WAACNewsletter
Volume 12, Number 2, May 1990, p.4

Egyptian Antiquities Organization and Getty Conservation Institute to Study Sphinx Deterioration

Anonymous (from J. Paul Getty Trust press release)

The Egyptian Antiquities Organization (EAO) and the Getty Conservation Institute (GCI) will collaborate on a research project to determine what factors are contributing to the deterioration of the Great Sphinx of Giza. The announcement was made by Dr. Sayed Tawfik, Chairman of the EAO, and Dr. Frank Preusser, Acting Co-Director of the GCI. The results of this scientific investigation will enable the EAO to develop a conservation plan designed to preserve the 4,600 year-old monument for future generations.

The project was launched with the installation of a solar-powered meteorological station on the Sphinx. The 90-kilo, 2-meter tall instrument, developed by the GCI, will monitor environmental data from the site and the surrounding area during the project's first phase over the next 12-24 months. A joint EAO-GCI team will collect and analyze information on wind speed and direction, solar radiation, ambient and surface temperature, relative humidity, and rainfall, to determine their effect on the deterioration of the Sphinx. Petrological and chemical analyses as well as geophysical and structural studies will also be undertaken, and microseismic activity will be monitored to determine the effects of traffic vibration on the monument.

The urgency of the situation is demonstrated by the fact that the Sphinx has deteriorated more in the last 50 years than in all the previous centuries of its existence combined," observed Dr. Tawfik. "We expect that this research will also be applicable to the conservation of other monuments and archaeological sites in Egypt." Evidence of historical erosion, as well as slow crumbling and flaking of the stone, is apparent particularly along the sides of the Sphinx where sloughing off of the surface is a common phenomenon.

While the Sphinx is perhaps the most famed, and by far the most thoroughly documented and scrutinized monument of the ancient world, there has never been a coordinated effort to methodically quantify and examine the variety of factors that affect it," noted Dr. Preusser. "While we cannot completely stop the natural processes that contribute to its deterioration, we can slow them down considerably. The greatest challenge facing the team is to identify protective measures that are sensitive to the aesthetic and historic integrity of the Sphinx.

Literature searches, a digitized computer model of the monument, and historic photodocumentation will be studied in conjunction with the results of the monitoring operation over the next two years. Following this research period, a final diagnosis will be made and a conservation plan developed in the project's second phase.

J. Paul Getty Trust, Press Release 15 May 1990

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