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The equinox reveals one of the secrets of Egypt's iconic Sphinx

The sun set over the right shoulder of the Sphinx during the spring equinox this year.
The sun set over the right shoulder of the Sphinx during the spring equinox this year.
(Image: © © Egypt Ministry of Antiquities)

The Sphinx had a "distinctive astronomical" moment with the sun during the spring equinox when, in a shining flourish, the sun set on the shoulder of the half-man, half-lion statue on March 19, according to the Egypt Ministry of Antiquities.

This phenomenon happens only twice a year, during the spring in March and the fall equinox in September, according to the ministry. 

During the equinox, Earth's axis doesn't point toward or away from the sun, meaning that the Northern and Southern hemispheres receive equal amounts of the sun's light. In other words, the day and the night are equal in length.

Related: Day and night are perfectly balanced in spring equinox photo snapped from space

It's well known that cats enjoy basking in the sun, and the 241-foot (74 meters) tall Sphinx is no exception. The mythical half-man, half-lion is carved out of limestone bedrock. Its face might show the likeness of Pharaoh Khafre, the fourth king of ancient Egypt's 4th dynasty (2575 B.C. to 2465 B.C.), who had the second and third Pyramids of Giza built, according to Encyclopedia Britannica.  

The Sphinx is also strategically placed for the summer solstice in June, when the sun sets between the pyramids of pharaohs Khufu and Khafre.

The Sphinx's position during the equinoxes and summer solstice suggests that the ancient Egyptians purposefully positioned the hybrid lion-man statue. "This phenomenon proves that archaeologists were wrong when they said that the ancient Egyptians had found an ancient rock by accident and turned it into a statue of a human face and a non-human body," the Egypt Ministry of Antiquities wrote in a Facebook post

Other ancient cultures also built large monuments that captured the fleeting moments during the solstices and equinoxes, including Stonehenge in England, a "calendar-rock" in Sicily, a Neolithic henge in Germany and a Maya city in what is now Tulum, Mexico.

Originally published on Live Science.

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  • Robert Enninga
    admin said:
    Here's how the spring equinox and the Sphinx are tied together.

    The equinox reveals one of the secrets of Egypt's iconic Sphinx : Read more
    EDITOR PLEASE NOTE: The article states that the Great Sphinx of Giza is 241 feet (73m) tall. This is not correct. That dimension is its length.
    The correct dimensions of the Great Sphinx are:
    66 feet (20m) tall, 241 feet (73m) long, and 63 feet (19m) wide.
    Reply
  • TB168
    For those of you interested in the topic, check out the Robert Bauval book "The Orion Mystery" and its successor, whose title I've somehow forgotten. Truly fascinating stuff!
    Reply
  • pmcoelho
    Hasn't the sun changed its position since Ancient Egypt times?
    Reply
  • Cuger Brant
    As have the stars in relation to the Earth. Now who can tell me what star was the pole (North) star at the building of the sphinx?
    Reply
  • Suncat2000
    For those of us who live in the US, the equinox actually occurred on Thursday, March 19, 2020 at 11:49 PM EDT. March 20 was our first full day of Spring!

    It always amazes me that ancient cultures are attributed with using advanced mathematical calculations to align monuments and such, like the Sphinx, so they are positioned to predict equinoxes, solstices, and other astronomical events. It's much simpler than that: the power of observation!

    Trace the shadow of a pointy stick and mark transition points over the course of several years and you, too, will be able to predict those same events! You don't need a computer or fancy mathematical tables: just a stick and some dirt will do.
    Reply