samedi 12 décembre 2009

Selon John Kenrick (XIXe s.), la Grande Galerie de la pyramide de Khéops a été utilisée pour l'installation d'une "machinerie" destinée au transport du sarcophage de la Chambre du Roi

Dans son ouvrage Ancient Egypt under the Pharaohs, édité à New York en 1850, l'historien anglais John Kenrick (1788-1877) décrit la Grande Pyramide de Guizeh en mettant plus particulièrement en avant les caractéristiques suivantes :
- le rocher entourant la Grande Pyramide a été soigneusement nivelé pour fournir une base horizontale à la structure, sans pour autant l'avoir été sur toute la surface : en effet, un noyau du rocher d'origine a été découvert à l'intérieur, s'élevant, selon les dernières estimations, à une hauteur de 22 pieds;
- bien qu'Hérodote ne l'affirme pas explicitement, la pyramide avait, selon toute vraisemblance, déjà été ouverte de son temps ;
- la Grande Galerie a été aménagée (banquettes et trous à intervalles réguliers) de telle sorte qu'elle a été utilisée pour la mise en œuvre d'une "machinerie" destinée à l'élévation du sarcophage jusqu'à la Chambre du Roi ;
- la pyramide fut entièrement recouverte, du sommet à la base, avec des blocs de calcaire, dûment taillés, provenant des carrières du Mokattam (colline jouxtant le Caire) ;
- la totalité de la pyramide n'a pas été construite avec "le même soin" ;
- la façon dont les pyramides furent construites n'est pas encore clairement établie. Certes, les blocs de pierre portent encore des marques prouvant qu'ils ont été montés avec des "machines" fixées dans des trous encore visibles ; toutefois, il semble que l'espace disponible sur les assises ne suffisait pas pour y installer des machines développant la force nécessaire pour soulever de telles masses ;
- la troisième pyramide a été construite par degrés diminuant progressivement vers le sommet, les espaces "angulaires" ayant été ensuite "remplis" pour former finalement une pente régulière. Peut-être est-ce de cette façon qu'ont été également construites les autres pyramides ;
- il apparaît que les pierres utilisées pour la construction de la Grande Pyramide ont été préparées sur le tertre rocheux, au nord de la pyramide, où l'on observe des rangées de trous qui peuvent avoir servi pour l'installation des "machines" destinées à la manutention des blocs.

Illustration extraite de l'ouvrage de Kenrick

The Great Pyramid, or that of Cheops, had originally a square base of 764 feet (now reduced to 746), and consequently an area of thirteen acres, and a perpendicular height of 480 feet, now reduced by the dilapidation of the summit to 450 feet. The rock around was carefully levelled to furnish a horizontal base for the structure, yet not throughout the whole area, for a nucleus of the native rock has been discovered in the interior, rising, according to the latest account, to the height of 22 feet. The sides now present the appearance of a series of steps, each course projecting beyond that above it ; and by these projections it is easy to reach the top, where is a platform of about 30 feet square. But in its original state the pyramid probably presented a perfectly smooth surface, the spaces between the courses being filled up by the insertion of casing-stones, wrought with the most perfect finish, after they were fixed in their places, so that from top to bottom there was no projection. It appears that not a very long time elapsed before a forcible entrance was made or attempted. A very inconsiderable depth of the Desert sand lies beneath the stones at the base of the northern front ; and as these must have been stripped off in the first attempt to find an entrance, it is evident that it was made at so short an interval, that there had not been time for any great accumulation. Though Herodotus does not expressly say that the pyramid was open in his time, it is evident that it was or had recently been, since he speaks, not very accurately it is true, of the interior. Strabo describes the entrance as at a moderate elevation, and as made by means of a moveable stone. It should seem therefore not to have been permanently open ; and when the Caliphs established themselves in Egypt, they entered it by a forced passage.
(...) The great gallery, leading to the King's Chamber, begins where the horizontal passage to the Queen's Chamber goes off. It continues to ascend at the same angle as before ; it is 150 feet long, 28 feet high, and 6 ½ feet wide ; but this width is lessened by a projecting stone seat or ramp, which runs along each side, 19 inches wide and 2 feet high. Holes are cut in it at intervals, which are supposed to have served for the insertion of the machinery by which the sarcophagus was raised. The side walls are formed of eight assizes of stone, which projecting inward over each other, give the passage the appearance of being arched.
(...) From the account of [Herodotus], it was concluded that the exterior of the Great Pyramid was once covered with a smooth coating from the bottom to the top, such as still remains on some part of the Second. But until recently no trace of this coating could be discovered. Col. Vyse, however, found under the rubbish accumulated at the base, two of the casing-stones in their original position. They are of the limestone of the Mokattam quarries, which, being almost free from fossils, is much fitter for fine work than the stone of the Libyan hills. In perpendicular height they are 4 feet 11 inches, and 8 feet 3 inches long, the outer face sloping with an angle of 51° 50'. Being inserted in the spaces left between the successive courses of the pyramid, they were shaped to the required angle, and then polished down to an uniform surface. The operation began at the top, as Herodotus asserts, and was carried downwards. The joints are scarcely perceptible, and not wider than the thickness of silver paper, and the cement so tenacious, that fragments of the casing-stones still remain in their original position, notwithstanding the lapse of so many centuries, and the violence by which they were detached. All the fine work of the interior passages, where granite is not expressly mentioned, is of the same stone, and finished with the same beautiful exactness. The great mass of the pyramid, however, is not constructed with equal care ; the mortar is formed of crushed red brick, gravel and earth of the Nile mixed with lime, and sometimes a liquid grout of lime mortar, Desert sand and gravel, has been used. A pavement, with two steps, worked with the greatest exactness, so as to obtain a perfect level for the foundation, extended under, and 33 feet in its widest part around the base.
(...) The manner in which the pyramids were built is not clearly ascertained either from the descriptions of the ancients or by researches into their structure. The stones bear marks of having been raised by machinery, fixed into holes in them which are yet visible, but the width of the projection of each course seems not to suffice for planting on it machines of the necessary strength for lifting such masses.
The third pyramid has been built in steps or stages diminishing towards the top, the angular spaces being afterwards filled up, so as to complete the pyramidal slope, and perhaps this may have been the mode in which the other pyramids were raised. These successive projections would be "the steps like those of an altar" on which Herodotus represents the machinery to have been planted.
The stones used in the construction appear to have been finally prepared on the rock to the north of the pyramid, where are rows of holes, which may have served for inserting the machinery by which they were raised and turned. Diodorus asserts that no chippings of the stone were to be found, but this is not true. They were thrown over the face of the rock, and remain there in large heaps.
Neither the inscription mentioned by Herodotus, commemorating the sum expended on vegetables for the workmen during the erection of the Great Pyramid, nor those of which Abdollatiph speaks, now appear upon the surface. Though the casing-stones can be traced in the buildings of Fostat and Cairo, they bear no marks of ever having been inscribed. It is probable, however, that the traced hieroglyphics were then to be seen in greater numbers than now.
Among many exaggerations of which the pyramids have been the subject, one, repeated by several ancient writers, represents the shadow as never falling beyond the base. It is true that during a part of the year the shadow at noon does fall within the base, but throughout the whole year, for a longer or shorter time, before or after midday, it falls on the surrounding earth. This carelessness in reporting a fact so notorious may make us distrust their statements respecting Syene, on which such large inferences have been built respecting the antiquity of astronomical observation in Egypt.

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