Le court texte qui suit est extrait de l'ouvrage de l'antiquaire anglais Frederick William Fairholt (1814-1866) Up the Nile, and home again - A handbook for travellers and a travel-book for librairy, 1862.
Il ne comporte que quelques généralités, même étayées de citations de Howard Vyse, sur les pyramides, leur implantation et leur configuration. Mais que pouvait-on attendre de mieux d'un simple guide touristique ?
Je l'ai néanmoins retenu pour l'éloge que l'auteur y fait du travail harassant des archéologues, les difficultés d'exercice de cette profession/passion étant sans doute difficiles à percevoir à une époque - même au XIXe siècle ! - où l'on peut voyager rapidement et facilement.
Il fallait que cela fût dit...
"Certainly the popular idea is that the Pyramids are built on the plain of the Nile ; they in reality are based on a plateau of rock, one hundred and fifty feet in height, a lower stratum of the great Libyan range behind them. Colonel Howard Vyse, whose researches here have done so much for science, observes :"The whole plain to the foot of the mountains, from Sakkara to Abou Reche, seems to have been formerly under cultivation, but either from neglect of the ancient canals, or from other causes, it is now covered with about nine feet of sand. The whole desert has evidently encroached upon the valley of Egypt, particularly from the westward, and there was probably little or no sand on the mountains at Ghizeh, nor upon the plain beneath, when the Pyramids were erected."
The Pyramid of Cheops, the most northern of the group, is that usually ascended by travellers. It has been denuded of the triangular casing stones, so that its exterior presents a vast series of broken steps. They are about four feet high, and up these the visitor must clamber who would reach the summit, and obtain a view very little better than that from the plain, and totally inferior to one seen from the citadel at Cairo. (...)
The chambers of the interior are reached through long, low, narrow passages, leading from the entrance, a dismal aperture, about three feet high. (…) The name of Cheops, or Suphis, has been painted upon some of the stones before they were built into the walls by the masons. The date of 2,450 years before Christ has been named by Egyptian scholars as the period of his reign. In looking upon the Pyramids, we look upon antiquities the most profound the world can show : they were ancient to the nations we consider the most ancient. Joseph, Moses, and other characters of the Bible, must, when living, have looked upon them ; Herodotus, the father of history, contemplated them as works of a long-forgotten race. (…)
In these days of quick and easy travelling, we can scarcely appreciate the difficulties which beset the men who, even at the commencement of our century, exerted themselves in penetrating the secret of the Pyramids. Chief among them was Belzoni ; and it is to his acumen and indomitable perseverance that we owe the means of entering the second pyramid, supposed, from the names found on its stones, to have been constructed by Shafre or Cephres, who lived, and probably shared the throne, with Cheops. The apex of this pyramid is interesting, from the circumstance of the casing stones remaining : they still retain a polish on their surface, and speak of the simple beauty which must have been the characteristic of these solemnly-grand old monuments in their pristine condition."
Les illustrations sont extraites de l'ouvrage de Fairholt