The Great Sphinx of Giza

Old Kingdom

Giza Plateau

Project Dates
1979-1983, 2017-2019

Sphinx plan

The southern elevation of the Sphinx as of 1979.

The video above explains the Sphinx Project’s origins and how Mark Lehner’s work at the Sphinx led to the creation of AERA.

ARCE Sphinx Project 1979-1983
Before the launch of the American Research Center in Egypt (ARCE) Sphinx Project in 1979, no scale drawings of the Sphinx had ever been made.

Directed by Dr. James Allen with Dr. Mark Lehner as field director, this project produced the first detailed scale plans of the Sphinx—a master plan, top plans, elevations, sections, and profiles. It also mapped masonry repairs, the adjacent temples, the Sphinx amphitheater, and the structural geology of the site.

Read more about the 1979-1983 ARCE Sphinx Project in the article Mapping the Sphinx.

The ARCE Sphinx Project (1979-1983) Online Data Archive

Collecting data at the Great Sphinx of GizaWhile the original ARCE Sphinx project produced a vast trove of material—364 maps and drawings, 3,857 35mm slides, 1,740 black and white photographs, numerous reports, journals, and survey data—this data remained mostly inaccessible to other researchers. Preserving this data was especially crucial as subsequent conservation work at the Sphinx has left some of the areas that were documented no longer visible, leaving the Sphinx Project archive their only record.

Thanks to a grant from ARCE, in 2016 we began a new project to digitize the entire original Sphinx archive, both to preserve the data and to make it freely available to other researchers worldwide. The Sphinx Project data archive is now available online at Open Context. Learn more about the online data, browse selected photos, and learn how to access the full data set.

A brief overview and an in-depth report on both ARCE Sphinx projects are available on the ARCE website.

Return to the Sphinx Viewing Project (RSVP)

Directed by Zahi Hawass and Mark Lehner, the goal of the RSVP was to collect information from the 30 years of work that has been carried out at the Sphinx since the original 1979 Sphinx Project, as well as to use new technologies not available at the time of the original project to better examine and document the area.

Beginning in 2018, we used both traditional mapping, topographic survey, and ground penetrating radar to first document the base of the Sphinx and its surrounding area. We then returned in 2019 to focus on the Sphinx Temple and the area to its east. In addition, a Japanese team directed by AERA team member Yukinori Kawae carried out 3D recordings by drone, photogrammetry, and laser scanning to create a complete 3D image of the Sphinx.


Find out more about our work at the Sphinx in the article: Who Built the Sphinx? The Sphinx Temple Has the Answer.


Sphinx Photogallery

Selected Bibliography 

2020. Lehner, Mark. “Merer and the Sphinx.” In Guardian of Ancient Egypt: Studies in Honor of Zahi Hawass, vol II. Edited by Janice Kamrin, Miroslav Bárta, Salima Ikram, Mark Lehner, and Mohamed Megahed. Prague: Charles University, Faculty of Arts. Pages 895–925.

2019. “Return to the Sphinx Viewing Project.” AERA Annual Report 2018–2019, pages. 8–9.

2018. Everett, David. “The Long-Hidden ARCE Sphinx Mapping Project Is Unveiled.” American Research Center in Egypt website.

2018. “Sphinx Mapping Digital Database: Unlocking the Archive of the Great Sphinx.” American Research Center in Egypt website.

2017. Mark Lehner, Megan Flowers, and Rebekah Miracle (Editors). ARCE Sphinx Project 1979-1983 Archive. Released: 2017-11-14. Open Context.

2017. “Sphinx Archive Project: It’s a Wrap.” AERAGRAM 18-2, pages 25–29.

2017. Mark Lehner. “Who Built the Sphinx? The Sphinx Temple Has the Answer.” AERAGRAM vol 18 no 1, pages 2-6.

2002. Lehner, Mark. “Unfinished Business: The Great Sphinx.” AERAGRAM vol 5 no 2, pages 10-15.

1994. Hawass, Zahi, and Mark Lehner. “The Passage Under the Sphinx.” Homage à Jean LeClant, vol. 1. Études Pharaoniques. Cairo: Institut Français d’archéologie orientale. Pages 201–216.

1994. Lehner, Mark. “Notes and Photographs on the West-Schoch Sphinx Hypothesis.” KMT Fall, vol 4, no 3, pages 40–48.

1992. Lehner, Mark. “Reconstructing the Sphinx.” Cambridge Archaeological Journal vol 2 no 1, pages 3–26.

1992. Lehner, Mark. “Documentation of the Sphinx.” First International Symposium on the Great Sphinx. Book of Proceedings. Cairo: Egyptian Antiquities Organization Press. Pages 55–107.

1991. Lehner, Mark. “Computer Rebuilds the Ancient Sphinx.” National Geographic vol 179 no 4, pages 32–39.

1980. Lehner, Mark, in collaboration with James P. Allen and K. Lal Gauri. “The ARCE Sphinx Project: A Preliminary Report.” Newsletter of the American Research Center in Egypt no. 112, pages 3–33.