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The Sphinx Mystery

The Forgotten Origins of the Sanctuary of Anubis

Published by Inner Traditions
Distributed by Simon & Schuster



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About The Book

A book that verifies the existence of secret underground chambers beneath the Sphinx and demonstrates its origins as the Egyptian god of the dead, Anubis

• Includes an anthology of eyewitness accounts from early travelers who explored the secret chambers before they were sealed in 1926

• Reveals that the Sphinx was originally carved as a monumental crouching Anubis, the Egyptian jackal god of the necropolis

Shrouded in mystery for centuries, the Sphinx of Giza has frustrated many who have attempted to discover its original purpose. Accounts exist of the Sphinx as an oracle, as a king’s burial chamber, and as a temple for initiation into the Hermetic Mysteries. Egyptologists have argued for decades about whether there are secret chambers underneath the Sphinx, why the head-to-body ratio is out of proportion, and whose face adorns it.

In The Sphinx Mystery, Robert Temple addresses the many mysteries of the Sphinx. He presents eyewitness accounts, published over a period of 281 years, of people who saw the secret chambers and even went inside them before they were sealed in 1926--accounts that had been forgotten until the author rediscovered them. He also describes his own exploration of a tunnel at the rear of the Sphinx, perhaps used for obtaining sacred divinatory dreams.

Robert Temple reveals that the Sphinx was originally a monumental Anubis, the Egyptian jackal god, and that its face is that of a Middle Kingdom Pharaoh, Amenemhet II, which was a later re-carving. In addition, he provides photographic evidence of ancient sluice gate traces to demonstrate that, during the Old Kingdom, the Sphinx as Anubis sat surrounded by a moat filled with water--called Jackal Lake in the ancient Pyramid Texts--where religious ceremonies were held. He also provides evidence that the exact size and position of the Sphinx were geometrically determined in relation to the pyramids of Cheops and Chephren and that it was part of a pharaonic resurrection cult.



The Sphinx As Anubis

The first time I went to Egypt and saw the Sphinx with my own eyes, I was deeply shocked. I have already discussed in the previous chapter how hard it is to get a true impression of the proportion of the head to the body from a photo. And when I first saw the Sphinx, the ridiculously tiny head on the huge body was naturally one of the things that most shocked me. But what struck me even more was that the Sphinx did not look at all like a lion. I had always been told the Sphinx had the body of a lion with the head of a man, and I accepted that account as being true, since who was I to challenge such a fundamental “truth” that “everybody knows”? It had not even occurred to me that there could be anything wrong with this “truth.” But now that I stood there staring at the Sphinx with my own eyes, I failed to see a lion anywhere.
I rubbed my eyes, I examined my conscience, I craned my neck, I stared and stared, thinking that the obvious would soon become apparent to me if I just looked harder.
Well, there we were, stuck with the reality that wouldn’t go away: The Sphinx was something, but it certainly wasn’t a lion.
So what was it? It had four legs and it was lying on its belly in a position that is generally called recumbent. One can’t tell much from the paws, because they had been so mangled by restoration work and covered all over in small stone blocks. The original carved portion of the paws is no longer visible, so what they looked like can only be determined by inference or by guessing.
The thing that struck Olivia and me as most obvious and most peculiar was that the back of the Sphinx was entirely straight, that is, its spine was absolutely flat. It did not rise anywhere, whether in the rear or in the front. It was flat. All Egyptian statues and pictures of lions show the back rising sharply in front, to indicate the massive chest of a lion, and generally a mane is also clearly shown, as well as muscular haunches. But the Sphinx has no massive lion’s chest, no rising line of the back to a higher neck, no bulging muscles, and certainly no trace of a mane.
When the Sphinx was cleared of sand during the New Kingdom by the Pharaoh Tuthmosis IV circa 1400 BCE, the Egyptians of that time thought they saw a lion. This fallacy is thus not a modern one. It has been believed for 3,400 years. But just because something is believed for 3,400 years does not mean that it is correct. For many thousands of years it was believed the sun went around the earth, and that was not true either.
Many people have commented on the strange fact that there is no mention of the Sphinx in very early times in Egypt. To give a recent example, Mark Lehner has said in The Complete Pyramids that “there are no known Old Kingdom texts that refer either to the Sphinx or its temple.”1 But I would say that the reason for this is that people have been looking for the wrong things--texts referring to a lion with a man’s head will not be found, because that is not what the Sphinx was.
This opens up all kinds of possibilities. We have already seen that the man’s head was probably a recarving during the Middle Kingdom. So in the Old Kingdom, what we have to do is look for references to something else that might be the Sphinx and that is neither a lion nor an animal statue with a man’s head at all.
We will see that there are numerous references to something else, which was a gigantic creature that is sometimes specifically said to be at Giza.
But before we turn to ancient Egyptian texts, we need to consider what the Sphinx actually is, or I should say was, before it had its head recarved. In the previous chapter I said that I believe the Sphinx once had an animal head. Whatever the head was, it needed to be in the correct proportion to the body. So we come to the question: What beast could this be, lying on its belly, guardian of the necropolis of Giza?
The usual guardian of the necropolis in Egyptian tradition was the god Anubis, and he was represented as a dog, or jackal, or jackal/dog. Anubis is the Greek name of the god called Anpu in Egyptian, but because everyone uses the form Anubis, we shall call him Anubis. In fact, there is no real agreement as to what precise creature Anubis is. Some think that there was a wild dog in those days that looked like that, or the creature may have been a cross between a jackal and a dog. In the thousands of years that have elapsed, it may well be that this precise breed has disappeared.
The Egyptologist Alberto Bianchi has actually published an article claiming that Anubis was a wild dog and that “the image of the sitting dog as Anubis protects the deceased.”2 He also says the position is a natural posture for the wild dog: “As is common with dogs, they adopt when they are resting a characteristic position consisting in projecting their four legs forward, parallel to one another, keeping at the same time an attitude of watchful attention. Surely, the observation of this peculiarity of many occasions, mainly by the people working in the cemeteries, caused that it was given a transcendent meaning, linking it to the protection of the dead and the burials.”3 Certainly this is the precise position of the Sphinx, which conforms exactly to the natural position of the Egyptian wild dog as a guardian.

About The Author

Robert Temple is visiting professor of the history and philosophy of science at Tsinghua University in Beijing; fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society; member of the Egypt Exploration Society, Royal Historical Society, Institute of Classical Studies, and the Society for the Promotion of Hellenic Studies; and visiting research fellow of the University of the Aegean in Greece. He is the author of 12 books, including The Sphinx Mystery, The Sirius Mystery, Oracles of the Dead, and The Genius of China. He wrote, produced, and presented the documentary film Descent into Hell, based upon his book, Oracles of the Dead, for National Geographic Channel. His translation of the Epic of Gilgamesh was staged at the Royal National Theatre in London in 1993. He resides in England with his wife, Olivia. They are joint translators of Aesop: The Complete Fables.

Product Details

  • Publisher: Inner Traditions (January 20, 2009)
  • Length: 576 pages
  • ISBN13: 9781594772719

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Raves and Reviews

"Robert and Olivia not only did an outstanding job of pulling together a treasure trove of little known historic facts and photos but they put them together in a way that tells an exciting and compelling story. This book clearly lays out the age-old Sphinx mystery like a puzzle, and then solves it while making sense of every anomaly along the way. What an excellent piece of work!"

– Walter Cruttenden, Director, Binary Research Institute

"More than the unraveling of a mystery story, this book is a close-up look at the vanishing art of historical research and how academic infighting, politics, reckless restoration, and economic concerns affect such work. Temple makes an excellent case for the restoration of rigorous scholarly standards and the teaching of research techniques that go beyond electronic searches."

– Anna Jedrziewski, New Age Retailer, Jan 2009

“The true mysteries of the Sphinx, both hidden and forgotten, are brilliantly exposed in this compelling book by Robert and Olivia Temple. They have uncovered hard data revealing the manipulation and misinterpretation that dominate this area of Egyptology. Their use of solid evidence, textual and photographic, make their case unarguable.”

– Michael Baigent, coauthor of Holy Blood, Holy Grail and author of The Jesus Papers

“Brilliant! A remarkable work of detailed and painstaking research, integrative thinking, and original insight. The Temples’ reinterpretation of some Egypt’s abiding mysteries is more than thought-provoking: it is inspiring.”

– Rupert Sheldrake, Ph.D., author of The Presence of the Past

“I was swept straight into this marvelous book. It’s brilliant, original, occasionally delightfully malicious, and it showed me just how little I really knew about the Sphinx.”

– Colin Wilson, author of Atlantis and the Kingdom of Neanderthals and The Outsider

"Quite brilliant detective work and deduction has gone into the book and the photographic reproductions (most of them from the massive collection that Robert holds personally) are simply immense. . . . This is a book not to be missed."

– Simon Cox, Into the Duat Magazine, Feb 2009

"Although moderately technical (there really is no way to avoid it on a subject this compex), it is eminently readable and fairly easily understood. . . . Professor Temple makes no attempt to placate either side of the debate. He simply lays out his conclusions and allows the reader to decide whether they agree or not."

– Michael Gleason,, Feb 2009

"For anyone interested in ancient Egypt this book is required reading. It is a fascinating and compelling study of how consensus blindness, adopted too often with a dogged arrogance, is the perennial enemy of research and understanding."

– Michael Baigent, Freemasonry Today, Issue 48, Spring 2009

"Temple analyses ancient texts, commentaries, later eyewitness accounts, and early photographs, uncovering overlooked details. He discusses now-sealed secret chambers and his exploration of a tunnel at the rear of the structure (see This is indeed a monumental work!"

– Nexus New Times Magazine, Vol. 16, No. 3, May-June 2009

"What makes Temple so exciting, quite apart from the stupendous depth of his research, is his refusal to take on board any received wisdom. His attitude towards received wisdom and 'consensual reality', bringing into his sights declining standards of scholarship in the Google Age and the 'restorative' work done on the Sphinx, is blatantly critical: 'One of the greatest myths of humanity is that everyone cares about the truth. Many people do not . . . "

– Jerry Glover, Fortean Times 250, May 2009

"Whether or not Temple is right in his theories, the way he presents his case makes The Sphinx Mystery an interesting book if you're into Egyptology. It has rekindled my interest in the subject and should be read. It may wash the consensus blindness from your eyes."

– Curled Up with a Good Book, May 2009

"The author blends his expertise as a professor of history and philosophy to provide a fine in-depth probe of Egyptian mysteries."

– The Midwest Book Review, May 2009

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