jeudi 11 mars 2010

"L'austère simplicité de ces merveilleuses structures" (Isabella Frances Romer - XIXe s., à propos des pyramides de Guizeh)

Dans notre inventaire des théories développées par les pyramidologues toutes orientations confondues, la gent féminine se fait plutôt discrète. Nullement par sectarisme, croyez-le bien ! D'où une attention toute particulière dès lors qu'une Lady pointe le bout de sa plume à l'horizon de nos recherches dans le vaste univers des ouvrages traitant d'égyptologie.
La Britannique Isabella Frances Romer (1798-1852) n'est pas à proprement parler à l'origine d'une théorie particulière sur la construction des pyramides. Pour cause de genre littéraire, son ouvrage A pilgrimage to the temples and tombs of Egypt, Nubia and Palestine in 1845-1846, édité en 1846, tient plutôt du récit de voyage. On notera toutefois dans le texte ci-dessous, extrait du volume II de l'ouvrage, un intérêt réel, après l'inévitable séquence émotion, pour la chose architecturale. Pour guider ses pas, elle fait appel à une valeur sûre : le colonel Howard Vyse. Puis, dans son élan, elle se demande s'il ne faut pas donner plus de crédit à la relation d'Hérodote concernant l'emplacement de la dépouille de Khéops, dans la partie souterraine de la Grande Pyramide, au milieu des eaux du Nil.

"The favourite project of years, so often talked of, so often attempted, so often relinquished, that from being one of the greatest wishes of my heart it appeared to have gradually subsided into the greatest of all impossibilities, is at last accomplished : I have seen, touched, entered into the Pyramids !
(…) It is a moment in one's life never to be forgotten, that in which for the first time one approaches so near to the Pyramids of Ghizeh as not only to obtain a distinct view of the platform upon which they are based, but to be made fully aware of their stupendous size. Rising from their rocky pedestal they appear in all their magnitude before you, the noblest as well as the oldest monuments in the world, while in front of them, like an advanced guard, crouches the Sphinx, the vast outline of its head alone discernible above the sepulchre of sand that has engulphed its other parts. Perhaps it was because I had heard less, and thought less of the Sphinx than of the Pyramids, that I have been so powerfully struck by it ; but be that as it may, nothing that I have as yet seen in Egypt has produced so deep an effect upon me.

(…) It was only when I stood under the immediate shadow of the great pyramid of Cheops, that I became thoroughly imbued with its immensity. During the whole of our ride from Cairo to the feet of the Sphinx, my mind had been vacillating between wonder and expectation, occasionally dashed with disappointment at finding that the Pyramids did not increase upon me in the degree I had imagined they would have done ; but when I dismounted at the base of the first, and that my eyes wandering upwards and sideways over the enormous surface of stone, suddenly descried near the summit sundry human figures scrambling towards the goal, and looking scarcely larger than sparrows, I felt literally overwhelmed by its magnitude. The severe simplicity of these wonderful structures increases the effect produced by them, for, as the eye is not seduced by any beauty or intricacy of details, it at once takes in and comprehends the stupendous whole.
(…) Without entering upon the question of how much still remains unexplored of the interior of Cheops' pyramid, or dwelling upon the mass of conjectures already afloat respecting the original destination of those mysterious structures - whether they were tombs, temples, or observatories -, I shall assume the supposition of their having been royal sepulchres, and treat of Cheops' pyramid as the burial-place prepared by a powerful sovereign during his life-time for himself, and, perhaps, for his queen, and built with the firm determination that no one in succeeding ages should discover where his body was placed when once it was snugly deposited there.
(…) Indeed [the] absence of hieroglyphic legends has afforded the plausible argument that the construction of the pyramids preceded the use of letters ; but the recent discoveries of Colonel Howard Vyse has triumphantly defeated that assertion ; for, in the small rooms opened by him over the King's chamber, he found hieroglyphics containing the name of the Pharaoh (Suphis), to whom the building of Cheops' pyramid is attributed. However, even if such a discovery had not been made, I think that Sir Gardner Wilkinson's argument is conclusive, that it would have been an anomaly for a people who were sufficiently enlightened to execute such a monument, to have remained without a written language.

(…) It would appear that, with a view to mislead intruders, the (…) entrance was artfully placed not in the middle, but at the distance of twenty-three feet from the centre of the north face of the pyramid. This was done evidently with a view to deceive spoliators ; and in the case of the first entry that we have on record, made by the Caliph Mamoon, A.d. 820, who caused the Great Pyramid to be broken open, expecting to find treasure there, the workmen effected a forced passage exactly in the centre of the northern front, but when they had proceeded a few feet, their attention was attracted to the real passage by the hollow sound produced by the accidental falling of some stones therein. From the forced entry they had made, they effected their way into the real passage, and worked their way out by the present entrance through which all subsequent travellers have obtained ingress (...) to the King's chamber. The circumstance of their having only found an empty sarcophagus there, has left mankind still in doubt as to whether that room had been the real depository of the royal remains ; but might not earlier depredators have found their way there, and having rifled the tomb, closed up the entrance so effectually as to elude detection ?
I believe that, even now, there are many persons who entertain the belief that these discovered passages were originally made only as a blind to mislead intruders, and that the secret object of the Pyramids still lies undiscovered in the direction of the descending passage ; and below the chamber called the rock chamber, beyond which exists a horizontal passage to the extent of fifty-two feet, where there is a well, which was explored by Colonel Howard Vyse without any result. Some, I believe, would even go so far as to maintain that the sacred chamber was sunk sufficiently deep in the rock upon which the pyramid is based, to bear out the opinion that Herodotus gathered from the Egyptian priests of his day - a hearsay evidence, perhaps, rashly advanced by the Father of History - that the Pharaoh's body lay in an insulated subterraneous chamber beneath the pyramid, at a sufficient depth to admit of the introduction of water from the Nile, which entirely surrounded the tomb."

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