Et voici, pour compléter la collection d’encyclopédies figurant dans notre inventaire, ce qui est écrit sur la construction des pyramides égyptiennes dans la Chambers’s Encyclopaedia - A Dictionary of universal knowledge for the people, vol. VIII, 1868.Une fois encore, ce genre de publication reste très sage et n’ose pas s’aventurer dans des hypothèses ou “conjectures” ne faisant pas l’objet d’un minimum de consensus. En d’autres termes, on en reste grosso modo pour l’esssentiel au stade des connaissances transmises par Hérodote, avec néanmoins quelques apports complémentaires dus à des découvertes plus récentes.
“Pyramid : a structure of the shape of the geometric figure so called, erected in different parts of the Old and New World, the most important being the Pyramids of Egypt and Mexico.
Those of Egypt were considered one of the seven wonders of the world, are seventy in number, of different sizes, are between 29° and 30° N. lat., and are masses of stone or brick, with square bases, and triangular sides.
Although various opinions have prevailed as to their use, as that they were erected for astronomical purposes, for resisting the encroachment of the sand of the desert, for granaries, reservoirs, or sepulchres, the last-mentioned hypothesis has been proved to be correct in recent times by the excavations of the late General Howard Vyse, who is said to have expended nearly £10,000 in investigating their object and structure.
They were all the tombs of monarchs of Egypt who flourished from tho fourth to tho twelfth dynasty, none having been constructed later than that time ; the subsequent kings being buried at Abydos, Thebes, and other places, in tombs of a very different construction. (...)
The Pyramids are solid mounds raised over the sepulchral chambers of the kings, the first act of an Egyptian monarch being to prepare his future eternal abode. For this purpose, a shaft of the size of the intended sarcophagus was first hollowed in the rock at a suitable incline to lower it, and at a convenient depth a rectangular chamber was excavated in the solid rock. Over this chamber, a cubical mass of masonry, of square blocks, was then placed, leaving the orifice of the shaft open. Additions continued to be made to this cubical mass both in height and breadth as long as the monarch lived, so that at his death all that remained to be done was to face or smooth the exterior of the step-formed mound. But in some cases, the masonry passed beyond the orifice of the shaft, which involved the construction of a new shaft, having its orifice beyond it. The Pyramid was faced by adding courses of long blocks on each layer of the steps, and then cutting the whole to a flat or even surface, commencing from the summit. The outer masonry, however, or casing, as it is called, has in most instances been partially stripped off.
Provision was made for protecting the vertical joints by placing each stone half way over another. The masonry is admirably finished ; and the mechanical means by which such immense masses of stone were raised to their places has long been a mystery ; the discovery, however, of large circular holes in some of the stones has led to the conclusion that they were wound up by machines.
The stones were quarried on the spot ; sometimes, however, granite taken from the quarries of Syene was partially employed. The entrances were carefully filled up, and the passage protected by stone portcullises and other contrivances, to prevent ingress to the sepulchral chamber. There appears to have been also a door or pylon at the entrance of the shaft, ornamented with Egyptian sculptures and hieroglyphs.
The sides of the pyramids face the cardinal points, and the entrances face the north.
The work of the larger Pyramids was executed by corvées of labourers. The most remarkable and finest Pyramids are those of Gizeh, situated on a level space of the Libyan chain at Memphis, on the west bank of the Nile. The three largest are the most famous.
The first or Great Pyramid, as appears from the excavations of Vyse, was the sepulchre of the Cheops of Herodotus, the Chembes, or Chemmis of Diodorus, and the Suphis of Manetho and Eratosthenes. Its height was 480 feet 9 inches, and its base 764 feet square ; in other words, it was higher than St Paul's Cathedral, on an area the size of Lincoln's Inn Fields. Its slope or angle was 51° 50'. It has been, however, much spoiled and stripped of its exterior blocks for the building of Cairo. The original sepulchral chamber, called the Subterranean Apartment, 46 feet x 27 feet, and 11 feet 6 inches high, has been hewn in the solid rock, and was reached by the original passage of 320 feet long, which descended to it by an entrance at the foot of the Pyramid The excavations in this direction were subsequently abandoned, on account of the vast size attained by the Pyramid, which rendered it impracticable to carry on the entrance on a level with the natural rock, which had been cut down and faced for that purpose.
Accordingly, a second chamber, with a triangular roof, was constructed in the masonry of the pyramid, 17 feet x 18 feet 9 inches, and 20 feet 3 inches high. This was reached by a passage rising at an inclination of 26° 18', terminating in a horizontal passage. It is called the Queen's Chamber, and occupies a position nearly in the centre of the Pyramid. The monument - probably owing to the long life attained by the monarch - still progressing, a third chamber, called the King's, was finally constructed, by prolonging the ascending passage of the Queen's Chamber for 150 feet further into the very centre of the Pyramid, and after a short horizontal passage, making a room 17 feet 1 inch x 34 feet 3 inches, and 19 feet 1 inch high. To diminish, however, the pressure of the superincumbent masonry on the flat roof, five small chambers were made vertically in succession above the roof, the last one pointed, varying in height from 1 foot 4 inches to 8 feet 7 inches, the apex of the top one being rather more than 69 feet above the roof of the King's Chamber.
The end of the horizontal passage was finished in a superior style, and cased with red syenitie granite ; and in the King's Chamber was the granite sarcophagus of the king Cheops, 7 feet 6 ½ inches long, 3 feet 3 inches broad, and 3 feet 5 inches high, for whom the Pyramid was built. As the heat of this chamber was stifling, owing to want of ventilation, two small air-channels, or chimneys, about nine inches square, were made, ascending to the north and south sides of the Pyramid. They perfectly ventilate this chamber.
After the mummy was deposited in the King's Chamber, the entrance was closed with granite portcullises, and a well made at the junction of the upward-inclined and horizontal passages, by which the workmen descended into the downward-inclined passage, after carefully closing the access to the sepulchral chambers. The changes which took place in this Pyramid gave rise to various traditions, even in the days of Herodotus, Cheops being reported to lie buried in a chamber surrounded by the waters of the Nile.
It took a long time for its construction, 100.000 men being employed on it for thirty years, or more probably for above half a century, the duration of the reign of Cheops, which is dated by different chronologists at 3229, 3095, or 2123 b. c. The operations in this Pyramid by General Vyse gave rise to the discovery of marks scrawled in red ochre in a kind of cursive hieroglyphs on the blocks brought from the quarries of Tourah. These contained the name and titles of Khufu (the hieroglyphic form of Cheops); numerals and directions for the position of materials: with them were masonic marks.
The second Pyramid is situated on a higher elevation than the first, and was built by Suphis II, or Kephren, who reigned 66 years, according to Manetho, and appears to have attained a great age. It has two sepulchral chambers, and appears to have been broken into by the Calif Alaziz Othman Ben-Yousouf, 1196 A. D. Subsequently, it was opened by Belzoni. The masonry is inferior to the first, but it was anciently cased below with red granite.
The third Pyramid, built by Menkara, or Mycerinus, who reigned sixty-three years, is much smaller than the other two, being only 218 feet high by 354 feet 6 inches square. It has also two sepulchral chambers, both in the solid rock. The lower sepulchral chamber, which held a sarcophagus of rectangular shape, of whinstone, had a pointed roof, cut like an arch inside ; but the cedar coffin, in shape of a mummy, had been removed to the upper or large apartment, and its contents there rifled. Amongst the débris of the coffin and in the chambers were found the legs and part of the trunk of a body with linen wrapper, supposed by some to be that of the monarch, but by others to be that of an Arab, on account of the anchylosed right knee. This body and fragments of the coffin were removed to the British Museum ; but the stone sarcophagus was unfortunately lost off Carthagena by the sinking of the vessel in which it was being transported to England. The masonry of this Pyramid is most excellent, and it was anciently cased half-way up with black granite.”