The Great Sphinx of Giza is one of the world's oldest statues. The half-human, half-lion Sphinx statue is located on the Giza Plateau, on the west bank of the River Nile, near modern day Cairo. It faces due east, towards the rising sun, It is one of the largest single-stone statues in the world, and is commonly believed to have been built by the ancient Egyptians in the 3rd millennium BC. Many questions regarding the Sphinx, still remain unanswered, such as when it was actually built, and who built it, this lack of knowledge is often referred to as "the riddle of the Sphinx".
The Great Sphinx is carved out of the surrounding limestone bedrock, it is 57 metres long, 6 metres wide, and has a height of 20 metres. Blocks of stone weighing upwards of 200 tons were quarried during the construction to build the adjoining Temple.
The Sphinx's face, which in ancient times was painted dark red, was decorated with a stone beard, and had a cobra sculptured on its forehead, both of these have since fallen off. There are a number of stories explaining the Sphinx's missing nose, one is that it fell off when Napoleon's archaeologists were investigating the statue, another is that the Mameluke army used the Sphinx for target practice, and an artillery shell blew it off. Both of these stories have since been proven to be untrue. There is a general consensus that the nose was damaged in the 8th century A.D. under the orders of a Sufi who considered the Sphinx to be a blasphemous idol. All that can be said for certain is that remaining tool marks indicate that it was deliberately removed with the use of chisels.
A red granite stela has been placed between the front paws. It relates a story of King Thutmose IV when he was still a prince. It tells how, when hunting near Giza, he fell asleep in the shade of the Sphinx, which even then was mostly buried beneath the sand. The sphinx appeared to him in a dream complaining that his body was falling into ruin. The creature promised that Thutmose IV would be king one day if he restored the monument. The rest of the inscription has been eroded away, but Thutmose IV did become king. He removed sand from around the Sphinx and reset some of the facing stones that had fallen off. He then erected the stela to tell the story.
In the 1980's, work began in an attempt to restore the Sphinx, it lasted for over 6 years, and more than 2,000 limestone blocks were added to the body of the sphinx and chemicals were injected which were intended to protect the original crumbling surface. Unfortunately this treatment did not work, it just flaked away, taking with it parts of the original surface. Later various mortars and much labour, mostly untrained, worked for six months to repair it. In 1988 the left shoulder crumbled and blocks fell off. Present attempts at restoration are under the control of the Supreme Council of Antiquities, who are concentrating on draining away subsoil seepage which is damaging the rock. They have also repaired the damaged shoulder.