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: This study seeks to relate the problems of maturation and ageing to the life course as a whole. As it is treated here, the riddle posed by the sphinx asks "What is it that changes as we age?" and is concerned with the enigmas of this total process. Ultimately, the ways in which we experience these problems stem from our view of ageing and the contradictions of soicety itself. The essays in this volume consider aspects of this problem with reference to a variety of cultures. The young, the mature and the elderly have distinctive identities, but they form a continuum whose profile is culturally contructed. "Anthropology and the Riddle of the Sphinx" is intended as a contribution to the growing literature on ageing, deliberately broadening the topic in the search for a wider understanding. The volume aims to stimulate interest in neglected aspects of the aging process within social anthropology and to present an anthropological point of view to others who have an interest in problems associated with the life course. It should be of interest to students of social anthropology and medical sociology.