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Gov’t Marks Sphinx Restoration

May 24, 1998

CAIRO, Egypt (AP) _ It’s a cosmetic surgery job any Hollywood actress could be proud of _ though perhaps ashamed, too, at how much work was required.

The Sphinx, the ancient Egyptian symbol of royalty, is ``smiling again″ after a 10-year, dlrs 2.5 million renovation project, said Zahi Hawas, the chief government archaeologist for the Sphinx and the great pyramids.

On Monday, Egypt will officially mark the restoration of the giant limestone sculpture with the body of a lion and the head of a man. President Hosni Mubarak will attend, an orchestra will play and a light show will show off the work.

Hawas said Sunday that the ``first successful all-Egyptian renovation project″ placed 12,244 white limestone blocks _ some weighting up to 1,320 pounds (600 kilos) _ along the animal’s paws, legs and stomach to shore up the crumbling national icon.

``The Sphinx is smiling again because he is a healthy man,″ Hawas said, chuckling.

But the Sphinx _ believed to show the face of its builder, Pharaoh Chephren _ does not look like new. It’s still missing its beard, parts of which are in the British and Egyptian museums, and the nose, which was lost in the 14th century.

When the renovation began, flakes had been falling for years from the sculpture’s badly worn and pitted chest. Blocks weighing hundreds of pounds had tumbled from the body. And the sagging neck was a sure sign of aging.

While some of the damage was due to 4,500 years of wear, much of it also was blamed on water damage from nearby drainage systems.

The latest renovation was one of many. The earliest was undertaken almost 3,400 years ago by a prince later crowned Pharaoh Tutmosis IV. Other attempts were made in Roman times and in the 1920s.

Hawas said that while this latest renovation of the Sphinx has been successful, ``we have to monitor it constantly″ to make sure the massive sculpture doesn’t suffer more damage.

The Sphinx deserves special care as a witness to mankind’s history, Hawas said. ``It is in the heart of every Egyptian, and everyone in the world.″

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