Lesson 8.4: Social Studies Connection

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Crumbling History: Will the Great Sphinx Crumble Like a Cookie?

The Great Sphinx in Egypt has stood the test of time. For at least 4,500 years, the Sphinx has towered over a desert in Egypt. Now, however, rising groundwater may cause the ancient statue to crumble.

The Mysterious Sphinx

The Great Sphinx has the head of a person and the body of a lion. No one knows for sure why it was built. Some say it was made to honor an ancient king named Khafre. Others say that it was made to represent an ancient Egyptian god.

The Sphinx was built about the same time as the Great Pyramid. Even though scientists know little about the Sphinx, they do know something about the Great Pyramid and the other pyramids nearby.

The ancient Egyptians built the pyramids as tombs for their kings. When an Egyptian king died, his body was wrapped and made into a mummy. The mummy was then placed in the tomb. Many of the king's belongings were also placed in the tomb.

Damaging History

The Sphinx and the pyramids have been damaged over time. Strong winds blow the desert sand over the monuments. The sand wears away the stone blocks that make up the monuments. So many of the blocks have come loose and fallen.

Now the ancient monuments are facing another threat — water. A dam built near the monuments traps water needed to irrigate nearby farms. This has raised the level of the groundwater that flows under the monuments. The water is filled with salts. The salts in the water cause the stone blocks to fall apart.

Some scientists are now trying to protect the ancient monuments. They are trying to find ways to keep groundwater from flowing under the monuments. If the water isn't stopped, the Great Sphinx and the pyramids may one day crumble into dust.

Word Wise

Water as it flows under the ground: Heavy rains caused the groundwater come up through our basement floor.

Respect: It is an honor to be asked to carry the flag in a parade.

Building or statue built to remember an important person or event: A nearby monument reminds us of the Vietnam War.

Bring water to a dry area: Underground pipes are used to irrigate the corn fields.

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The word honor begins with the letter h, but the h is silent. Read the words listed below, and say them aloud. In some of the words, you will not hear the h, because it is silent.

Work with a partner. Take turns reading each of the words aloud. Which of the words begins with a silent h? (If you are not sure, use a dictionary to help you.)

  • howl
  • honey
  • hour
  • house
  • honest

Data Hunt

Throughout history, most of the Great Sphinx could not be seen. Almost all of it was buried under the desert sand. Then, in 1905, the sand was dug away and the whole Sphinx appeared.

How big is the Great Sphinx? Look at the table to find out.

The Great Sphinx's Measurements (in feet)
Height (ground to top of head) 66
Length (front of paws to tip of tail) 240
Width of Body (across shoulders) 38
Width of Face (from left to right) 20
Eye (from top to bottom) 6
  1. About how many 5-foot-tall statues would you have to stack to match the height of the Great Sphinx?
  2. Suppose you have a truckload filled with 2-foot-wide boxes. About how many boxes could be placed side-by-side to represent the width of the body of the Great Sphinx?
  3. Write a division word problem about the Great Sphinx. Use the facts in the chart. Trade questions with a partner and solve.