Between the legs of the sphinx: the stele of the dream of Thutmose IV


What a giant hilarious lion, sitting or lying proudly in front of the mysterious Pyramids of Giza. The Sphinx itself is also a mysterious work, which, according to new research, its year of construction goes back to eleven thousand years.

There is a stele erected between the front paws of The Great Sphinx of Giza by Thutmose IV in the first year of the king’s reign, 1401 BC, during the 18th Dynasty. As was common with other New Kingdom rulers, the epigraph claims to a divine legitimisation of kingship. And it’s called The Dream Stele.

Now let’s read about the interesting story of this find in this brilliant reportage by Marie Grillot. 🙏💖

Entre les pattes du sphinx : la stèle du songe de Thoumosis IV


Left. : watercolor by Mariette
Right. : “The Great Sphinx” – Photographer: G. Lékégian & Co.

To establish their divine filiation and legitimize their power, the pharaohs sometimes let themselves go to interpret their dreams or the voice of certain oracles…

It is always, of course, the occasion of a story close to the marvellous, where the story loaded with unreal generates a history, with a capital “H”. It is a: “literary genre that is called the ‘Königsnovelle’. They are more or less romanticized accounts of a concrete event in the life of a pharaoh. It is always an event that illustrates the close bond between the king and the gods. In general, the king’s entourage is also included in the story. The king often dialogues with his advisers.

Thus, a grandson of Thutmose III and son of Amenophis II, who, according to some sources: “was not born of a royal wife and led the obscure and idle existence of a royal bastard”, therefore relatively distant from the succession to the throne, or who was, according to other sources: “certainly the legitimate and predestined successor of his father Amenhotep II, went hunting in the Libyan desert on a chariot drawn by horses faster than the wind ‘, accompanied by such or such of his servants “. This prince, who held the post of head of the royal chariotry, indeed liked to devote himself to hunting, especially on the Giza plateau, very: “prized by kings for hunting wild animals and gazelles, the ancient Egyptians l ‘ called then “La Vallée des Gazelles”.

At the time of the siesta, the prince and his companions settled down in the shade of the Sphinx for restorative rest.

The “future Thutmose IV” would thus have dozed off between the legs of the great sphinx. In his sleep, he would have presented himself and revealed himself to him. “This august God speaks to him with his own mouth as a father speaks to his son: ‘See me, look at me, O my son Thoutmes! I am your father Horemakhet-Khepri-Re-Atum. I give you my kingship on earth, at the head of the living. You shall wear the white crown and the red crown in the earth of Geb. Yours is the earth in its length and breadth, whatever lighteth the eye of the universal Lord, the provisions of the Two Lands and the great contributions of every foreign country are yours.

The sphinx would then have expressed the wish to be delivered from the suffering caused by the silting up and would have pronounced these words: “Come to my help since you are my son and my protector.”

Will the dream at the foot of the sphinx condition the prince to think about the possibility of achieving a royal function? Will he see there the promise of destiny he had to fulfil and be helped by the “highest”? Or more prosaically: did he use – or did he invent – this dream to justify his seizure of power? Still, he will indeed achieve royalty at the age of barely 20 years.

Thoutmosis IV

From “year I” of his reign, he will honour the request made by the sphinx and will remove the sand. But he will also perform another act intended to commemorate his recognition and the memory of this dream: he will build, between the legs of the sphinx, a chapel …

Illustration dated 1878 – author unknown

The back of this chapel is composed of a stele which happens to be almost applied to the chest of the sphinx. Carved from a block of red granite and arched. It is 3.61 m high and 2.18 m wide. “The arch of the stele has the representation of two leaning sphinxes, lying on plinths: in both cases, the text specifies that it is Harmakhis. In front of each of these sphinxes is King Thutmose IV. On the right, the king wearing the crown ‘khepresh’ offers incense and pours a libation. On the left, wearing the ‘nemest’, he makes a libation using a ‘nemset’ vase “. As for the hieroglyphic text, it reproduces the story of the dream.

Stele of Thutmose IV’s Dream – © Projet Rosette

This stele is rediscovered in 1818 by Giovanni Battista Caviglia, a Genoese, who: “arrived in Egypt on a merchant ship, of which he was the captain.” He settled in Egypt, where he soon made important excavations.

The sphinx in 1817

From 1817, it was on behalf of the Consul General Henry Salt, and the banker of Alexandria, Samuel Briggs, undertook excavations in Giza. His exploration of the underground galleries of the pyramid of Cheops will prove to be daring and interesting but will not, however, lead to the discovery of antiquities. “On the other hand, the excavations in the surroundings, in the vaults and the small truncated pyramids, which the Arabs designated under the term ‘mastabas’ (marcha), had brought to light beautiful statues and limestone stelae, dating from the Ancient Empire that Salt had reserved. Belzoni was particularly impressed by Caviglia’s work of clearing the front of the great sphinx. Between the two claws of this colossal animal, he found a small temple, and, on the chest, a large table of granite, adorned with hieroglyphs and various sculpted figures, including two sphinxes. “

At left above: photo of Félix Bonfils – at left below: photo of Francis Frith.
At right above: photo by J. P. Sébah -at right below: unidentified author

But the desert quickly regained its rights, and the stele was again covered with sand, as it was part of the sphinx. “The fight against the invading sand was perpetual, and less than a year after these discoveries, only the head of the sphinx still emerged as the Count de Forbin, notes with annoyance:” I arrived too late to benefit from the work of Mr Salt “. The same regret expressed by Jean-François Champollion in a letter of October 8, 1828: “I would have liked to remove the sands which cover the inscription of Thutmose IV, engraved on the chest (of the sphinx); but the Arabs, who had come running around us, from the heights crowned by the Pyramids, told me that it would take forty men and eight days to carry out this project. So it became necessary to give it up, and I took the path to the Great Pyramid. “

Karl Richard Lepsius will also have his teams work on removing the sand from the sphinx. And the sand, constantly carried by the desert, returns …

Auguste Mariette shows, in one of his aquarelle, the progress of the excavations in 1853: “The legs of the Sphinx are not cleared, but in the excavation dug at the base, stands the monolithic stele of pink granite of Pharaoh Thutmose IV, discovered by Giovanni Caviglia in 1818. “

Desolation of the great sphinx in 1886
(drawing by Boudier from a photo by Emile Brugsch)

Gaston Maspero, in a letter, on March 6, 1886, addressed to his wife Louise, attaches a “photo of the excavation of the great sphinx” which he describes to him thus: “the stele of Thutmose IV comes out of the ground, and a group of workers have crouched above it, and it is about half the height of sand, which remains to be removed. “

It is the Egyptologist Émile Baraize who planed to clear the body of the sphinx completely. It is a work that will be continued from 1936 by Selim Hassan. From 1979, the Egyptian Antiquities Department will undertake numerous restorations, notably under the direction of Zahi Hawass.

Stele from the dream of Thutmose IV – photo S. Bickel – elearning.unifr

As regards more particularly the stele, the Egyptian Ministry of Antiquities declared, at the beginning of 2017, that after having completed successfully, the first phase of restoration of the lower level, which was very dilapidated, He began the second phase, which consists of restoring the upper part of the stele, reinforcing the fragile parts, removing the encrusted dust and treating the surface.

The rebirth of a dream inscribed in stone for more than 3,400 years …

Marie Grillot


The Harvest of the Gods, Jean-Jacques Fiechter, Julliard, 1994 Le grand Sphinx de Giza, chef-d’oeuvre du règne de Chéops”, Rainer Stadelman (“The Great Sphinx of Giza, masterpiece of the reign of Cheops”,)
Mohamed al Kamy, “Essais sur l’antique Égypte”, “Essays on Ancient Egypt” La revue du Caire, n° 102, septembre 1947″Egypt initiates second phase of restoration at Giza Plateau” (Egypt Independent) “Egypt initiates second phase of restoration at Giza Plateau
Le Caire et ses environs : caractères, moeurs, coutumes des égyptiens modernes, Henri de Vaujany, E. Plon Paris, 1883 (Cairo and its surroundings: characters, manners, customs of modern Egyptians)
Gaston Maspero, Letters from Egypt, Correspondence with Louise Maspero, Seuil, 2003
Stèle du rêve de Thoutmosis IV” (Université de Fribourg) “Stele of the dream of Thutmosis IV”
Stèle du Songe de Thoutmes IV” (Projet Rosette) “Stele of Thutmose IV’s Dream”
Auguste Mariette et le grand sphinx de Gizeh”, Alain Galoin, Histoire par image Posted 10th March 2017 by Unknown “Auguste Mariette and the great sphinx of Giza”

15 thoughts on “Between the legs of the sphinx: the stele of the dream of Thutmose IV

  1. Wow, fascinating as always! Thank you so much Aladin for sharing Marie’s amazing Egyptian work. More than the colour ones, I really enjoyed those black and white photographs of the Sphinx. Hmm, the idea of discovering something buried deep and then painstakingly restoring it appeals greatly … but what incredible patience one would need to have in order to be an archaeologist. Maybe poets do this in a different way for I often feel that I am bringing something up from the depths. Love and light, Deborah.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Of course you do, my dearest Deborah. The difference in between is that you dig out the years sleeping memories in one’s soul and put them in such beautiful rhymes 🤗 thank you dear friend, for your kind and inspirational words. ❤

      Liked by 1 person

  2. elainemansfield

    Wonderful history, Aladin. The Sphinx is a compelling being and I’m grateful for those who reveal and protect it from the elements and human beings.

    I didn’t know there was this temple between the front legs so of course didn’t know who had it built. Egyptian history is full of mystery. I painted a series of the Book of the Night about the Pharaoh or Sun passing through the goddess Nut to be reborn at dawn. Since all that lives and is reborn goes through the Hours of the Night, I included myself in each hour, beginning with standing between the arms of Nut where the Pharaoh stands in the original images before being swallowed by the Goddess. No blasphemy intended. It reminds me of being between the legs of the Sphinx.

    Liked by 1 person

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