dimanche 26 décembre 2010

La “prodigieuse antiquité des pyramides et leurs mystères encore non résolus”, selon Edward Joy Morris (XIXe s.)

Dans son ouvrage Notes of a tour through Turkey, Greece, Egypt, and Arabia Petraea, to the Holy Land, édité en 1847, l’homme politique et diplomate américain Edward Joy Morris (1815-1881) commence le récit de sa découverte des pyramides de Guizeh sur des impressions somme toute très banales, en dépit, bien sûr, de la majesté des lieux : ascension de la Grande Pyramide (le “must”, à une certaine époque, de tout voyage touristique en Égypte), extase devant le panorama qui se découvre au sommet du monument, référence obligée à Hérodote...
La relation devient par contre plus personnelle, voire mystique, lorsque l’on apprend que l’auteur a tenu à passer une nuit entière sur la plate-forme qui couronne la pyramide, pour mieux s’imprégner de l’histoire et de la densité émotionnelle du site.
Poursuivant sa visite à l’intérieur du monument, il se livre alors à des conjectures sur ses éléments stucturels, notamment sur l’existence supposée ou probable d’espaces jusqu’alors inexplorés : autres “appartements” communiquant avec la chambre du Roi, galeries souterraines et cavernes donnant sur la grande “avenue” en pierres conduisant au Nil...
Une fois encore, la Grande Pyramide se manifeste, aux regards attentifs au moindre détail, sous deux niveaux de lecture : d’une part, ses structures immédiatement visibles à tout un chacun, et, d’autre part, des espaces dont l’existence, au moins supposée ou probable, est déduite d’une certaine logique “architecturale”. C’est le cas, entre autres, de l’”entrée” (entrance) de la chambre du Roi qui, différente de celle qu’empruntent actuellement tous les visiteurs, communiquerait avec d’”autres appartements” :”Pour autant qu’elle existe, cette entrée est hermétiquement fermée, et rien, si ce n’est un tremblement de terre, ne pourrait l’ouvrir.”

Cliché Edgar Brothers (source : Jon Bodsworth)
“On landing at Gizeh, the pyramids, though several miles distant, appeared to be directly before us. In three hours, after a ride across the intervening plain, we arrived at the base of the rocky elevation on which the pyramids are erected. Here begins the desert, the pyramids marking the limit of cultivable land. A number of Bedouins, who live around the pyramids, came running to us and offering their services as guides.
Ascending the rocky foundation of the pyramids, we stood at their base, and here for the first time, we had some idea of their mass and size. Standing at the base of the great pyramid of Cheops, and looking up its sides, it seemed to lean against the sky ; we were too eager to scale the summit to stand long at the base. We ascended at one of the corners ; a Bedouin, mounted upon the stone above, extended his hand to the person ascending, while another aided him with a lift of his shoulder from below.
The pyramids being built with receding layers of stone, a ledge of about three feet in width is left upon each layer, which affords a secure landing-place. In this manner the ascent was easily made in fifteen minutes. Instead of an apex hardly wide enough to stand upon, we found the apex of the pyramid of Cheops a flat square at least fifteen feet broad. A large stone is in the centre, indicating that the original sharp apex of the pyramid has been destroyed, which, of course, has diminished its height.
According to Herodotus, the pyramids were originally covered with a smooth coat of cement, which rendered it impossible to ascend them. The broken, jagged sides of the pyramids show that several attempts have been made to destroy them, a labour which one of the Arabian caliphs found a task equal only to the power of those who built them.
The view from the top of the pyramids extends over the whole breadth of the valley of the Nile, from the Mokattam mountains back to Cairo, to the Lybian desert. While we were on the pyramids the sun went down. My companions descended to sleep in tents at some distance on the plain, while I remained on the top of the pyramid, having resolved to pass the night there. I retained the shiek of the Bedouins and two of his men, and sent down another to bring up the pipes and coffee I had brought from Cairo. The promise of a backsheesh silenced their protestations and fears. The Bedouins kindled a fire with charcoal under the lee of the stone, and made us some excellent coffee, after their manner. Washing the coffee down with a bumper of claret to the memory of old Cheops, we lit our pipes, the Bedouins leaving me to contemplate the darkening landscape, while they, gathered in a group, indulged in suspicious surmises as to my object in sleeping on the pyramids. The last ray of light was gradually fading from the horizon, and the landscape was every moment becoming darker and darker.(...)

Un intéressant “débat” avec Hérodote
The solitude was as profound as that which reigned within the chambers of the pyramid beneath us. Across the plain, as day declined, the villages were indicated only by flitting lights and the baying of dogs. By midnight the moon was in the zenith, and the heavens presented a brilliant host of planets and stars, such as the old astronomers had probably gazed upon from this very spot. The Bedouins were all asleep, so burying myself in the folds of a Greek capote, I turned my back against the stone and fell asleep. The bull Apis, Cheops, the transmigration of souls, with speculation on Egyptian theology and oxology, occupied my dreams, and I was engaged in a very interesting dispute with Herodotus, touching the architects of the pyramids, when the Bedouin sheik awoke me, and told me the sun was rising. The earth was yet robed in the twilight of morning. The horizon in the quarter of the sun was streaked with pencilings of light, while the rest of the heavens were almost perfectly dark. As the sun approached the edge of the horizon, light shot around it ; in a moment more the top of the sun's orb was visible, and instantaneously afterwards he wheeled up with a majestic bound, and poured a flood of light over heaven and earth. It was as magnificent as the first sun that rose upon the first morning, when " God said let there be light, and there was light."
Immediately afterwards I descended, and rejoined my companions with no other unpleasant effects from my night's sleep on the top of the pyramids than a purse enlightened by a liberal backsheesh, and a rather uneasy appetite.

Cliché Edgar Brothers (source : Jon Bodsworth)

L’intérieur de la Grande Pyramide et ses “autres appartements”
Having made the ascent of the pyramid of Cheops, we next turned our attention to the interior. This pyramid stands on a platform of rock a hundred and fifty feet above the surrounding desert, and near fifty more above the valley of the Nile. We found the entrance in the centre of the north side. Several Arabs accompanied us as guides. We clambered up to it, about thirty feet above the base. We proceeded down the passage, (...) groping our way along, each preceded by a guide holding a taper. Haying descended this passage to some depth, we struck another passage which ascends into the body of the pyramid at a rather sharp angle. We followed this until our way was obstructed by a rock, which overhangs the mouth of the well. Climbing over this impediment, we came to the point whence a long horizontal gallery branches off to the Queen's chamber. We continued our way however up the passage, leading with a gentle inclination to the King's chamber. After considerable toil, we arrived at the great chamber of the pyramid. The guides had brought with them a large quantity of tapers, but their united illumination gave us but a faint idea of the size and appearance of the chamber. We could see, however, that the ceiling and walls, like the passages we had just traversed, were lined with immense slabs of Syene granite, and porphyry polished to an extraordinary brilliancy. They were so compactly joined together, as to present a surface of uniform smoothness, having the appearance of one entire block of stone. The chamber being in the centre of the pyramid, is supposed to communicate with other apartments. The entrance, if there be any, is hermetically closed, and nothing less than an earthquake will ever rend it open.
In the middle of the apartment we observed the sarcophagus, broken and mutilated. This apartment is thirty-seven feet two inches long, seventeen feet two inches wide, and nearly twenty feet in height. One of the Arabs discharged a pistol while we were in it. The reverberation was deafening. The sound seemed to gather force as it rolled through the many chambers of the pyramid ; echo followed echo, until the din became appalling, now lulling, then again breaking forth into a louder roar, as it rushed into some new chamber. At last, with one explosive peal of thunder, it burst its way out and ceased. These multiplied echoes indicate that there are other chambers in this pyramid not yet discovered.

Chambre de la Reine, chambres de décharge, puits, chambre souterraine
The Queen's chamber, which is directly beneath the one we had just visited, is of smaller dimensions, but finished with the same compact masonry, and polished granite, as that of the King's. These were the only chambers we entered, the access to even these being attended with much difficulty. We were obliged to grope our way along in the dark, on our hands and feet, half choked with the dust which our progress excited, not knowing whither we were going, but following blindly at the heels of our Bedouin guides.
A new chamber was discovered several years ago, directly above the King's, of small dimensions, by Mr. Davidson, the British consul at Cairo. And, in 1836, Caviglia opened three new chambers directly above this, the largest of which is more than thirty-eight feet long. The chambers, as far as opened in this pyramid, are directly above each other, the object of which succession Colonel Vyse supposes to have been to lessen the superincumbent weight of one upon the other.
The well, the mouth of which we crossed at the termination of one of the galleries, has been descended to the depth of one hundred and fifty-five feet, without attaining the bottom. Caviglia found a shaft which conducted towards the foundation of the pyramid, where he entered a large chamber sixty feet long. This chamber is in the centre of the pyramid, directly beneath the upper chambers. In it is the mouth of a well, which has been opened, but it is supposed to lead below the level of the Nile, to subterranean passages, or probably to some canal which is connected with the Nile, and served as an auxiliary in the religious solemnities enacted in these subterranean caverns. Caviglia found many passages leading from this chamber, in different directions, sealed up however, at some distance from the opening, by blocks of stone. Should a perfect exploration ever take place of the wells of the pyramid, and these lateral passages, it would be found that they communicate with the adjoining pyramid of Cepheres ; and as there are the same kind of subterranean galleries in that pyramid of an equally intricate labyrinthine course, it is not unreasonable to conjecture that they communicate with the neighbouring pyramid of Mycerinus.

 Illustration de 1882

Les trois fonctions de la pyramide
The whole rock beneath the pyramid is excavated into subterranean galleries and caverns, which once, probably, opened upon the great avenue of stone which conducted to the Nile, at the head of which stood the Sphynx.
We know enough to conclude that the pyramids were erected for a triple object, as mausolea for the kings, astronomical observatories, and for the celebration of religious mysteries ; and in my humble opinion, their founders had in view the combination of these three objects. A few facts are sufficient to sustain this hypothesis. The sarcophagi found in them are evidence of their destination as royal sepulchres. The exact position of the four corners of the pyramids with reference to the four cardinal points of the compass, the uniform angle of 26° of the sloping channels of entrance, and the observation made by Caviglia, that the polar star, during his exploration of the pyramid of Cheops, was to be seen from the bottom of the first galley, and that it passed over it during his stay at the pyramid, all these facts indubitably prove the adaption of the pyramids to astronomical purposes. That they were in some manner connected with the religion of the Egyptians it is reasonable to conjecture, from the mysterious nature of that religion, its dark and secret ceremonies, secluded from the eye of the vulgar in gloomy temples, and hidden caves, and the perfect adaptation of the subterranean chambers, vaults, and galleries, beneath the pyramids, to its rites and ceremonies.

Selon Caviglia, des galeries souterraines relient les différentes pyramides
The pyramid of Cephrenes is several hundred feet distant from the great pyramid. This pyramid was opened by Belzoni. It contains several chambers of great beauty. It is better preserved than the pyramid of Cheops, part of the original cement on the outside still remaining.
Beyond this again, on the same level, is another pyramid, and several miles distant, nearly in a line with the pyramids of Gizeh, on the edge of the desert, are the pyramids of Sakkarah and Abousir. The pyramids of Sakkarah are quite inferior structures to those of Gizeh, being loosely built of small stones, and of very meagre dimensions in height and extent. The pyramid of Cheops towers above all, while the others gradually diminish in height, as they recede from the great pyramid. Caviglia is of the opinion that all these pyramids are connected by subterranean galleries. The hollow sound which the earth gives back to the footstep, between these pyramids, would seem to give a show of plausibility to such an opinion. This underground communication would traverse a distance of nearly ten miles ! Connect this reasonable hypothesis, and the time and labour necessary for the excavation of such immense works beneath the earth, with the absence of hieroglyphics, or any signs of writing in the pyramids, and you may have some idea of the prodigious antiquity of the pyramids and their yet undeveloped mysteries.

Illustration de W.H. Bartlett

Le sourire du Sphinx
In the midst of all this mystery and contusion sits the gigantic figure of the Sphynx, smiling placidly and benignly, and seeming to exult in the baffled curiosity of the bewildered traveller. The head and neck alone remain above the sand, a height of about thirty feet. (...) The outlines of the face indicate it to be a sculpture of much merit, though it may be justly doubted whether it ever possessed so much beauty and expression as is ascribed to it by the ancient authors. With the aid of a ladder, we ascended to the head, where four of us sat down together to breakfast. The whole figure of the Sphynx was cleared of the sand which now surrounds it by Belzoni. Between the legs he found a tablet and altar, which appeared to be stained with the blood of sacrifices. On one of the paws of the legs, which stretched out fifty feet from the body, he found a temple. This gigantic figure, when thus fully exposed to view, must have been very imposing. A doorway is said to have anciently existed between the legs of the Sphynx, which gave entrance to the subterranean vault beneath, which formed part of the labyrinthine chambers and galleries that traverse the earth between the pyramids.”

Aucun commentaire: