jeudi 24 juin 2010

À propos de Giovanni Battista Caviglia - 3e partie

La parole maintenant à Howard Vyse qui a certainement le plus écrit sur Caviglia. Et pour cause : ils se trouvaient ensemble sur le chantier d' "excavation" de la Grande Pyramide. Mais le moins que l'on puisse dire est que le courant passait mal entre ces deux égyptologues au tempérament bien trempé. Au point, comme on le lira ci-dessous, que Vyse avait quelque doute sur la qualité de jugement et les compétences de Caviglia. Pire : il n'avait pas confiance en lui et se faisait fort de remettre à leur juste place les supposées découvertes de celui à qui il avait pourtant servi de parrain en égyptologie.
Non, non ! précise Howard Vyse, "I never entertained the slightest hostility towards him" (je n'ai jamais entretenu la moindre hostilité à son encontre), mais ça y ressemble fort !
Il sera donc grandement temps d'avoir, même indirectement, le point de vue de Caviglia lui-même. Tel sera l'objet de ma prochaine et dernière note consacrée à ce personnage hors du commun.
Le texte qui suit est extrait de Operations carried on at the Pyramids of Gizeh in 1837, vol. II, qui a déjà été présenté sur ce blog. Voir

Howard Vyse
"At the Great Pyramid, misled by an erroneous opinion of the vertical direction of part of the southern air-channel, which he stated that he himself had ascertained by actual experiment, M. Caviglia expended much time and labour in enlarging an excavation, begun by him some years before, on the southern side of Davison's Chamber. The height of the King's Chamber is nineteen feet one inch ; the average thickness of the granite blocks forming the roof of the King's, and floor of Davison's Chambers, is at least three or four feet, which, together, amount to about twenty-two or twenty-three feet ; the height of the mouth of the channel from the floor of the King's Chamber is three feet.

Now, M. Caviglia stated that, after passing horizontally through the wall of the King's Chamber for five feet, the southern airchannel ascended vertically for fourteen (making the total height from the floor of the King's Chamber seventeen feet), and that it afterwards turned off in an unknown direction, probably towards the centre of the pyramid. He accordingly deepened the abovementioned excavation, in order to cut down upon the channel ; and, having failed in that object, he continued the operation towards the centre of the pyramid.
This excavation is to be seen in nearly the same state as it was at M. Caviglia's departure, scarcely any additional labour having been expended upon it, and that, not so much with a view of intercepting the air-channel, as with the intention of getting above the ceiling of Davison's Chamber, upon which undertaking Mr. Perring and myself determined after our examination on the night of the 12th of February .

On the 13th, Mr. Perring reported that, having been again in Davison's Chamber, he had taken the men from the southern side of that apartment, and set them to work for the sake of greater convenience at the end of the passage to the north of it, where a small stick had been inserted on the preceding evening for about the length of two feet up a crevice in an open joint on the eastern side of the corner granite block, that formed part of the ceiling of the chamber.
Caviglia states that he had discovered an unexplored passage, in which we were still prosecuting our labours when he left the Pyramids, and in which, he would lead the public to infer, that he had commenced an opening into Wellington's Chamber. Now, there is positively no passage in this part of the building but that leading into Davison's Chamber and the air-channel. The former had been open, at all events, since 1764 ; and the latter was, at the time, entirely unexplored, and remained so till the 29th of May 1837, when it was ascertained that no part of it was in a vertical direction as M. Caviglia had confidently asserted, but that it continued in one inclination from the wall of the King's Chamber to the exterior of the pyramid, at a considerable distance, and perfectly inaccessible from the excavation at the south of Davison's Chamber, in which so much time and expense had been, in consequence of M. Caviglia's unaccountable mistake, so long and so inconsiderately wasted.
Had M. Caviglia ever entertained an idea of getting above Davison's Chamber, by any other means excepting by that of the southern air-channel, it is manifest that instead of excavating downwards and towards the centre of the pyramid, he would have worked upwards in the calcareous stone on either the eastern or western side of that apartment. (1) The exact spot was of no consequence, excepting as it afforded greater facility for cutting through the stone, which was the sole reason why the one at the end of the passage was fixed upon ; but if any great merit is to be attached to its selection, Mr. Perring should be immortalised ; and it should be named, according to the ideas of the anonymous correspondent, " Perring's Hole, or Passage."
With regard to the northern air-channel, it appears, by M. Caviglia's Italian exposé, that in 1820 he tried to ascertain its direction (as many other people have done), by the insertion of long sticks, which led him to the conclusion that " there were other apartments in the interior of this monument," (2) and that, having failed, as might have been reasonably expected, in cutting through the blocks of granite, "assistito da quella costanza che gli e tutta propria, immaginò di aprire un nuovo sentiero nella pietra calcarea aderente al granito". This excavation he followed up in his last operations to the extent altogether of thirty-six feet without any beneficial result, and the work was accordingly discontinued on the 13th of February.
When this channel was ultimately opened from above, it appeared that, like that to the south, it had no communication with any other chambers, - a fact directly at variance with M. Caviglia's conjectures, formed "after years of labour and study" which intense application might have been spared, if he had taken an excursion over the exterior of the pyramid, where the forced mouth of the northern air-channel, and the aperture of the southern, were plainly to have been seen. I have already mentioned that the one was discovered accidentally by Mr. Perring, and the other in one day by Abd El Ardi. Indeed, whoever has examined these extraordinary buildings must be aware how idle it is to talk of secrets and of study, about what there is little or no analogy, or data, to go by. Proofs are not wanting, that most of the discoveries at the Pyramids (excepting those of the Caliphs, who appear to have possessed some knowledge of their interior formation), have been the result of conjecture, and many of mere accident. 

It is only necessary to instance M. Caviglia's interesting discovery in 1817, of the communication between the upper and lower passages by means of the well. It is 191 feet 6 inches in depth, and it had been examined in 1764 by Mr. Davison for 155 feet, so that the space of 36 feet 6 inches was all that remained unexplored at that time ; and a good deal of sand was removed by the French in 1800. The difficulty of respiration, however, of course remained the same till the lower passage had also been cleared out. And it seems, by Mr. Salt's account, that, notwithstanding his perseverance and industry, M. Caviglia failed entirely in his attempt to penetrate through the well, and was obliged to give up the operation as hopeless ; but that, in clearing out the lower passage leading to the subterraneous apartment, (which, however, had also been entered by Mr. Davison, to the extent of 131 feet,) he unexpectedly effected his former purpose, as the rubbish in the well naturally fell down as fast as it was taken out at the bottom, and thus M. Caviglia, whilst directing his attention to another object, unintentionally made a most important discovery, and put an end to the doubts and speculations, that had existed respecting the well for above 2000 years.
At the commencement of our operations, I certainly imagined that M. Caviglia was better acquainted than any other person with the interior of the Great Pyramid ; but my confidence in his judgment and skill was considerably lessened when he proposed that the boring-rods should be used on the granite floor of the King's Chamber, and also that they should be worked downwards from the exterior of the pyramid upon the northern end of the great passage, for the sake of ventilation ; a distance, in his opinion, of about 40 feet, but which afterwards proved nearly 200 feet. After this latter exposition of the knowledge he had so laboriously acquired of the relative distances of the several parts of this edifice, and after other similar instances, that could be advanced, I had not much reliance upon him. (…)
At the Third Pyramid, M. Caviglia had begun a narrow passage from the southern end of the upper excavation made by the Mamelukes, "in the hope," as he says, "of being able to penetrate more easily the interior than by searching for an entrance at the base", which proves that, "after years of labour and study", he knew no more of the interior of that pyramid than of the others, as the entrance is considerably below the lower excavation, and as the whole of the apartments are entirely subterraneous. On the 13th of February, M. Caviglia's passage had only arrived at the length of six feet, notwithstanding the apparent satisfaction with which he mentioned, in his letter of the 17th of January, the progress he had made, and that he was within sixty feet of the centre of the pyramid. As I afterwards carried on this work to the centre, and sunk shafts to the foundation, without finding any passage or apartment, it is clear that I received from M. Caviglia no more assistance in the discoveries made at this pyramid, than in other instances. (…)
Having now clearly shewn that I never received from M. Caviglia the slightest useful information, or assistance (which indeed was not in his power to afford), but that on the contrary I had much reason to complain of the ill-judged and feeble manner, in which he attempted, most unsuccessfully, to carry on the intentions of the firmaun, and particularly also of the time and labour which he wasted on other trifling objects, I have now most distinctly and indignantly to deny, that any determination existed between Colonel Campbell and myself "to dispense with his services, and to profit in concert by the results of his previous studies and researches", which, it is falsely stated, he "so freely imparted ";-an imputation which can only affect the character of the persons who have so vainly endeavoured to cast it on Colonel Campbell and myself. M. Caviglia's dismissal on the 12th of February, was the consequence of his own unwarrantable conduct.
The details, which I have thought it necessary to draw up respecting the recent discoveries at the Pyramids, will sufficiently prove that I entertain no silly vanity respecting them, but that on the other hand I have endeavoured to give full credit to those gentlemen, by whose skill and perseverance I have been so materially assisted ; and I here beg to assure M. Caviglia how much I regret that it is not in my power to make similar acknowledgments to him. The tenour of my answer to his application, made through Mr. Galloway, on the 7th of March, to be allowed to return to the Pyramids, will shew that I never entertained the slightest hostility towards him, although it was evidently impossible to accede to his request. I could also, were it necessary, appeal to Mr. Wilkinson's testimony, that I sedulously avoided any allusions to these unpleasant transactions, beyond what were necessary to make intelligible the operations afterwards so successfully carried on at Gizeh : nor should I have now entered into so long and disagreeable a detail, had it not been for the groundless and foul accusations publicly preferred, in M. Caviglia's name, against Colonel Campbell and myself."

(1) Since this statement was written, Lord Lindsay's book has been published, and the following passage will remove all further doubt on the subject. His lordship visited the Pyramids in December 1836, and, after describing the King's Chamber, and M. Caviglia's excavation along the course of the northern air-channel, he says: " 'Now', says Caviglia, 'I will shew you how I hope to find out where the southern passage leads to.' Returning to the landing-place at the top of the grand staircase, we mounted a ricketty ladder to the narrow passage that leads to Davison's Chamber (so named after the English consul at Algiers, who discovered it seventy years ago) ; it is directly above the King's Chamber, the ceiling of the one forming the floor of the other. The ceiling of Davison's Chamber consists of eight stones, beautifully worked ; and this ceiling, which is so low that you can only sit cross-legged under it, Caviglia believes to be the floor of another large room above it, which he is now trying to discover. To this room he concludes the little passage leads that branches from the south side of the King's Chamber. He has accordingly dug down into the calcareous stone at the further end of Davison's Chamber, in the hopes of meeting it ; once found, it will probably lead him to the place he is in quest of. And now, I am sure, if I have been happy enough to inspire you with a tithe of the interest with which I followed every winding of the pyramid, and of our cicerone's mind (itself a most extraordinary labyrinth), you will be glad to hear that there seems every probability of his soon reaching the little passage. Leaving a servant in the excavation, descending to the King's Chamber, and shouting at the hole, the man answered by striking on the stone distinct strokes, - as satisfactory a reply as could be wished for." With respect to the latter part of this quotation, I can only say that, believing upon M. Caviglia's authority that the air-channel was vertical, and that the excavation was consequently near it, I have repeatedly endeavoured to ascertain its direction, by listening in Davison's Chamber to noises made high up in the passage, but always without success ; and the accompanying plan laid down by Mr. Perring will shew that it is impossible I could have done so. The sounds, therefore, mentioned by Lord Lindsay, must have been conveyed through the passage by which his lordship had ascended to Davison's Chamber. 
(2) It is scarcely possible to enter the King's Chamber without observing the two air-channels. Greaves, who travelled in 1638, describes the opening of that to the south to have been forced, and also to have been blackened with smoke.

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