What to watch on Thursday, February 3rd, 2011

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Secrets of the Vanishing Sphinx

Channel 5 at 8:00pm (Other show times...)

Secrets of the Vanishing Sphinx

This revealing documentary solves some of the questions that surround the enigmatic Great Sphinx of Giza. How and why did the Egyptians build this strange creature? Along the way, some interesting discoveries are made about the age of the statue and the identity of its features.

Nothing represents the mysteries of ancient Egypt more than the Great Sphinx. However, solving its riddles has taken on a new urgency. After more than 4,000 years, traffic, tourism and construction are slowly tearing the structure apart.

Two teams of scientists and sculptors are tackling the age-old questions about the statue. The Sphinx's giant paws appear to be built with thousands of blocks, like the pyramids behind them. But a closer look reveals that its upper body and head are carved out of one huge monolith.

How did the ancient Egyptians carve it, and from what? Leading Egyptologist Mark Lehner has spent five years mapping every inch of the figure.

Embedded in the very stone of the statue he finds clues to solve the mystery and unearths a startling fact - the Sphinx is carved from bedrock.

Between the paws of the Sphinx is a 15-tonne granite funeral marker, or stela, covered with hieroglyphs, which state that a pharaoh named Thutmoses once freed the Sphinx from the desert sands. The pharaoh also gave it a monumental makeover, painting it in brilliant red, yellow and blue. However, Thutmoses lived a thousand years after the Sphinx was built and it was already an ancient mystery in his time.

To unlock the secrets of the statue, the scientific team attempts to identify whose face is carved onto the edifice. This question seems to be revealed at sunset on the spring equinox. As Mark stands beside the Sphinx, the sun sets, its path between the Sphinx and the Pyramid of Khafra aligning perfectly. This would suggest that the Sphinx is a rendering of the Egyptian king Khafra. But why was such a monumental statue dedicated to the pharaoh? And is the body of the figure actually even older than the rest?

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Marchlands

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Secrets of the Vanishing Sphinx

Secrets of the Vanishing Sphinx

Channel 5 at 8:00pm

Revealing documentary which attempts to solve some of the questions that surround the enigmatic Great Sphinx of Giza....

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