The Great Sphinx: From the Eocene to the Anthropocene

The Great Sphinx: From the Eocene to the Anthropocene

Record date: Nov 01, 2017

Robert Schneiker, a Geologist/Geophysicist in Wisconsin, discusses geologic and geotechnical evidence in determining the age of the Great Sphinx in Egypt.

University Place Campus: 

University Place Lecture Series: 

University Place Subjects: 

Episode Transcript

- Welcome everyone to

Wednesday Nite @ the Lab.

I'm Tom Zinnen, and I work here

at the UW-Madison

Biotechnology Center.

I also work for UW-Extension

Cooperative Extension,

and on behalf of those folks

and our other cool organizers,

Wisconsin Public Television,

Wisconsin Alumni Association,

and the UW-Madison

Science Alliance,

thanks again for coming to

Wednesday Nite @ the Lab.

We do this every Wednesday

night, 50 times a year.

Tonight it's my pleasure to

introduce to you Bob Schneiker,

he's going to talk about one

of the most intriguing pieces

of work and geology

on the planet,

the Great Sphinx of Giza.

Bob was born in Milwaukee and

went to Nicolay High School,

and he got his bachelor's

degree at UW-Milwaukee

in geology and also got

his master's in geology

at UW-Milwaukee.

He's a professional geologist

and runs his own company.

Today, he gets to

talk with us about

one of the great

puzzles out there

that some ways pit

some archaeologists

versus geologists,

is that fair?

- [Bob] Yeah.

- That's going to be an

interesting arm wrestling match.


So, there are very few

things more intriguing

than the distinct the

Great Sphinx of Giza,

looking forward to hearing

what Bob has to say

about the Great Sphinx from

the Eocene to the Anthropocene.

Please join me in

welcoming Bob Schneiker

to Wednesday Nite @ the Lab.


- Thanks for being here and

thanks for that introduction.

How I got involved in this

is a very unusual story.

I get to do the ad, the PBS ad.

PBS changed my life.

I was watching the Nova


almost exactly

five years ago now,

December 19th, and I

saw Dr. Mark Lehner,

who was on the program

explaining how the Sphinx today

is weathering because

of shallow groundwater

that's wicking up.

As the water evaporates,

salt is accumulating

in the surface of the rock.

That rock then expands

and it exfoliates

and what looks like these

giant Pringles potato chips--

Where's the mouse? Right there--

So this looks like a

giant Pringles potato chip

and he's actually

reaching under it

and pulling it off and as

he's doing this in the program

he goes I hate to do this,

but this is happening

all the time,

and what happens is

that falls on the ground

and it turns to dust.

I knew instantly what

was going on here,

that that is the

water's wicking up,

and what I do most

the time, my real job,

is I've got a software

package that's used by

regulatory agencies and

environmental consultants

to establish cleanup standards

for contaminants and soil,

and to some extent groundwater.

And everybody

understands the process

of rain falling on the ground

and then it leeches

down to the ground

and like a coffee maker, it

picks up some contamination

and it carries that

down into groundwater.

Nobody understands the process,

or very few people

understand the process,

where the water is

gonna actually wick up,

carry contamination

with it to the surface,

and then at the surface,

if it's a volatile substance,

it'll go to the atmosphere

or else it'll bind,

it'll precipitate

out at the soil

and do what it's

doing at the Sphynx.

So I was just gonna write

a newsletter on the Sphinx,

that was it, I was not

gonna do anything else.

And just trying to--

Because part of what

I do with my software

is I also do training

in the development

of cleanup standards and

trying to get that point across

is very difficult to people.

So, but isn't the

Sphinx in the desert?

How in the world, where is

all this water coming from?

How can there be water,

shallow groundwater

affecting the Sphinx when

it's on what's I've always

heard has been referred

to as the Giza Plateau?

Well it turns out that's

not a very good description.

It's actually an escarpment,

and what an escarpment is

is an area--

I'll go to the next slide--

It slopes down like this,

and at where the Sphinx

is sitting right here,

it's an excavation

that was excavated out,

and the Nile River--

Oh, I shouldn't have done that--

The Nile River--

I got to use the mouse--

The Nile River will

at times actually

flood the Sphinx excavation.

So into this area right in here.

Hmm, I'll just point

to it right there.

Going back a slide.

So this is the area

that we're looking at

where the Sphinx is, and

you can see that the Sphinx

is sitting actually below grade,

the entire Sphinx is, you

can think of it as having

been constructed below grade.

By the time they went

around to carving the body,

all the material from

the head layer up

was already used to

build the pyramids

and then the body

itself was excavated out

and the material was

dragged into the front here

to form this area here which

is called the Sphinx temple,

and the blocks here were cut,

were dragged out

from the quarry here.

So basically the

Sphinx is the remnant

in the middle of a quarry.

This object over here is

this is the valley temple,

and this is the

causeway that leads up

to Khafre's pyramid,

and the Sphinx is

typically associated

with Khafre's pyramid, and

that's that sets the time

at which most of

the Egyptologists

assumed that it was constructed.

The body has a weathered

appearance to it,

but the head, and you

can't see it anymore

because it's been covered,

the rear paws also

don't look as weathered

as does the body itself,

looks extremely weathered.

The thing to remember is

is that it's an escarpment

and that actually at

times during high floods

the Sphinx would actually have

been an island in the Nile.

This was like really

astounding to me

when I started learning

all of this stuff.

So what I did as I ran

three different scenarios

in my software to figure

out what's happening

to the water at the Sphinx.

And so prior to construction,

precipitation fell on the ground

and it either went to

surface water runoff

or it evaporated.

The groundwater itself was

so deep that the wicking zone

didn't intersect

the land surface,

and so as static, it just

rose up to a given point

and it didn't do anything.

When they created the

Sphinx excavation,

when they dug down,

they intersected the

capillary rise zone,

and that turned the wicking on.

And that's the

weathering process

that Mark was

explaining on Nova.

After that, most of the time

the Sphinx had been filled in

with windblown sand, because

it is at the edge of a desert

and so the entire

excavation filled with sand.

At that point, even

though there's only

about one inch of

precipitation a year,

there is about a quarter inch,

0.66 centimeters of recharge

from even just that one

inch of precipitation.

And again, the wicking

didn't reach the surface,

and so you get a little

bit of positive recharge.

So those were the

three scenarios,

and I went to Vancouver

and I presented that.

A little bit more background

on what the Sphinx is,

I already was

saying some of this,

so it's a solid rock,

there's no interior,

there's no temple inside,

there's nothing inside.

Here and there there's

a couple of borings

but nothing much inside.

It's 73 meters long.

That's what, about 240 feet?

It's 20 meters tall,

that's about 66 feet,

and it is only as

far above sea level

as it is tall.

It's only 66 feet

above sea level.

The body of the Sphinx has

been assumed to weather

somewhere between

0.7 to one meters,

about two to three feet,

and serious modes of

weathering have been suggested.

The blocks that

you're seeing on this,

on the body of the Sphinx,

they've all been assumed to

have been added at a later date

after the Sphinx had

already weathered

for thousands of years,

and that was to

repair weathering.

And the head, there's

a lot of speculation

on the head having

been recarved.

So the question

is how old is it?

Strangely enough there

are no inscriptions.

Nobody signed, or at least

there's no artifact left

where somebody signed, the

artist did not sign this.

There is no mention

of the Sphinx until

what's called the dream stealer,

and that is this object that

looks like a door over here--

I don't know what's

going on with the mouse--

It's that object that looks

like a door over here--

Let me try it this

way without that--

Anyways, it's a huge slab of

granite that was put there,

and Tutmos the 4th put it there.

What he did is he

was out hunting

and he had,

and the Sphinx was--

And he fell asleep in

the shadow of the Sphinx

and the Sphinx

was buried in sand

and he had a dream, and in

the dream the Sphinx told him

if he were to clear the

sand from the Sphinx

he would become

the next Pharaoh.

He was not in line to

be the next Pharaoh.

To do so he had to

kill his brother,

which he did, but

he had permission

from the Sphinx to do so.


So that's the first time there's

any mention of the Sphinx.

It's true, like I said earlier,

it's typically attributed

to Khafre or perhaps Khufu,

and it's a 30-year difference

between a father and

a son at that point.

But as I was doing my

research, thank you.

As I was doing my research,

I found that there were

a lot of geologists

who are saying

that the Sphinx is

older, far older,

than any of the Egyptologists

were willing to accept,

and they were all

using weathering,

the weathered

surface of the Sphinx

as the evidence that the

Sphinx must be extremely old.

They all without hesitation

want to rewrite prehistory.

So basically it was

refugees from Atlantis

who had originally

immigrated from Mars

that built the Sphinx, is

pretty much what they're saying.


So they presented

these papers,

and the biggest one

would be Robert Schoch.

He's a PhD geologist,

geophysicist from Yale.

He teaches at Boston University,

and he teamed up with

John Anthony West,

who's anti-science pro magic.

And they're both saying

that it's much older.

So where did this come from?

What did the idea that

the Sphinx is older

actually come from?

It came from Edgar Cayce.

I had never heard

of Edgar Cayce.

I talked a lot of people.

They're astounded that I

didn't know who this guy is,

but I knew nothing of him.

He was saying that

the Sphinx is older

and that there's

a Hall of Records.

So that the people

who left Atlantis--

or while they were in Atlantis-- they took all of their knowledge

and they put it in

these repositories.

And one was in Atlantis itself,

one is somewhere in

the Yucatan Peninsula,

and the third one

is beneath the paw,

the right paw of

the Sphinx in Egypt.

And it contains the

knowledge of Atlantis,

Ancient Aliens, or again,

something like that.

You can't really pin these

people down on anything.

How does he know this?

How does Edgar

Cayce you know this?

Well he in a previous

life was there.

He was the one of

the high priests.

These people that--

You know, you get reincarnated.

You're never that

just the laborer.

He was the high priest who

helped design the pyramids

and the Sphinx, and his

name at the time was Rata,

so this was at

10,500 BC roughly.

So the question is who

would believe any of this?

Well this is Mark Lehner, this

is the guy that was on Nova,

that was explaining that how

the Sphinx is weathering today.

He actually went there

in the early '70s

as a follower of Edgar Cayce.

I mean, the way I

describe it is it's like,

do you talk to people

who are smokers

and you're saying, "Well,

why are you smoking?"

And they say, "Well, I

did this, you know."

This is not me

making this decision,

this was a teenager making

this decision to smoke.

He was a teenager when he was

enthralled with all of this,

and quite capable, and got the

funding and went over there

and they drilled where the Hall

of Records is supposed to be

and he found nothing.

And then he abandoned the idea.

He's acting as a scientist

even though he wasn't a

scientist at this point.

He was not emotionally

attached to this,

so I'm not criticizing

him, I'm praising him

for his ability.

It was within hours,

a day at the most,

after drilling it,

that he gave up the idea

that there was a Hall of Records

beneath the paws

of the Sphinx

so now he's gone

to the dark side,

according to all the

Edgar Cayce followers.

He's, you know, science,

he's gone to science.

And so he's now,

if you go online

you'll find they

already talked about him

concealing the truth,

and he's hindering research.

Mark is not like that.

I met with Mark,

and he was like encouraging me

to do the work that I'm doing.

I went to Boston

and met with him.

He was just the nicest person, he's just like he is on TV,

he's all excited about

showing me things,

so he's not like that at all.

So the Sphinx is

clouded in myth,

and I knew that the

groundwater wicking

couldn't fully explain

what I was seeing.

And you've got these

geologists who are claiming

that it's older, and you've

got the abrupt appearance

of the Egyptian civilization.

I just decided to start at

the beginning as a geologist

to see what I might find.

Not sure I'd find anything,

but for a geologist,

the beginning

is when the rocks

were deposited.

So the rocks that

make up the Sphinx

were deposited 40

million years ago,

they're a limestone,

so 40 million years ago

puts it here into the Eocene.

I didn't know much

about the Eocene

and I was really puzzled

by this thing here.

I was like okay, well what

started that the Eocene?

It's the PETM.

So I'm like well,

what is the PETM?

So it turns out that that's the


Thermal Maximum.

So when geologists

divide time up

they didn't know for instance

that an asteroid killed

off the dinosaurs,

they just knew

something big happened,

no idea what that

something big was.

Nobody knew anything about

the Paleocene-Eocene

Thermal Maximum,

but there's a distinct

difference between the rocks

and the animals before

and after this event.

So what was it?

It was a release of 3000 to

10 billion tons of carbon.

This is roughly equivalent to

all known fossil fuel reserves

or perhaps double all

known fossil fuel reserves

on the planet, and they all,

it all has a signature

of organic carbon,

so whatever the source

is, it was organic.

Humans have only put this

in perspective since 1751.

We've released 337 billion tons.

So this release occurred

somewhere between

over 13 years of

perhaps even shorter.

Most estimates

around 10,000 years.

I'm finding now that people

are thinking more around

5000 years is how long

it took to release

all of this carbon.

So what happened?

Well, prior to the PETM,

carbon dioxide levels

were about 1000

parts per million.

During the PETM

they climbed to 1600

or perhaps as high as

3000 parts per million

for carbon dioxide.

Global warming of four

to eight degrees C.

Extreme ocean acidification.

And it took Earth 50,000

to about 150,000 years

to recover from that.

So where did all this

carbon come from?

Well, a big part of it

is they're thinking...

Well no one's really

sure is the first answer,

but it could be the

methane hydrates,

the clathrates that are

at the bottom of the ocean

is one of the sources,

the volcanic baking

of organic sediments

is like peat deposits

and the northern Atlantic

as the continents are

being ripped apart,

they're thinking that

might be the source.

It could be in the Antarctic.

There were no glaciers

on Earth at this time,

so it could be the entire

Antarctic was degassing

with all this permafrost.

Could be wildfires.

it's been suggested that it was

at least set off by a comet,

nobody's really sure,

more than likely it's

more than one source

and some sort of reef

reinforcing cycles.

So this is a picture of what

Alaska would have looked like

during the PETM.

That's not a Photoshopped image.

So this was taken by Ira Block.

People in this room

might know him. He was

actually a photographer

for the Wisconsin State Journal for a while,

and these pictures have

been in like Smithsonian

and National Geographic, and I

asked him if I could use them

for this presentation

and he said yes.

So you can see that Alaska

looks very different,

that you've got warm poles and

it's not hot at the equator.

And this is a picture of

what Wyoming looked like.

So Wyoming was much wetter.

There are alligators that

can survive in Wyoming

throughout the year.

The biggest difference is,

so it's wetter,

but you also didn't

have the cold

continental interior winters

like we're about to experience,

that didn't happen

during the PETM.

Oh, and that person by

the way is Scott Wing

and he studies the PETM

at the Smithsonian.

So what happens when you

warm up the planet like that?

What happened? Well, you can

see in this plot here,

this is a plot of genetic

diversity through time,

and this dip over here is

the demise of the dinosaurs,

and then not much happens

until the PETM comes along

and suddenly you get a

burst in genetic diversity,

all sorts of species up here

where they never would

have been seen before.

Horses, rhinos,

pigs, hippopotamus,

all sorts of different

things appear.

Primates are a big

one, an important one.

And then you've got--

The only extinction

that it caused was

benthic foraminifera,

particularly the nummulites.

And they quickly recovered

after this extinction event.

And it isn't due

to plate tectonics,

because you've gotta

both think, well of course,

maybe North America was

closer to the equator

and that's the reason that

you had the warmer winters

and the rainforests

extending all the way

to the Arctic Circle.

No, I mean, when

you look at this

you can instantly recognize

that that's Earth.

It looks pretty much

the same as now.

There's a couple of differences,

big one would be--

There is a gap between

North and South America,

and Africa is an island, so

you can envision some sort of

ocean current cutting

through those areas

and keeping the planet

somewhat more temperate.

But it's instantly

recognizable that

that is in fact Earth.

And it turns out that the

PETM was not the only one,

that this happened

more than once.

You've got the Eocene

Thermal Maximum 2,

the Eocene Thermal Maximum 3,

the early Eocene

Climatic Optimum,

the Middle Eocene

Climatic Optimum,

the Middle Miocene Climatic

Optimum, and there are more,

and I'm sure there's

more yet to be found.

My favorite one is the Elmo.


And not because of the

character on Sesame Street,

but because it stood for Eocene

Layer of Mysterious Origin,

because they didn't know what

they had when they found this.

And it's now called the

Eocene Thermal Maximum 2,

so I like Elmo.

So what does this have

to do with the Sphinx?

I'm supposed to be giving

a lecture on the Sphinx.

So I was spending

my time looking at

all these hyper thermals going,

this is the coolest thing,

I never knew anything about

hyper thermals, why have I

never heard anything about this?

And I then I was like no,

I'm supposed to be doing

research on the Sphinx,

so I went back and I pulled

out some really old photos

before the Sphinx is repaired

and I looked at the

head and I said oh my,

the head's a hyper thermal. (chuckles)

I just looked at this

photo and I just said

yeah, because you can

see in these cores here

there's this

dissolution horizon

associated with the

acidification of the ocean,

so instead of

depositing limestone,

the limestone's eroding away,

and then you get this clay

rich layer that's darker

and it's far more

weather resistant

and I looked at the

neck here and I'm like

that's a hyper thermal.

I thought this was

such a crazy idea,

I didn't even look

into this for months.

I mean for one thing, the head

is about nine meters thick

and typical hyper thermal is

only about one meter thick.

When I started looking and

I realized it was the MECO.

The MECO turns out to be eight

and a half nine times longer

than all the other

hyper thermals,

and I'm like oh.

So I actually went to Boston

and I met with Mark Lehner

and I explained

what I was doing.

I got to this point and he

was very interested in this,

and he said well,

who would know more?

Oh actually, oh let me--

I'm getting ahead of myself.

So when looking at this,

yeah, some of that is.

So I said well, Scott

Wing at the Smithsonian,

he knows all about

hyper thermals.

Well he wrote back and he said,

"What a very intriguing


And he also wrote

back and he said that

the MECO is an SBZ 17.

And I'm thinking SBZ 17

or 18, whatever it takes.

I'm channeling Mr. Mom.

I have no idea what SBZ 17 is.

But it didn't take me very

long to find this paper,

and in it, there's

a particular--

In it, it lists fossils,

and if you find those fossils

you're dealing with very

specific small divisions

in geologic time,

so this is SBZ 14, 15.

Here's SBZ 16, 17, 18, 19.

So there's a particular fossil

Nummulites Gizihensis,

named after the Giza Plateau,

and Mark Lehner mapped it

here in the Sphinx.

I darkened that column to

show where he's identified

that that fossil exists.

And so when that

species goes extinct,

that puts you into SBZ 17.

And I was like, you're kidding.

I actually found then another

fossil in the formation above,

so I bracketed this, and

yeah, the MECO appears to be

in that in the actual

head of the Sphinx.

And it starts at the chin, so

the MECO starts at the chin,

and I'm not sure

what's going on between

the extinction of the new

Nummulites Gizihensis

and the MECO.

It might be an onset.

It's very soft rock,

so it might be the

ocean acidification,

maybe it tells us something

about the onset of the MECO.

So I wanna make sure I

covered everything here.

So eventually though,

the Eocene comes to an end,

and it ends with this thing,

and Tom, you would know

the correct enunciation of that, it's a French term.

- [Tom]: (Inaudible)

Excuse me?


Grande Coupure,

I'm gonna call it that.

What it means is the great

change in continuity,

and so something, again,

something happened,

something big, geologists

have identified

that there is something

different between the Eocene

and the Oligocene.

What is that?

Well, this is what

Earth looked like

at the end of the Eocene.

And again, it looks

pretty much like now.

You've still got North and

South America are detached,

Africa is still an island.

Probably the biggest difference

here is you've got India

is beginning to

ram up into Asia,

and when it does it

creates the Himalayas,

and with the Himalayas,

the rock gets pushed

up into the atmosphere,

that causes

increased weathering,

and that weathering decreases

carbon dioxide levels,

so the Earth is going to cool,

because the Himalayas

have gone up

and you've got all this

increased weathering.

So maybe that's what's going on.

Then you have a couple

of craters, again,

dated to exactly at

the end of the Eocene.

You've got the Popigai-- if I'm

pronouncing that correctly--

crater in Russia,

it's 62 miles across.

It is the fifth largest

known crater on Earth.

Then you have the

Chesapeake Bay crater.

It is 53 miles across.

It is the ninth largest

crater on Earth,

and then there's another

one off of New Jersey

called Tom's Canyon,

14 miles across, not ranked,

but all dated to exactly

at the end of the Eocene.

So whatever happened

in the Grande Coupure,

it caused temperatures

around the world to drop.

That caused an extinction event,

and the temperatures dropped.

Antarctic glaciation starts,

that draws ocean levels down,

that exposes the rock

where the Sphinx is,

that has been an area that

it's been in the ocean,

now it's exposed as land,

and weathering starts

and soon the early Nile

River begins to flow.

About 10 million years ago,

the Tethys Ocean

closes the eastern end

of the Mediterranean, forming

the Mediterranean Ocean.

At about 6.5 million years ago,

the Mediterranean gets pinched

off by Gibraltar and Spain,

and it's called the

Messinian Salinity Crisis.

It sounds like they

ran out of salt,

but what actually happened

is that the Mediterranean

dried up and became

a huge Death Valley.

It was about five kilometers

deep at its deepest,

pressures were about 1.7

times that at sea level,

and there were temperatures

of 80 degrees C,

it's estimated about

175 degrees Fahrenheit

at the bottom of the

of that Death Valley.

So what happened is

that all the rivers

that are flowing into

the Mediterranean now

are cutting canyons,

because they're gonna cut,

depending upon

how high they are,

what's the amount of relief.

I'm sure the first

geologist who ever saw this

said that can't

happen, you cannot cut,

a river cannot cut

below sea level,

it's just completely impossible.

I'm sure they were

looking at this going,

you either have to raise Africa

a couple miles into the air

or you have to drain

the Mediterranean,

like either one's

ever going to happen.

Well it was the Mediterranean,

and so it's a huge

Canyon formed here,

and you can see where Cairo

is, so if the Sphinx were

there it'd be looking,

it'd be having a great view

looking down into this

canyon in front of it.

Then you have the Zanclean Flood at about 5.3 million years ago.

What happened is the Atlantic

Ocean cut open by Gibraltar

and started filling the basin.

It took it about two years.

So you can see that there's

water rushing in at A.

There's water rushing

in from the Atlantic

and it's first

filling this basin,

and after it fills

this part of the basin

it comes down over here

and it starts filling

the other part of the basin,

refilling the Mediterranean.

So now this Sphinx

has an ocean view.

If it were there.

Then you get the

Mid-Pliocene Warm Period.

So that's about 3.3 to

three million years ago,

carbon dioxide around pretty

much like we've got today,

a little bit higher,

a couple degrees of warming,

sea level rises to 25 meters,

so the Sphinx is

at only 20 meters,

so this thing is swimming

in the Mediterranean,

if it were there at this point.

There's a narrow gulf that

reaches all the way to Aswan,

which is this A

on the map right here.

So it'd be kind of like

a fjord kinda thing,

it would look like.

Then on top of all of this

you've got the Pleistocene,

so we know about that

here in Wisconsin.

You look out the doors

here and you can tell

that we had

continental glaciation

and that's been

going on for about

the last 2.6 million years

and it just ended

about 11,700 years ago.

There's ice on the continents

between 1500 to 3000 meters

if not even more.

What happens when you

lock up all that ice

into the continents,

ocean levels drop.

So this would cut out--

The Nile would have quickly

cut a canyon, so something on

the order of say Devil's Lake.

The Sphinx would be looking

into nothing all that deep.

So what causes that?

Well that's orbital forcing,

so that's differences

in the tilt,

so the upper one is showing you

how far the Earth is tilted,

so it switches between or

varies between about 22 degrees

and 24 degrees, and goes

back and forth like that.

The shape of the Earth's

orbit changes being tugged on

by other planets

and other things

and so that the shape

of the orbit changes

and then you also have the

precession of the equinoxes,

so sometimes the Earth is

leaning towards the Sun,

the northern hemisphere

in the summer,

and sometimes it's

leaning away from the Sun

on its closest approach.

So right now it's actually

leaning away from the Sun

in its closest approach,

so we're getting warmer

winters and cooler summers.

What happens-- And the

last time that happened

was about 5000 years ago,

so Europe leans towards the Sun

and you get increased

warming over Europe.

Well that causes increased

air hot air rising,

that sucks the monsoons

further north over Africa

and it creates the Green Sahara.

So northern Africa has been

swinging back and forth

between green and desert Sahara

for about for something

like 20 million years.

There are 230

separate green Saharas

that have been mapped out over

the last eight million years.

I'm thinking this has a lot

to do with human evolution.

When John Hawkes is here

he's talking about the places

that they haven't

looked in Africa.

Well this is a big place

where people haven't looked,

mostly because it's

too hot right now

and in some ways very dangerous.

What happened is that

all the precipitation

falls over northern Africa.

The higher flows

make the Nile Valley

completely uninhabitable,

all this water

is being channeled down

through into there.

The Sphinx limestone is going

in and out of the Nile River

as the water levels

go up and down.

You've got precipitation

also falling on the ground

and you've got this acidic

groundwater is forming

these karst limestone areas,

so caves and things

of that sort.

So this has been going

on for 20 million years.

The last of the

green Sahara periods--

Its people are just learning,

and this is all like in

the last 20, 30 years

that people are

learning these things,

so the last one they call

the African Humid Period

and so the Sahara

was densely populated

with people and animals,

and it's considered the world's

largest open-air art gallery.

There's artwork all

over in in the Sahara.

This is just one

of the depictions.

If you've ever seen the

movie "The English Patient"

where they start out

at the beginning.

They show that--

That's the painting,

that's the cave of the swimmers,

and that artwork is dated

to about 10,000 years ago.

So all that water was

forced into the Nile,

so the Nile is the

longest river on Earth

and there's three

basic rivers to it.

So you've got the Blue Nile,

which is coming in right

here from Ethiopia,

the White Nile that comes

from the South here,

and there was another

major tributary

called the Yellow Nile,

today it's called Wadi Howar,

and that just means

it's a dry river valley.

But that used to be a major

contributor to the Nile River.

And when the Sahara dried

about 5500 years ago

people and animals had to leave.

It just became so inhospitable that they could not stay there.

As they migrated people

first domesticated animals

and then plants.

As they started migrating south they were intercepted over here

by the Yellow Nile, so

they're migrating out,

then they're finding it's

very nice in the Nile,

in the Yellow Nile, there's

the river flowing there.

And then as the climate

changed they got forced

down the Yellow Nile and

into the Nile Valley.

So it became the Silicon

Valley of its day.

People were brought

in from all over

with all sorts of different

ideas from different places,

and they were all concentrated

on that narrow little strip,

and that's the start of

the Egyptian civilization.

It all relates to

climate change.

So now we got the recipe

to make the Sphinx.

We've got the overlying

bedrock on the Giza escarpment

has weathered away during all

these African humid periods

and other events.

The weather resistant

MECO's formed the capstone,

that the hard layer that's

formed the Giza escarpment.

So if there were no MECO

there'd be no pyramids

because they all would

have washed away long ago.

Then you've got the

Nile is cutting through

and creating the Nile Valley

and you've got the ancient

Egyptians having migrated

into the Nile Valley.

Now we just gotta

make the Sphinx.

So how do you do that?

So I looked at this photo, this

is at exactly the same time

that I looked at this photo

and said wait a minute,

there's a hyper

thermal in the head.

I went, I know how

the Sphinx was made.

I just remember that, it

was like instantaneous,

two things just as fast

as I could think of them.

The way that the Sphinx was

made is it was pounded back.

You have to understand

the tools that they used.

So the this is--

Mark here is holding

a two-handed pounder,

and it is just what you think,

it's just a rock, and

they would take that rock

and they would bang onto

the surface of the rock

and they would flake rock off.

Then he also used what's

called a stone hammer.

So the stone hammer over here

is just a rock, and they

cut two grooves in it

and they put some sticks on it

and they tied the sticks

together with leather

and then they would

take that and they would

bang onto the rock again

and they'd flake rock off.

The final thing that they

had was down over here

and that is the copper chisel,

and they only used

that for detailed work,

because it's not

that hard a tool.

They just used that when they

were doing very detailed work.

So the Sphinx with this soft

rock that's been weathered

in and out of all these

green Sahara periods,

when they got around

to carving it,

it was so soft, in fact

there's places it's so soft

you could crumble

it in your fingers.

That weathering occurred

prior to the construction,

not since construction.

So what everyone is

considering as weathering

is not weathering.

Part of the evidence is if you

look at this fracture here.

So this bedrock fracture

predates the construction

of the Sphinx,

and if it were weathered

by precipitation

that also would have been

altered by that weathering,

but it's not, it's

fairly angular,

so there's this is not

weathered by precipitation.

What everyone has

been considering

as weathering by precipitation

is actually part of the

construction process.

So I already went through this,

so I'm saying that

there was a hybrid,

so that it was statue

and part pyramid,

so the head and the rear

paws were carved in place

but the body, sorry,

the head and the paws

were carved in place but

the body was pounded back

and then covered.

So that means that these

blocks here are original.

These are not repair blocks, these are original blocks,

some of, at least the

first layer of blocks.

So I talked about that.

So the weathered

body is pounded back,

covered with harder

limestone blocks

that they quarried

elsewhere and brought in

and carve that to form the body.

Mark Lehner speculated on

this and his dissertation

on the Sphinx and

then dismissed it.

He didn't think

that this was valid,

and he gave his reasons why

he didn't think it was valid.

I could give a lot of reasons I don't have time for right now

as to why I think

this is very valid.

Then you also have people that

are trying to use the head

to try to figure out exactly

who the Sphinx looks like,

but one of the things

that's really important

to look at here is that,

so the MECO is at the

base here, at the chin,

then you've got these

bedding planes at the mouth

and the nose and the eyebrows,

so to some extent

proportions of the face

were controlled by the geology.

This is not a perfect

material that you can make

anything you want out of,

there's restrictions on it.

Nobody even knew what the

pharaoh looked like anyways,

I'm sure they didn't,

because they didn't have

photography or anything,

so unless you met the pharaoh

you wouldn't even know

that this doesn't

look like the pharaoh,

so I don't think you

can use the proportions

of the face to figure out

what the age of the Sphinx is

in terms of who made it.

For the last 4500

years most of the time

the Sphinx is buried

up to its neck in sand,

and I'm suggesting that rather

than having been weathered

the blocks were looted.

The same is true of

the of the pyramids.

They used to be covered

with a white limestone,

and all that's been looted

to build the city of Cairo.

So it's not unusual, looting

was a very common practice.

So I'm saying there's

very little type of any--

Because it's buried in sand

there's no wicking going on,

so there's very little

weathering at all going on

for the last 4500 years.

As I already kind of mentioned,

this means that you have

to revise the construction,

I mean the repairs.

So there's been, this

is not a complete list.

There's been a lot of

repairs on the Sphinx,

this just takes it up

to the Roman period.

But most of what has been

considered to be repairs

is attributed to Thutmose IV,

the guy that fell asleep at

the at the base of the Sphinx

and dug it out of sand,

I'm saying no, that most of

that, if not all of that,

must be attributed to the

original construction.

I'm not sure how to rework

this, I don't know the details.

I'd have to

sit and look at it,

but I would argue that we have

to change the whole history

of the Sphinx in terms

of its construction,

I mean its repairs.

So my discoveries are

that wicking groundwaters

weathering the Sphinx,

there were all sorts

of different proposals

like its dew and wind

and various things,

that I'm saying no, it's

wicking groundwaters

what's weathering

the Sphinx today.

The weathering was turned

on by pouring the limestone

and creating the Sphinx

enclosure, as it's called.

The MECO is exposed in

the head of the Sphinx,

and the limestone weathered

long before construction,

so the Sphinx is

constructed as a hybrid

and most of what's

called weathering

is actually part

of the construction

and you need to rework to the

chronology of the repairs.

And I'm thinking now I'm done.

I'm just this guy

working out of his condo

here in Madison, Wisconsin.

There's nothing else that I

could possibly be contributing

to the history of the Sphinx.

And then I see this.

So there's Lindsey

Graham with his thumbs up

standing between the

paws of the Sphinx.

It turns out this

was a US aid project

to repair the Sphinx.

It's a several million-

dollar project.

And what they're looking at is

there's puddles of water now

that are forming in

front of the Sphinx,

so this right here, this

is the Sphinx temple,

this is the Valley temple

that I pointed out before.

So the Sphinx is just

behind over here,

and so these puddles here are

just forming in the desert

where there's never

been any puddles before.

And nobody's really sure

where they're coming from.

You no longer have the

annual floods coming

because the Aswan Dam has

been there since I think 1970,

so that's not the source.

So where is all this

water coming from?

So AECOM was hired by US Aid

to do a groundwater model

of the Sphinx and

design a system

to draw the water table down,

and also try to some

extent to figure out

where all that water

is coming from.

So they were saying

it was leaking sewers,

but if it's sewers you'd end

up with nitrates in the water,

and there's no nitrates.

So it's not nitrates.

It's been assumed that

it, one of the other ideas

is that it's municipal

water supplies.

It's possible, I mean it is

on the higher end of the range

of what you'd be

expecting for loss

from a municipal

water supply system,

but it is possible.

There's a canal that--

I'll show you a picture of that

in a second--

There's a canal that is maybe

a quarter-mile away, not

even that, from the Sphinx,

runs north-south,

so perhaps that's the source.

All of these have merit, and

and you need to evaluate them,

but what they did, they

did groundwater modeling,

a MODFLOW model if anybody's

familiar with the technique.

So it's a real high

end numerical model,

and they said that the water

is coming from a golf course.

Believe it or not there's

a golf course right there.


And they also installed

a multi-million dollar

dewatering system.

Interesting enough, I

mean this has relevance,

they were trying to

figure out what do you

do with all this water?

If you're gonna be pumping all

this water out of the ground,

what do you do with it?

And so they were

thinking of putting it

into an evaporation pond

and letting it evaporate.

But they didn't do that

because they're like

well, what are we gonna

do with all the salt

that we're gonna

be accumulating?

So they're well aware of the

fact that evaporation rates

are really high.

When I looked at this report

I was like yeah, they get it.

Here it is capillary rise,

this is what got me into

this all in the first place.

They actually put in

a series of test pits

and they actually measured

the capillary rise.

You can see the

color change here

between this being a little

darker and that being lighter,

because the groundwater is

wicking up into that rock.

And I was like,

yeah, they get it.

But no.

They didn't simulate it.

Remember what got

me into all this?

The geologists and engineers

don't understand this process.

Well, they didn't

understand the process.

They didn't include

it in the model,

and I think they

really missed it

because this is what the

area used to look like,

and there you can see the

canal coming through, up here,

and I don't know how

long that's been there?

I'm thinking about 100 years.

The Sphinx would be located

behind this pyramid,

about in this general area,

but you can see this

is all farmland.

This was all farmland.

It doesn't look like this today.

This is what it

looks like today.

It's a different perspective.

The Sphinx is down

over in here.

I think that's it right there.

And you've got this--

It's urban.

Here's the golf

course, by the way.

Right over here,

that's the golf course.

So I'm looking at

this going, yeah.

I mean it took me a

while to figure this out

and I did do the modeling too,

but it's again,

what happened here

is that all the water,

all the groundwater

used to evaporate

at the rate of about

one and a quarter

meters per year.

It would evaporate

into the atmosphere.

It's now paved.

We think of pavement

here as stopping

the ability to

recharge groundwater

with the rain falling on it.

Well here it stopped the ability

of the water to evaporate out.

It's trapped underneath,

it has no place to go.

The Sphinx is actually staring, you can go online and see this,

at a KFC Pizza Hit.


It's not very far,

and you can actually

take pictures

with Pizza Hut written backwards

because it's on the window,

and there's also

my favorite picture

if somebody has a photo

of a slice of pizza

and they're holding

it up to the horizon

creating another pyramid.


So I did my vadose zone

modeling, and as I just said,

it's, it's the restriction

of evapotranspiration.

If you were to remove

the pavement somehow,

I'm not saying this is what they

should do, but I'm just saying

if you were to remove it,

based on my modeling, the water

table would drop three meters

in the first year alone.

So the other question is,

is their system doing anything?

I'm not sure, because

based on my modeling,

because they didn't

they don't have a depth

where they're saying I know

that if I get below this depth,

the Sphinx is protected.

Because they're not even

looking at that wicking.

They just have some idea

that lowering the water table

will make it better,

but it may not,

or they might be pumping

more than they need to.

They don't know what

that criteria is.

The other thing is, it took me

a long time to realize this,

but this is gonna be

happening elsewhere.

Sea levels rise, and

you've got more, you know,

temperatures rise, and

you've got more urbanization,

this is gonna become more

and more of a problem

all around the planet.

So I can add to my

list of discoveries

that urbanization restricts


so the groundwater rises.

So then I have to come back

to, at least for a little bit,

to the conspiracy theorists or whatever you want to call them,

the people are saying

that the Sphinx is older,

because they always

tell you what they

don't want you to know.

So I'm going to tell you what

they don't want you to know.

They, they talk about

how this precipitation

has weathered the Sphinx.

Well the rain didn't

just fall on the Sphinx,

it fell over all

of northern Africa.

It was funneled past the Sphinx.

It would have made the

area uninhabitable.

It would have been green.

It wouldn't have

been a bare desert.

Totally unrealistic

to think that the rain

just fell on the Sphinx and

then went into the Nile.

as it looks today.

The Nile Valley itself

was uninhabitable

because of all this

high water flow

that was coming through there,

and the Sphinx would

have been underwater

for at least part of the year.

Even today the Hall of Records

is permanently underwater.

That's why we have

this dewatering system

that's going on there.

There was never enough

harder limestone

to make a larger head,

so that's not possible.

The lost civilization,

this is probably

the strongest point they had is

yes, there was

this huge disconnect

between the Egyptian

civilization and

other areas in Africa.

We now know they came from

the African humid period,

the green Sahara.

There's no evidence of

weathering by precipitation.

I'm saying that's all part

of the original construction.

And sorry, no reason

to rewrite prehistory,

it's all good as it is.

So what of the future?

What's gonna happen?

Well with global warming we're

gonna get sea-level rise,

so without question at

some point the Sphinx

is gonna end up in the ocean.

Or maybe not.

We could create a

dam at Gibraltar

and restrict the Mediterranean.

You can then set

the Mediterranean

at any level you choose.

So Venice doesn't

have to go underwater.

This is a depiction of somebody

who's proposed

this some time ago,

we'd increase all this land

we could then use for farming,

so Sicily for instance

is now attached to Italy.

But it's a 10-mile gap

that you'd have to fill,

and you could put this dam in

and it would generate

huge amounts of power.

And as sea levels

continue to rise

you'd be generating

more and more power.

But eventually you're gonna

get the next green Sahara.

When that happens, the

Sphinx and the city of Cairo

and everything in

the Nile Valley

is gonna get washed down

into the Mediterranean

in about 5000 years.

Nothing you can do to stop that.

And Africa is also going to

continue to move northward.

At some point it will

pinch off at Gibraltar

and the Mediterranean

will dry up again

and become another Death Valley.

So now we can answer the

riddle of the Sphinx,

which is, "Do I look

old to you?"


And the answer is, "You

don't look a day over 4500."


I want to thank people.

I mean, so I've actually

met with Mark Lehner,

Matthew McCauley, and Glen Dash.

They're all people that

went to study the Sphinx

or are currently

studying the Sphinx.

Ira Block who gave those really

cool photos for me to use.

The Smithsonian Institution,

Scott Wing for

coming back with what

a very intriguing possibility.

Neville Agnew is at the

Getty Conservation Institute.

I've spoken with

him on the phone

and exchanged a few emails.

He's very interested

what I'm doing.

Here in Madison,

Jean Bahr and Marie Dvorzak.

She's at the library.

They've helped me out.

You've got the

anthropology department.

Henry Bunn, I spoke with

him on some of these ideas.

And you got the libraries

here with the research.

If you want to find

something, it's here.

I mean, and if it's not here, the people are really nice

and they go,

"I'll get that for you.

"I can get that from

this other library."

So the ability to come

up with this information,

and of course Tom,

because I'm not one of

the professors here,

I'm just some guy

working out of his home,

for letting me come in here

and doing this presentation.


Share this page