Chances are good you probably learned about the Great Sphinx of Giza in grade school, or at least you had a brief overview of ancient Egypt.
But if for some reason you didn’t, or you skipped that day of school — here are nine surprising facts about the Great Sphinx of Giza.
1. Though many dispute the year it was built (estimated year is 2500 BC) or who actually built it, everyone can agree that it is the largest and oldest statue in the world.
2. The Sphinx is carved out of natural limestone from the Mokkatam Formation on the Giza Plateau. There are three layers to the Mokkatam Formation and while the Great Sphinx of Giza is carved out of all three, most of it is carved from the second layer.
3. Thousands of years of erosion have caused extensive damage to the Great Sphinx of Giza, but some trace of original paint can be found near one of its ears.
4. Legend says that the Sphinx’s nose was shot off by Napoleon and his troops sometime between 1798 and 1801, but the face of the massive statue was actually vandalized as early as 1378.
According to one account of the incident, those living near the Sphinx were so upset with Mohammed Sa’im al-Dahr, who is believed responsible for the destruction, that they lynched him and buried him near the statue.
5. There have been several attempts to repair the eroding Sphinx, but researchers learned that the mortar used to repair the statue was actually causing more harm than good.
6. The Great Sphinx of Giza and the Second Pyramid at Giza have similar styles and techniques, which have led to many archaeologists suggesting they were built around the same time.
7. Blowing sand constantly kept the Sphinx covered up to its head. In 1817, nearly 200 men attempted to dig out the statue. They were unsuccessful and more than a century passed before it was finally cleared of sand in the 1930s.
8. 24 pillars surround its courtyard, where remnants of a temple are located. Inside are small sanctuaries which are said to represent the movement of the sun.
9. It’s believed the Great Sphinx of Giza we know today is not what those who constructed the structure had in mind. In 1978, a worker’s lunch, a tool kit and ‘three stone blocks’ were discovered abandoned in a corner. This and other evidence suggested to experts that workers walked off the job and never finished construction.