Tuesday, March 26, 2013

The Sphinx Dream Stela

Figure 1 - The Dream Stela of Tuthmose IV
     Over 3,000 years ago a young Egyptian prince fell asleep in the shadow of the Great Sphinx. At the time the sphinx was mostly covered with drifted sand that had been accumulating for over 1,000 years. The sphinx appeared in the prince's dream and promised that he would make the prince the next Pharaoh of Egypt if the prince would clear the sand away.

Figure 2 - Lunette of the Dream Stela
     This story is told on a stela located between the paws of the sphinx. It was allegedly erected there by the young prince after he became the Pharaoh Tuthmose IV of Egypt's Eighteenth Dynasty. However, Breasted (Ancient Records, Vol. 2, pp. 322 - 324) and Erman both rejected this, claiming that the stela dates, most likely, to a later period (Dynasty 21or 22?) and might have been a restoration of the original stela erected by Tuthmose IV. Breasted also indicated that the entire story could be a fabrication invented by the local priesthood as a way of increasing the prestige of the god Harmakhis, since the same story was told about a prince named Amenemose, who was a son of Tuthmose I.
Figure 3 - Another view of the lunette of the stela

     In any event, the stele is made of red granite. The bottom half of the inscription has flaked off, while The lunette of the stele (see figures 2 and 3) shows Tuthmose as prince and as Pharaoh doing homage to Harmakhis in the form of a sphinx.

     The inscription (after a long series of titles and bombastic platitudes directed at the king) tells us that prince Tuthmose was out hunting and decided to rest in the shade of the sphinx.
The god Harmakhis appeared to the prince in a dream saying to Tuthmose that he would "give to thee my kingdom..." and that Tuthmose would "wear the white crown and the red crown..." provided that the prince would clear "the sand of this desert" from the god.

     The story is a wonderful folk tale from ancient times, but one wonders how much truth there is in it. Breasted's suspicion that the priests of Harmakhis made this story up is quite possible, although no proof either way is available.

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