Charles Piazzi Smyth (1819-1900) fut astronome à la cour du royaume d'Écosse de 1845 à 1888.
Sa théorie sur les propriétés astronomiques ou "bibliques" de la pyramide de Khéops ("God's message in Stone") a contribué à sa célébrité. Si les aspects ésotériques des écrits de cet auteur sont critiqués par les "vrais" Égyptologues, ils ne doivent toutefois pas cacher l'ampleur, la minutie et la valeur scientifique des observations à caractère technique faites sur le site de Guizeh et à l'intérieur des pyramides.
Même si certains détails semblent avoir échappé à Piazzi Smyth, les multiples mesures qu'il a effectuées en 1865 continuent d'être une base à laquelle se réfèrent encore aujourd'hui de nombreux "pyramidologues".
Il est évidemment hors de question de présenter ici une quelconque synthèse de cet inventaire chiffré. J'ai par contre choisi quelques extraits de Life and work at the Great Pyramid during the months of january, february, march and april (1865), où l'auteur abandonne momentanément ses outils de mesure pour se livrer à des considérations plus générales sur l'art des bâtisseurs égyptiens ou sur l'état des pyramides.
Pour guider et, du moins je l'espère, agrémenter la lecture de ces textes, je les ai fragmentés en douze mini-chapitres, dont les thèmes sont les suivants :
1 - état du sol et des murs de la Chambre du Roi, dans la Grande Pyramide : les fissures résultant de la charge pesant sur la chambre et des travaux qui y ont été effectués
2 - les cinq chambres au-dessus de la Chambre du Roi
3 - intérêt plus pour la masse de la Grande Pyramide dans sa totalité que pour la manière dont les blocs de pierre ont été mis en place
4 - reprise des observations de Perring concernant les trous sur le sol, côté nord de la Grande Pyramide, ainsi que dans certaines pierres de l'édifice ; d'où confirmation de la relation d'Hérodote (les machines utilisées pour la construction)
5 - excellence des techniques de construction mises en œuvre dans la Grande Pyramide, comparativement à la Seconde Pyramide
6 - toutefois, la perfection technique de la moitié supérieure de la seconde pyramide permet d'inverser le classement
7 - l'irrégularité de l'épaisseur des assises de la Grande Pyramide n'a aucun effet sur la solidité de l'ensemble de l'édifice
8 - l'unité de style dans la Grande Pyramide prise globalement tient au fait qu'elle n'eut qu'un seul architecte, celui-ci étant garant du résultat final en dépit des variantes dans le travail des maçons ("de petits écarts dans des détails sans importance")
9 - pour la Seconde Pyramide, on observe a contrario qu'il y eut deux architectes, deux périodes de construction éloignées l'une de l'autre et deux façons de travailler
10 - perfection du savoir-faire des bâtisseurs de la Grande Pyramide
11 - description de la Chambre de la Reine : matériau utilisé, structure des murs, traces de sel, trous dans le sol
12 - pour les techniques de levage de blocs de pierre, la Grande Pyramide ne fait pas exception comparativement aux autres pyramides
Extraits du premier volume
1 - In the north-western corner [in the King's chamber], a long hole, caused by the taking out of three floor-blocks, that men descending thereby, might burrow under the
granite floor, and especially under that part where the coffer stands, and search for possible mummy-pits in the underlying limestone masonry; an old mischief long before Colonel Howard Vyse's time, though further worked in by him. But he describes the floor-joints as exquisitely true and fine, beyond almost anything else in the Pyramid ; while now, on the contrary, the floor is remarkably dislocated, with some of its stones an inch or two higher than the others ! Is this the result of recent straining on the building by reason of the large amount of quarrying performed above, below, and round about this precious room by the many curiosity-seekers, who have plagued its existence and perforated its structure in all directions ? One almost thinks it probable, for in the south-eastern corner are some frightful fissures in the wall, going right through two or three courses of the granite blocks as they stand, and evidently therefore produced by pressure on those blocks in their present position ; and that is close to the very place in the masonry, at the back and above, where the Signor Caviglia of Vyse in 1837, the Captain Cabilia of Belzoni in 1817, was for so many years quarrying and blasting, in his false and entirely unfounded hopes of finding another chamber connected with the south air-channel.
2 - These walls of the King's chamber had been so tenderly cared for by the builders, lest too much weight should press upon them, that the architect had constructed his curious arrangement of the five hollow chambers of construction over its ceiling : but when the divisions between those chambers were recently blasted, and the limestone backing of the granite below, largely knocked away, no great wonder that the walls are now found to be cracking, and the floor giving and rending ; for this room is in the Atlas condition of supporting the huge pressure of the whole upper part of the Pyramid.(...)
3 - The Great Pyramid is in truth, on the whole, a raised mass of built masonry, stupendous to contemplate by reason of its total amount (more than eighty millions of cubic feet), much more than on account of the large size of the individual stones. These may be generally, though sometimes more than, about four or five feet thick, seven or eight long, and as many broad ; but what is that compared to the stones in the old Temple wall, at the Jews' place of wailing in Jerusalem, nineteen and twenty feet long ; or to those of Balbec, sixty-three feet long, and proportionally thick and broad ; or to many of the Colossi of the later periods of Egyptian Empire at Thebes ? We were never therefore very much taken up, as to how or wherewith the stones of the Pyramid were raised up to their places ; for with plenty both of men and time, there were many methods in vogue in early days, and are still, by which even greater stones could be handled.(...)
4 - Yet to close observation, traces of human diligence are manifest everywhere ; and Colonel Howard Vyse calls attention to the several series of circular holes in the rock north-east of the Pyramid, or close to the place where stones brought by the northern causeway (an excellent example, too, of long inclined planes being used by the Pyramid builders to overcome any very serious vertical lift), would first be discharged on the summit of the hill ; and Mr. Perring, as a practical engineer, having himself had to work stones both on the 'Arabian hills' and at the Pyramid, considers that there were several rows of those rough-and-ready engines, called 'polyspaston' by Vitruvius, placed there, the buttends of their masts entering the said holes, and offering facilities for the masons lifting and turning the stones while chiselling them into regularity. Many similar round holes, too, did Mr. Perring find in various parts of the Pyramid masonry itself, indicating that similar engines must have been employed there in raising and setting the blocks ; strangely confirmative, therefore, of some of the earlier traditions related by Herodotus.(...)
5 - Mere difference of size is not, however, the only argument which can be urged in favour of the Great Pyramid ; for a close scientific observer there, is delighted by the thoroughness of the work, its mechanical excellence, rigid economy, and the combination of every feature towards obtaining and preserving the greatest amount of geometric truth ; hence the squareness of all the stones, the perfect break joint system throughout, the universal cementing, and the picked mineral capable of most exact working introduced into the passages, the casing, and wherever external figure is to be demonstrated. But with the second Pyramid, the mass of its structure is simply execrable ; or, as Sir Gardner Wilkinson has very gently put it, "the style of building in the second Pyramid is inferior to that of the first, and the stones used in its construction were less carefully selected" ; while Howard Vyse more boldly describes much of it, as "being only a kind of gigantic rubble-work, or something so irregularly built, that since the removal of the casing, the desert sand and rain have penetrated in several places to a considerable distance ; and it is owing to this looseness of construction, that Signer Belzoni was unable to work his way through the stones, which had collapsed in the forced entrance, supposed to have been made by the Khaliphs ; and that, in 1837, the Arabs could not be employed in another part of it."
6 - Yet neither these, nor any other observers I am acquainted with, have noticed that all the above animadversions apply only to the lower half, or rather more, in vertical height of the structure ; whose upper half, so far as it can be seen underneath the termination of the casing, suddenly takes on a perfectly new and improved style of building ; a style indeed which is even more square, regular, and solidly put together than that of the Great Pyramid itself. This noteworthy fact took our attention again and again, and was examined under varying illumination during months.
7 - So nice too did our discrimination of such matters become at last by frequent trial, that to scan the surface of the lower part of the second Pyramid courses of building, was, from their irregularity, quite vexation to the eye ; but to turn one's gaze therefrom towards any part of the Great Pyramid gave relief unspeakable. The courses there, might no doubt be often far from equal in height, the one to the other ; and often, after having decreased in thickness for several successive layers, they began anew with thick ones ; but that did not touch the solidity of the whole mass so formed, for each layer or course preserved its own thickness, whatever that was at any one point, round and round the Pyramid ; and was composed everywhere of well squared, well fixed, well cemented stones.
8 - There was a unity too in the style of the building that prevailed without a break or flaw from top to bottom of the Great Pyramid ; a unity indeed of architect rather than mason, which permitted small deviations in unimportant detail, but kept principles and objects not only always in view but absolutely paramount ; allowing, for instance, the mason for economy's sake to utilize without needless cutting down the varied sizes of blocks furnished by the quarries, but still in such a manner only, as should not let that difference of size in the smallest components, interfere in any way with the final end proposed for the whole building ; the angle of the sides with the base, for instance, being exactly the same over the region of small, as of thick, courses. Looking up therefore at the flanks of the Great Pyramid, you saw plainly how, vast as they may be, exposing at one view no less than ten acres of masonry, yet that they must have been reared under one architect, upon one well considered and fully sufficient mechanical plan ; for a single purpose well kept to, and in a comparatively small number of years.
9 - But on turning again to the second Pyramid, you saw just as clearly that there, there had been two architects, two times of building long removed from each other, and two entirely different styles of workmanship, which do not blend into each other in the smallest degree, but begin and end in abruptest of manner ; showing, in fact, a new top on an old Pyramid. The new top, built by those whose prentice hands had been taught the virtue of exactness on the Great Pyramid ; and the old substructure, by their early predecessors, on whom the light of the improved style of building introduced by the Great Pyramid architect, had never dawned. (…)
10 - Now the Great Pyramid builders, of all men in the world, were the most admirably
economical, never going to more expense, for either material or workmanship, than the final ends they had in view did absolutely need ; and they have shown again and again, in various parts of the structure, that when their ultimate object was merely a wall-surface, they looked only to securing that wall-surface good as a whole, caring nothing for difference of size in the adjoining blocks ; so long only, as they broke vertical joint in a satisfactory manner, looking to strength. Similarly, too, Colonel Howard Vyse, while describing the extraordinary perfection of the pavement which he discovered in front of the Pyramid, and the microscopic fineness of its joints, adds that the stones were not rectangular ; and Mr. Perring's drawings show them very diverse therefrom indeed, though making a general sheet of pavement of unexampled excellence. When therefore those same ancient masons build a wall-surface, not merely with a view to its acting as such on the whole, but with special care to the exact equality in height of every course of stones, and these the most expensive and difficultly procurable of any building stones ; when, too, they make four such walls, all exactly telling the same operose and costly tale, and describe it with all that perfection of needle-proof joints so much lauded by most authors, we may be sure that there was some remarkable ultimate reason wrapped up in that feature. A feature, too, which we may safely maintain, was inserted by the original builders of the Pyramid, and no other men whatever ; and which speaks now in the universal language of mechanics, as clearly and conclusively to all men, of all nations, understanding anything of good mechanical building, as it did in the days of King Cheops to his own best trusted clerks of the mighty work.
Extrait du deuxième volume
11 - Queen's Chamber : The chamber known under this name, at the south end of the horizontal passage, has been long, and entirely, an enigma as to its objects or purposes : it
is nearly square on the floor, with an angular roof ; and the eastern wall has a large and sumptuously constructed niche, of the Grand Gallery walls description, but with a less number of overlappings (four only in place of seven), and it is not in the centre of its wall by a very notable distance. The material of walls, roof, and niche, is a fine white limestone ; the floor is ragged and uneven, and apparently merely the general masonry of the Pyramid, so that the room is in fact without a floorproper, and we are left to speculate where, in height, the upper surface of that would have reached. This peculiar condition of the chamber becomes all the more manifest on examining the structure of the walls ; for they are not only not of the general masonry of the whole building, but are in advance both as to whiteness, beauty of the material, and closeness of the joints to the lining of any of the passages yet inspected. The joints are so close, that the edges of the two surfaces of worked stone, and the filling of cement between, are comprisable often within the thickness of a hair. This fact was noted chiefly on the west wall, where, too, the presence of cement in the vertical as well as horizontal joints was duly noted. Elsewhere there is a difficulty in recognising the joints, on account of the half-glazy coating of saline matter. This substance must be regarded as a modern exudation of the stone, for some letters scratched on the north wall, with date 1824, have now a raised outline in the salty matter around and upon them. The saline matter was also seen filling a fissure apparently formed by injurious pressure in the west wall. In one or two places small portions of the original surface of the wall-stones appeared, and bore traces of having been once exquisitely smoothed and finished. The inclined roof-stones appear of a similar order, and extend 100 inches, more or less, into the wall or substance of the Pyramid, to give a firm bearing, as shown by two holes, just under the ceiling, worked by Colonel Howard Vyse and Mr. Perring. A large excavation hole has been made in the floor under the niche, and another at the back of it, by various parties, in former years ; while on the south side of the room is a trifling nick recently cut into the wall, apparently for holding visitors' candles.
Extrait du troisième volume
12 - We see plainly in the dozens of Pyramids still standing, far and near, that the stones were lifted, and great exertions of art or strength may have been requisite to that end ; but there is nothing in the stone-upon-stone composition of the Great Pyramid, which speaks of the mere building problem to be solved there, as being of a different character, or requiring inventions by man of any absolutely higher order, than elsewhere.