Sphinx I (Queen Khentkawes)

Looks like a get an extended break this summer! Our webmaster will be updating the look of the site over the next couple of weeks. It won't be practical to install the new forum software until then, so check back later.

Meanwhile, I'm working on a new essay on the Sphinx and Pyramids, which should be about finished by then. Here's a teaser:

The unique tomb of Old Kingdom queen Khentkaues/Khentkawes is a previously overlooked source of insight into the Sphinx, at least in terms of how it was perceived in the 4th and 5th dynasties. This queen chose to build her tomb around a natural rock outcropping that stood in the same relative position to pharaoh Menkhaures valley temple as the Sphinx did in relation to the valley tomb of Khafre. The Sphinx also was formed from a natural outcropping. Khentkawes was clearly identifying herself as the Sphinx of her day.

Khentkaues is not a household name today like Hatshepsut, Nefertari, and Nefertiti. However, she was the most prominent queen of the Old Kingdom and venerated by later generations for perpetuating the royal line in a time of crisis. (Well, at least some thought it was fortunate that the royal family had survived to rule another day.)

The gods Re, Horus, and Horus Jr. all had close familial ties to the goddess Hathor (whose name literally means, House of Horus), just as the Sphinx is linked architecturally to the Giza pyramids. In the 4th Dynasty, the role of the sun god Re was played by Khufu, who recycled the Great Pyramid of Re as his own monument. The role of Horus the Elder was played by Khafre, who adopted the 2nd Pyramid for his purposes. His son Menkhaure in turn became associated with the smaller 3rd Pyramid and took the role of Horus the Younger.

Masterpieces of ancient sculpture feature pharaoh Menkhaure. In one of them he is enfolded by the arm of an unidentified goddess figure(thought to represent his wife of mother), even as Isis jealously protected her adopted son Horus the Younger.

In another set of sculptures, a confident Menkhaure is escorted by a proud Hathor as well as by a second Hathor in one of her many local manifestations.

The Seven Hathors

Note: The names Henut-sen, Khent-kawes, and Mes-Khenet are probably variants. They also seem to associate with Biblical Cain/Ken, who was exiled to the Land of Nod. (Nod suggests land of sleep/death, at least in English! Nod is also be suggestive of "oracle" as in the exiled Biblical Job's Land of Uz/Utz, "consultation". Compare also the early dynastic Egyptian name Sened.)

The appointed role of Khentkawes was to produce yet another set of god-kings even as Hathor had produced Re and the two Horuses. According to the Westcar Papyrus, Khentkawes (called in that text by the alias Rud-djedet, which alludes to the double lioness, Rudi) gave birth to triplets. Her very difficult (and equally scandalous) delivery was assisted by four goddesses (Isis, Nephthys, Meskhenet, and Heket) who came to her rescue disguised as entertainers (and whose 4th dynasty equivalents might have been called upon to adopt the babies as their own). Khentkawes was the nominal wife of the priest of Re, but he was obviously not the father of all the children, if any. Khentkawes was an early dynastic Gods Wife (modeled after Hathor). She bore children to multiple royal partners but officially was not considered an adulteress (and during some Egyptian periods even upheld as a virgin).