The majestic lion with a human face is one of the most famous creations of the ancient Egyptians. However, a new study shows that The influence of wind and flowing water can largely account for the shape of the sculpture. Erosion processes may have formed the natural rock into a lion-like shape, which inspired later artists.
Already in 1981, geologist Farouk El-Baz hypothesized that the builders of the Sphinx used naturally occurring rock formations for its construction. Now New York University’s Leif Ristrop and his colleagues have presented evidence that could support this idea. They created small, sphinx-like figures formed from lumps of clay by flowing water. Their “soil lions” hint at the mechanism by which wind can carve similar shapes into desert rocks.
Scientists decided to investigate how clay erodes under the influence of water flowing down. They created oval mounds of bentonite clay by burying a small piece of hard, non-corrosive plastic at one end of each mound to represent the hard rock beneath the clay.
They then placed each block in a water tunnel and allowed the liquid to flow parallel to its axis, with the plastic at the “top” end of the tunnel. The videos show how the flowing water shapes the lump of clay into a lion-like shape.
“We were struck by the similarity of a sitting lion or a lion at rest. “When I started reading about it, I came across the idea that the Great Sphinx might be one of these natural structures that was apparently slightly modified by the ancient Egyptians,” Ristoff says.
During the experiments, many solids formed a hard shape The plastic element formed the “head,” and water flowing over it sculpted a curved back, slender neck, and broad feet..
“The fluid carves the solid body in its path, but the solid body, in turn, forces the flow of water to conform to its shape. This changes the rate of erosion and the way it is distributed over the surface” – says the researcher. However, this mutual influence makes the process difficult to simulate using computers, so practical experiments play an important role.
For the Sphinx, not water for corrosion processes. Instead, desert winds can shape natural rock formations.
However, the microscopic mechanisms by which wind erodes rock are different from how water erodes clay. However, geological formations such as the Sphinx are known from many deserts around the world. These are called yardangs – eroded rocks with sharp ridges and deep grooves..
Yardangs are usually about 100 meters long, but can be as long as a few kilometers. They appear in places where desert winds blow from one direction, which allows the rocks to “work” evenly through erosion. Yardangs have even been found on Mars.
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