Computer recognizes a familiar face on Sphinx

March 28, 1991|By Chicago Tribune

CHICAGO -- Using modern computer technology, a University of Chicago archaeologist has coaxed a secret from Egypt's ancient, silent Sphinx -- the famous monument's face was modeled after the government figure who ordered it built.

Egyptologists have long suspected that the Sphinx was modeled after the Pharaoh Chefren, who ordered it created in about 2500 B.C., but computer work by Mark Lehner, an `D assistant professor at the University of Chicago's Oriental Institute, confirms the suspicion.

Lehner, who describes his work in the April issue of National Geographic, took several stereographic photographs of the 66-foot-high Sphinx and converted them to a three-dimensional computer image that provides precise surface gradations of the monument.

The Sphinx, which has the head of a pharaoh and body of a lion, is made of limestone and has lost its nose to vandals, so making out its facial features is tricky business.

Lehner used several ancient pictures of the Sphinx and of various other sphinxes in an effort to reconstruct on a computer an image of what the monument may have looked like centuries ago.

"This is something that is relatively easy to do with a computer," Lehner said, "because you can take a life-sized image from a statue, blow it up to the size you would need to fit on the Sphinx and see if it fits."

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