You can still see the sanctuary of Asclepius today on the southern flank of the Acropolis, under the Parthenon in Athens with its source and its grotto, now converted into an orthodox chapel. You have the same thing with the temple of Epidaurus in Greece and at Pergamum. Now we know that Imhotep had a temple devoted to medicine at Saqqara with Serapeum grottos and caves and a water source available. In any he case proceeded exactly as Asclepius-Imhotep had in the vicinity of Serapeum with his patients. Apart from being the son of "Ptah", Imhotep had a mortal mother Kheredu-Ankh, who was elevated to a semi divine (as was the mother of Asclepius!) because she proclaimed that her father was the god Banebdjedet, a ram god of fertility that the Greeks later named Pan. On the other hand we must not forget that the ancient Greeks were already disputing about Asclepius, saying he was much older than the dating official was willing to say (even then) and linguists debate that the true meaning of the word "Asclepius" is etymologically "the hero of the mound," which is a purely Egyptian title. The assumptions are therefore increasingly strong in favor of Aesculapius and Imhotep being the same person...
The Greeks were fascinated with Egyptian science and Homer (the Odyssey) informs us: "Egypt is the land of the most learned doctors of the world." The medicine was not considered only an accumulation of knowledge and observation but also as a means of working on oneself to become a true channel of transformation.
Besides their complex treatments with botanicals, surgery and fracture reductions, here is what constituted the bulk of their medicine: they were drinking water from an underground source and bathing their patients in the water because for them it was undeniable that the water carried along the healing powers of the spirits of the Earth. Then they took care of those who had courage and determination to undergo the treatments. Patients would be fasting and making multiple ablutions in the sacred precincts of what was called the Abaton, i.e., in the temple, caves and caverns below, where no one else was allowed to enter. Then, patients slept in collective dormitories of the Abaton for dreaming. There were proper dream incubation rituals where the deeper understanding of Mother Earth was supposed to send you dream guidance regarding the reasons for your malady and how to treat it. The next day you would tell your dream to the priests who would then prescribe you a treatment. They also said that the first image that came to the mind of the dreamer became a guardian spirit that never left. The lesson to be drawn from this study of dreams is very sophisticated. They did not practice a generalized interpretation of dreams; it was considered that one person's interpretation of a dream symbol gave rise to different interpretations by different people. Each person was considered as having his own dream language and all work was done in accordance with the images and emotions of the patient. This science is called iatromantic incubation. The difference between a classic dream and an iatromantic dream is that the latter is sent for a specific purpose by a god of medicine in a sacred place designed for it and it should contain guidance for diagnosis and (or) treatment. To give an example: a man suffering from a stomach complaint came to the temple of Asclepius to receive a dream inspired by the god. He dreamed that the god handed him his right hand and gave him his hand to eat. The next day, the priests interpreted his dream and told him he had to eat five dates because at the time, dates were known as "divine fingers", and he was healed...
Imhotep Le sphinx inspiré (Photo Gigal)
The work of healing through dreams was well known to ancient Egyptians and for this I must take a moment to tell you about Bes. Auguste Mariette had indeed found a statue of Bes near the entrance of Serapeum. In fact, this spirit revered for its oracles at Abydos in southern Egypt, was also known to be oneiromantic. That is to say, it was also known to generate dreams that were then interpreted. Egyptians often placed its representation in the bedroom for their sleep to be populated with rich dreams. At the time, dreams were considered a very important means of therapy. Therefore, a caste of priest-doctors "the Wab", apart from secular practitioners ("the Soundu") who ran the country, lived in Houses of Life: Per-Ankh, at the temple to fulfill their dual function, priestly and medical. Most of the time they were doctor-priests of the lion goddess Sekhmet, and they practiced in the sanatorium of the temples, among other things iatromantic incubation on their patients. Disease was for them not considered as a divine punishment but rather as a rupture of the harmony between man and cosmos. They were to restore the patient's relationship with nature and harmony, well represented by the goddess Maat. That harmony was an essential value of Egyptian thought, which was required to counter negative forces, lies, injustice and the primal chaos from which the world was born. Maat was the guarantor of fairness and the overall balance of the world and this was taught in the temples by instruction.
Yet another goddess who was strongly involved in restoring the health of patients is Isis. The philosopher Diodorus of Sicily gives us testimony: "Now that she has achieved immortality, Isis enjoys treating the bodies of men and those who need her aid, clearly demonstrating her presence in their sleep and giving real and effective relief to those who call for help." This comment clearly indicates that at that time in Egypt, Isis was invoked for iatromantic activity. Right next to the Sphinx in the north-west was a small temple to Isis and we have the Egyptian Arabic texts from the Middle Ages that referred to the Sphinx as "the idol of Isis." Therefore, researchers like Temple are convinced that the cavity behind the Sphinx was designed for a patient to spend the night in order to obtain a dream of healing. Like the temple of Asclepius in Greece which could not contain a dozen visitors during incubation time, the location of the Sphinx would have served only the privileged 365 per year. On the other hand, we see cavities in the rock around the Sphinx, and walls in which there are small cells that could also be used for additional patients for incubation. At the time, approaching the Sphinx were monumental stairs, an immense staircase (see photo), and offerings were made on a small altar that lay between its legs. Being able to sleep in the body of the Sphinx would be a very impressive and unforgettable experience ... There is the famous dream Tutmosis IV had while resting after a hunt, at the foot of the sphinx, which is inscribed on the famous dream stele which was erected for eternity between the paws of the Sphinx. In this dream, the Sphinx asks him to clear the sand off it in exchange for which the prince (not yet the Pharaoh) would be granted rule over Egypt ... As I travel incessantly to the most sacred places Egypt, I wanted to test the effect of certain iatromantic sites, driven by my curiosity and the deep respect I have learned to have for the teachings of the ancient Egyptians, and I must say that the rendezvous was a surprise… As it is now forbidden to sleep on the spot of the ancient sanctuaries, I slept next to the place after getting soaked with water; as I was not ill - though there is always something to perfect - I had no specific request except that of receiving a message in a dream whatever it may be. As I rarely remember my dreams, I was afraid to miss that part and not retain consciousness of it. However, I was not disappointed; I had then, even if very short, the most vivid and colorful dreams I've ever had in my life! I tried different shrines and each time it did not fail! They were very personal messages, although I can attest that it was dream incubation, something I expected absolutely nothing about and I was visited by the sacred bird Bennu, the bird of Osiris, and the phoenix of the Egyptians who delivered to me a message of importance for my research. It is certain that my great familiarization with Egypt must have had something to do with it, but it happened also to several people accompanying me on my travels to Giza and the rest of Egypt.
Antoine Gigal
Text and Photos by Antoine Gigal
Translation to English: Lisette Gagne
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Bibliography :

  • "The Passage Under The Sphinx",in homage to Jean Leclant, vol. 1 (Paris: Institute of Oriental Archaeology, 1994) by Zahi Hawass and Mark Lehner.
  • "History of Divination in Ancient Times" by Auguste Bouché-Leclercq.
  • "Incubation: or, The Cure of Disease in Pagan Temples and Christian Churches" by Mary Hamilton, London, 1906.
  • "Operations Carried out at the Pyramid of Giza in 1837" by Howard Vyse, London, 1840.
  • "The Great Sphinx and Its Secrets: Historical Studies in the Light of Recent Excavations" by Selim Hassan. Le Cairo, 1953.
  • "Dieux guérisseurs et sanctuaires de source dans la Grèce antique" Lattes, 1992.
  • "The Rod and Serpent of Asklepios, symbol of medicine" by J. Schouten, Amsterdam, 1967.
  • "The Historical Library of Diodorus the Sicilian, Diodorus of Sicily.

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