mercredi 17 mars 2010

"Rien dans la construction des pyramides n'indique qu'elles étaient destinées à être des trésors, des temples ou des observatoires astronomiques" (Stephen Olin - XIXe s.)

Dans son ouvrage Travels in Egypt, Arabia Petræa, and the Holy Land, vol.1, 1844, l'Américain Stephen Olin (1797-1851), pasteur de l'église méthodiste épiscopale, consacre un développement aux pyramides d'Égypte, en s'intéressant surtout à leur fonction dans la société qui les a construites.
Il note les avis discordants sur ce sujet, dont aucun ne lui semble satisfaisant. Il n'en manifeste pas moins son point de vue personnel, étayé sur la configuration des environs des pyramides, aménagés comme des lieux funéraires :"La taille et la somptuosité des pyramides ne sont pas une objection à la théorie selon laquelle elles furent uniquement utilisées comme des cimetières."
Puis, après une courte remarque sur les dimensions des blocs de pierres utilisés dans la construction des pyramides, l'auteur tourne ses regards vers le Sphinx pour le décrire en détail, suggérer qu'il fut construit après les pyramides de Khéops et Khéphren et remarquer qu'à cause de sa position (100 pieds sous la base des pyramides), il est particulièrement exposé à l'ensablement ("inundations from the desert").

Illustration extraite de l'ouvrage de S.Olin
The object for which the Pyramids were constructed has given rise to much learned controversy, without leading to any conclusions that have proved generally satisfactory. It seems yet to be doubted whether they were built for tombs, temples, or the depositories of royal treasures. I possess no competency to decide antiquarian questions, but I am unable to participate in the prevailing doubts with regard to this subject. The Pyramids are surrounded by tombs and other receptacles of the dead. The largest of them contains a sarcophagus, which was certainly placed in the apartment it now occupies before the completion of the edifice. The rest have similar passages and chambers, and a general resemblance prevails among them all, which demonstrates a common design.
The Egyptians are known to have bestowed the utmost care upon the remains of the dead, and the sentiment or superstition which led to the erection of the humbler tombs that cover the desert, would naturally incline a monarch of absolute power and unlimited resources to secure his memory from oblivion, or his ashes from profanation, by more imposing and less perishable structures. The size and sumptuousness of the Pyramids is no objection to the theory which presumes that they were only used as cemeteries. There is nothing in the construction to indicate that they were designed for treasuries, temples, or astronomical observatories. They have no fitness for these purposes. If, in some of their arrangements, they appear as little adapted to the objects of a cemetery, the objection is, in this case, answered by the fact that they are known to have been so employed, while there is no proof, direct or indirect, that they had ever any connexion actual or intended, with the other objects supposed.
Standing upon the Pyramids, and looking down upon the monumental city that surrounds their bases, and stretches to so great a distance southward along the verge of the Libyan Desert, I could but feel that the two learned and celebrated controversies with regard to the design of the Pyramids, and the site of ancient Memphis, go far towards explaining each other. The existence of this vast cemetery demonstrates the previous existence of a populous city in its immediate vicinity.
The customs of this country in ancient and modern times required that the dead should be interred beyond the precincts of the habitations of the living. Considerations of convenience would ensure the choice of a place of sepulture at the nearest suitable point. The desert afforded unlimited and most desirable facilities for this purpose, and, after all the desolations of time, it is still covered with tombs from the Pyramids of Ghizeh to those of Saccara. These, in the absence of all satisfactory proofs in favour of any conflicting hypothesis, I must think sufficient reasons for believing that Memphis and its suburbs occupied the plain still encumbered with the rubbish of a vast, unknown city, and now covered with wheat-fields and palm-groves, which intervenes between this field of sepulchres and the Nile. The great extent given to the ancient metropolis of Egypt by this hypothesis will be no insuperable objection, if a liberal allowance is made for enclosed gardens, faubourgs, etc.
Many of the stones employed in the construction of the Pyramids and tombs are of a very large size. I measured one which was twenty-seven feet long by more than eight in height. The width was concealed in the body of the Pyramid. A large number of these blocks are fifteen or twenty feet in length, by five or six in their other dimensions.

Nearly opposite to the central Pyramid on the south, and distant perhaps fifty or sixty rods, is the celebrated Sphynx. This immense statue has the face, neck, and breast of a man and the body of a lion. It is nearly buried in the sand, no part being visible at present but the head, breast, and shoulders. The whole length, as stated by those who measured this statue after the laborious excavations of Caviglia had freed it from sand, is 130 feet. The neck and head are twenty-seven feet high, the width across the breast thirty three feet. The paws extend fifty feet in front of the figure, which rests upon its belly. These, which are now buried in the sand, were found by Caviglia to be covered with inscriptions.
A small temple stood between the outstretched feet of the Sphynx ; and an altar, some sculptured lions, and tablets inscribed with hieroglyphics, were discovered in front of the temple. The headdress has the appearance of a huge wig. The ears are very large and prominent, and appear unnatural. The nose is broken off, and the eyes are mutilated. Still the expression is benignant and agreeable, and human much beyond what one would think possible in a figure so colossal, so disproportioned to the human stature, and, withal, so mutilated. It is said to be constructed of one immense rock, which was reduced to its present form by Thotmes IV, B.C. 1446.
The encroachments of the desert have hidden almost the whole of this wonderful statue from our observation. The action of the wind almost immediately replaced the sand which Caviglia, with infinite perseverance and considerable expense, had toiled many months to excavate.
He was, however, rewarded by valuable discoveries, and subsequent travellers have been contented to rely on his statements rather than repeat his labours. The Sphynx is peculiarly exposed to the inundations from the desert, from its position, which I should think 100 feet below the base of the Pyramids.

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