Smithsonian Magazine always gives the reader something interesting in return for his or her time. This month's issue has articles about the Venus Flytrap - that crazy plant that traps insects for dinner - as well as how a section of a Woolworth's lunch counter from Greensboro, NC, site of a famous civil rights sit-in 50 years ago, was brought to the museum for posterity, and also some fascinating words about the Sphinx.
Egyptians didn't record history, which makes them by far the favorite ancient civilization among young history students today. That lack also makes them a bit of a riddle in many ways. What was the deal with a recumbent lion figure with a human head? We don't know. We don't even know why they built the doggone thing, but the leading supposition among contemporary historians is that the Pharaoh had a lot of limestone left over from a dam-building project, and a committee was formed to erect a small statue of some sort, and look where that led.
There are people who have devoted their entire lives to studying this Sphinx, which is the true riddle to me. But, I found it interesting that we now know that over the years, the Sphinx was painted red, blue and yellow. Imagine the paperwork, or papyrus work, that must have gone into that, and then the phone call to Nile Painters, Inc., asking for an estimate on painting a large lionman out in the middle of the desert. "Hello? How much? How about if you skip the primer? Hello?"
A fellow named Edgar Cayce suffered from visions, one of which was that the "lost island of Atlantis", a Plato fiction, actually existed around 9600 BC. Furthermore, Cayce convinced himself and a small, rag-tag (really small and amazingly rag-tag) band of followers that the residents of Atlantis, ostensibly while on a vacation in Egypt, had buried lists of their secrets in a hall of records beneath the Sphinx, and that all of this documentation would be discovered before the end of the 20th Century. People still buy books to see what else Cayce was wrong about.
The final fact about the Sphinx that I garnered was that "in 1817, a Genoese adventurer, Capt. Giovanni Battista Caviglia, led 160 men in the first modern attempt to dig out the Sphinx. They could not hold back the sand, which poured into their excavation pits nearly as fast as they could dig it out."
Captain Caviglia, I will be thinking of you today as we dig out our driveway and sidewalk, into which another couple of feet of snow have drifted. I have to go now, for I believe I am having a vision that buried underneath all of this snow is a truck, containing modern-day "records" (CDs, as it were) of ancient country musicians singing songs of loss and train wrecks.