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The Dream Stela

Welcome to the first #ThutmoseTuesday! Each Tuesday, in honor of my favorite pharaonic family, I'll be posting about some aspect of Egyptian history or culture pertaining to the 18th Dynasty and/or the Thutmoside pharaohs. This week, I've got an intriguing and oft-overlooked episode from the middle of the 18th Dynasty, involving Thutmose IV, the Sphinx, and a whole lot of sand.

Thutmose IV was the eighth king of the 18th Dynasty; he was preceded by Amenhotep II, succeeded by Amenhotep III, and was the great-grandfather of King Tut. The story goes that one day, Thutmose IV was wandering alone near the Giza Necropolis. It was hot, and he was tired, so Thutmose decided to lay down in the shadow of the Great Sphinx to rest. After that, things get weird.

Now, it should be noted that, at this time, the Sphinx was almost entirely covered in sand. This was the case when the first archaeologists began exploring and excavating in Egypt during the 19th Century, as Egypt's strong desert winds caused mounds of sand to drift over the statue, covering it up to the neck.

Anyway, Thutmose falls asleep in front of the Sphinx and has a vivid dream, in which the Sphinx, inhabited by the sun god Horemakhet, comes alive and speaks to him. If Thutmose clears the area around the Sphinx, freeing the majestic creature from the mountains of sand, the god promises to protect Thutmose and make him a powerful and successful king. Thutmose, awaking, heeds the Sphinx's commands and orders his men to clear away the sand burying the monument. To commemorate his interaction with Horemakhet, Thutmose commissions a stela (vertical slab of engraved stone) to be erected between the paws of the Great Sphinx, a testament to his piety for generations to come. Dubbed "The Dream Stela" by egyptologists, this artefact is still visible to this day, giving researchers a detailed account of Thutmose IV's mystical experience in the desert.

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