The most important time of the year in Egypt (before the building of the High Dam at Aswan in 1965) was the season of Innundation when the Nile would flood the adjacent land and fertilize the crop. This all important event took place between the summer solstice (end June) and the autumn equinox (end September). The first dawn appearance of Leo at summer solstice would have signified to an ancient observer c. 3000-2000 BC that the Nile Flood was about to begin. Since also the star Sirius would also be making its first dawn rising –known as the Heliacal Rising– at the same time, then the signal would be interpreted metaphorically as the sun entering or joining Leo in the horizon when the start of the Nile Flood and when also Sirius would first be seen.
Image 1: The image in the eastern horizon at dawn c. 3000 BC at the start of the Nile flood i.e. summer solstice.
There are several passages in the Pyramid Texts that are metaphorical descriptions of “the sun entering or joining Leo in the horizon when the start of the Nile Flood when also Sirius would first be seen”. It these various passages the sun is called ‘Ra’, and the Milky Way is called ‘Winding Waterway’ (Mer-Nekha). There is also another celestial figure called Horakhti (Horus of the two Horizons) which I would suggest is the constellation of Leo.
The king crosses the celestial river: “The reed-floats of the sky are set down for Ra by the day-bark, that Ra may cross on them to Horakhti at the Horizon.” Pyr. 926
[Here the sun is said to travel by boat to reach Horakhti in the horizon. But which horizon? It is well-known that the ‘reborn’ king was identified to Horakhti in the horizon. This is made clear in the Pyramid Texts, as well as confirming that it is the eastern horizon.]
“I go up on this eastern side of the sky where the gods were born, and I am born as Horus as ‘Him of the Horizon’.” Pyr. 934
[The term ‘where the gods were born’ is the eastern horizon at dawn i.e. where the celestial figures are seen rising. But at which time of year? This is around the summer solstice, confirmed in the Pyramid Texts by the appearance of Sothis and the start of the Nile Flood]
The king ferries over the sky to Ra: “The reed-floats are set in place for me that I may cross on them to Horakhti and to Ra.” pyr. 337
“The Field of Rushes are filled with water, and I ferry across on the Winding Waterway. I am ferried over to the eastern side of the sky. and my sister is Sothis (Sirius).” Pyr. 340-1
These Pyramid Texts, said to date from 2300 BC, actually describe an observable celectial event witnessed around 3000-2000 BC: the crossing of the sun disc on the Milky Way, and making its way eastwards to reach the zodiacal constellation of Leo at the time of the summer solstice, at the same time that the star Sirius rises heliacally and when the Nile flood begins (the exact date for this conjunction falls on c.2780 BC). There can be little doubt that the figure in the eastern horizon we call Leo today was, to these ancient observers, Horakhti (Horus of the two horizons).
Image 2: the sun ( Ra) about to ‘cross’ the celestial river (Milky Way) c. 2300 BC
Iamge 3: the sun (Ra) reaches Horakhti (Leo) at the time of the summer solstice c. 2300 BC.
But did the ancient imagine Horakhti as being a lion in the sky?
Horakhti i.e. ‘Horus of the two Horizons’ was generally depicted as a man, probably the pharaoh, with a falcon head, and doning a sun-disc over the head.
Image 4: (a) Ramses II making offerings at Horakhti. Temple at Abu Simbel. (b) Horakhti or Ra-Horakhti
Image5: Amenhotep III and Horakhti. Here the king is identified to Horakhti. The face of Amehotep III is thus interchageable with that of Horakhti i.e. man becomes falcon and vice-versa. Temple of Amehotep III, Luxor, West Bank.
There are, however, several depictions of Horakhti as a lion with a falcon head wearing the royal double crown in the temples dedicated to Horus.
Image 6:Horus/Horakhti. A lion with a falcon/hawk head with the body of a lion
The Egyptologist Selim Hassan, who spent several years of his life excavation at the Great Sphinx, and studying all the ancient texts, mostly from the New Kingdom, that mention this monument, pointed out that the very first mention of the Sphinx in the New Kingdom was by Amenhotep (Amenophis) II. It was obvious to Hassan that this king “refers to the Sphinx under the names of Horemakhet and Horakhti”. Hassan went on to say that,
“Side by side with the name Horemakhet, we find the Great Sphinx also called Horakhti… During the New Kingdom, Horakhty could be represented under several forms. He could appear as a sphinx, either human or hawk-headed, as a hawk-headed man, or as a hawk, his original form. Many representations of him occur on the stelae in our excavations, showing him in all these forms.”
Image 7: (a) Ramses II as Sphinx with hawk head (b) Ramses II as Sphinx with human head (b) Amehotep III as Sphinx with human head
“In the beliefs of the Egyptians the King was the earthly representation of this God (Horakhti), and we have proof that in the very early period the dead King especially was called Horakhti. When Khafra cut the Great Sphinx, it was made in his likeness, that is to say in the likeness of Hor-akhty, with whom he was identified.”
These two names, Horemakhet and Horakhti, have a very similar rendition. Horemakhet meaning ‘Horus in the Horizon’, and Horakhti meaning ‘Horus of the two Horizons’. There is no doubt, however, that the name Horemakhet was exclusively used for the Great Sphinx of Giza, whereas the name Horakhti was used for a figure in the eastern horizon which I have identified to the zodiacal constellation of Leo and which was also idetified with the Great Sphinx. If this is the case, then there is a problem with allocating the Great Sphinx to Khafre, a king of the IVth Dynasty who reigned in c. 2500 BC is this: the Great Sphinx is gazing directly DUE EAST, whereas the constellation of Leo/Horakhti rose at that time some 28 degrees north of due east. The correct epoch for the Great Sphinx to gaze at his own image would be 10,500 BC.
Image 8: (a) Leo rising in 2500 BC (b) Leo rising in 10,500 BC
What makes the Sphinx-Leo correlation of 10,500 BC unlikely to be a coincidence is that it ‘works’ in conjuction with the ‘beginning’ of the Prececessional cycle of Orion’s belt as seen in the southern sky, which can be matched on the ground with the Giza Pyramids. This ‘beginning’ I have identified to the golden age that the ancients called Zep Tepi meaning the First Time (of creation).
Image 9: The sky in 10,500 BC over the Giza necropolis, which I have identified as ZEP TEPI i.e. the ‘First Time’
But if the ‘face’ of the Great Sphinx is not Khafre’s, as most Egyptologist believe, then whose face is it? In my opinion it is not the face of a pharaoh but that of a ‘god’. But which god? The answer may be, yet again, found in astronomy or, as much as I dislike the terms, in astrology. This is because in 10,500 BC the Great Sphinx would not only be gaxing at equinoctical zodiacal Leo, but also at another zodical constellation which was also equinoctical: Aquarius. In the Dendera Zodiac Aquarius is the only zodiacal constellation which is distictly Egyptian, being the image of the Nile god Hapy, seen as a man wearing the royal double crown and holding two small jars from which is seen water pouring out.
Image 10: Aquarius as Hapy on the Zodiac of dendera.
This quasi-similar image is also found on the so-called Dream Stele found between the paws of the Sphinx, where the pharaoh Thutmoses IV is performing the same water ritual in front of the Great Sphinx.
Image 11: Thutmoses IV as ‘Aquarius’ ?
It is no wonder perhaps that on the Dream Stele Thutmoses IV named the place where stands the Great Sphinx: “The sacred place of the First Time/Zep Tepi.”
POSTSCRIPT: Pliny the Elder (1st century AD) refered to ‘Timaeus the Mathematician’ (Timaeus of Licra 5th century BC) as follows: “He says that this takes place at the rising of the Dog-Star [Sirius], when the sun enters the sign of Leo, and stands in a vertical position over the source of the river, at which time at that spot there is no shadow thrown [the summer solstice as seen at Aswan at noon]. ” The Natural history, Liber V, chapter 10.
According to Harapollo (5th century AD): “they sometimes pourtray a lion, and sometimes three large water jars, and at other times heaven and earth gushing forth with water. And they depict a lion because when the sun is in Leo it augments the rising of the Nile, so that oftentimes while the sun remains in that sign of the zodiac.” Hieroglyphics of Harapollo, XXI
Intrestingly, the Russian astronomer Alexander Gurshtein, President of the Internation Astronomical Union’s History of Science, wrote in 1999:
“According to my conclusions, the Great Sphinx is a symbolical [sic] image for two solsticial constellations: Leo (summer) and Aquarius (winter).”
Dr. Gurshrein also suspected ‘water rituals’ at the Great Sphinx. [HASTRO-LOG9902 Archive Note 11 Feb 1999].
Egyptologists are generally opposed to the idea that the ancient Egyptians identified the constellation of Leo to a lion. However Richard H. Wilkinson, professor of Egyptology at the University of Arizona, and an expert on Egyptian deities, wrote:
“An important mythological aspect of the solar god in the heaven is found in his identity as a a cosmic lion as seen in Chapter 62 of the Book of the Dead, for example, which states that ‘I am he who crosses the sky, I am the lion of Re…’ The stellar constellation now known as Leo was also recognized by the Egyptians as being in the form of a recumbent lion… the constellation was directly associated to the sun god.” Wilkinson H., Richard. The Complete Gods and Goddesses of Ancient Egypt, 2003, p.206]