mercredi 15 décembre 2010

“Les pyramides égyptiennes : les plus parfaits des mausolées jamais conçus par l’intelligence humaine” (George Robins Gliddon - XIXe s.)

L’égyptologue américain George Robins Gliddon (1809-1857) fut vice-consul des États-Unis au Caire.
Sa méthode pour l’acquisition de solides bases en égyptologie : lire les écrits de Wilkinson, Champollion le Jeune, Champollion-Figeac, Howard Vyse, Lepsius... et visiter les monuments de l’Égypte ancienne (ce qu’il fit à partir de 1823, mais surtout de 1831 à 1841), avant de se forger sa propre théorie.
Le texte que j’ai retenu de lui est issu de résumés de leçons qu’il donna à des étudiants en égyptologie, qui furent ensuite publiés dans Ethnological Journal avant d’être rassemblés dans un ouvrage, avec notes complémentaires de G.R. Gliddon : Otia Aegyptiaca : Discourses on Egyptian Archaeology and hieroglyphical discoveries, 1849.
Pour l’articulation de ce texte, j’ai inséré des intertitres en français.
Je souligne également deux “détails” mis en avant par l’auteur-conférencier :
- la non-obturation des conduits dits d’aération dans la Grande Pyramide, prouvée par... le sens maternel d’une chatte voulant retrouver ses petits ;
- la comparaison (ressemblance ?) entre les pyramides égyptiennes et les “Mounds” construits en terre dans l’Ouest américain.

 Photo Marc Chartier

“The Champollionists are entitled to the merit of having expunged from the mental history of man the many aberrations on this subject left on record. Having expressed the wish that in examining this question, we should make use of the plain common sense which distinguishes this age, as it did that of the building of the Pyramids, Mr. Gliddon defined the three heads of his discourse :
1. As to the epoch of the pyramids of Memphis. These were all built between the times of Noah and Abraham in the scale of biblical chronology, and those of Menes, the first Pharoah of Egypt, and the founder of the first dynasty at Memphis, and the thirteenth dynasty in collateral Egyptian hieroglyphical chronology. Thus all the Memphite pyramids existed and were ancient 2000 years before Christ. All the pyramids in Lower Egypt are 4000 years old, and taking the pyramid of Moeris, according to Lepsius' letters, built between 2151 and 2194 years before Christ, as the last of this series, the remainder will successively recede to above 5000 years ago.

Les bâtisseurs de pyramides étaient de race causasienne
2. The builders of the pyramids were Mizraimites, children of Ham of the Caucasian race. Whether these people were autocthones or terrae geniti, or whether they came originally from Asia, is a question Mr. Gliddon discusses in other lectures, referring in the meantime to Morton's Aegyptiaca. (...) It is sufficient to say, that they were Caucasians, and white men, and Egyptians.
3. In their objects the pyramids were exclusively sepulchral. They represent the tombs of Pharaohs who ruled in Memphis prior to the invasion of the Hykshos tribes, and are, therefore, the sepulchres of a long line of Egyptian Kings who reigned from the first to the thirteenth dynasty of Manetho. (...)
Mr. Gliddon stated that he paid very little attention to the opinions of any Egyptian writers previously to the Great French Work on Egypt, printed at Paris, and the "Aegyptiaca" of Hamilton, published at London, both results of the French and English expeditions to Egypt in 1798 to 1802. We are to take our departure from the beginning of this century ; but even to these works so much has been added, since 1835, by the labors of the Champollionists, that they must now be taken with many grains of allowance. Travels in Egypt before the French expedition, and descriptions of the pyramids before 1825, save in the French Work, are rarely of any value to the archaeologist. (...)

Description de la Grande Pyramide
Mr. Gliddon (...) described the Great Pyramid. (...) The casing was entire in the days of Herodotus and Diodorus ; and it continued so until some time subsequent to the Christian era. Arab historians tell us that some centuries ago, the Saracenic Caliphs of Cairo took down the outer casing-stones, partly to destroy the Pyramid, and partly for the sake of the materials. The average loss of surface by this means is some twenty-three feet, and of height about thirty, in 5.000 years. (...)
The Great Pyramid, the lecturer resumed, is built over a small hill, forming its nucleus, the stone of which its bulk is composed being limestone quarried from the Libyan hills. It was cased with beautiful limestone, brought from a distance of fifteen miles across the River, and the quarries of Toorah. All Pyramids were originally smooth on the outside. (...)
In the sides of this Chamber [King’s Chamber] are the openings of two air passages. Similar openings were found by Col. Vyse on the outside of the Pyramid ; and an Arab discovered that the northern air channel was open from top to bottom, by placing a cat at the outer orifice and her kittens at the other, shutting them in with stones. The mother soon found her way down, through the Pyramid, to her little family ; thus proving that this hitherto mysterious passage communicated with the outside. This anecdote, the lecturer remarked, was current at Cairo in 1838 ; but it is not mentioned in Col. Vyse's great work, for therein are recorded only the scientific methods of solving architectural enigmas. Previously to the clearing of these passages the air in the Pyramid was quite suffocating. (...)

Mode de construction des pyramides : par accrétion
Mr. Gliddon described (...) the mode in which the Pyramids were built. When a King commenced his reign, the first thing done by the Government, after levelling the surface of the rock for the Pyramid's base, was to excavate the chamber intended for his tomb, under ground, with a passage communicating with the surface ; and to erect a course of masonry above, which served for the nucleus of the Pyramid. (...) If the King died during the year, the masonry was immediately cased over, and a small Pyramid was formed ; if he continued to live, another course of stone was added in height (...). During subsequent years the same process was repeated, and the Pyramid assumed in time the following form  (1) :

On s’est moqué d’Hérodote, mais il avait raison
The Pyramid thus continued to be increased every year until the death of the king in whose reign it was erected, fresh courses being added each year of his life. When the king died, the work of enlargement ceased, and the casing was put on the Pyramid. This was done by filling up the angles of the masonry, a, a, a, with smaller stones, and then placing oblong blocks one upon another, so as to form steps, from the base to the apex ; after which, beginningat the top, and working downwards, these stones were bevelled off at the corners, so as to form one uniform angle, and give a smooth surface to the Pyramid, leaving a perfect triangle. As each stone of this casing capped the other, so as to leave no vertical joints, Mr. Gliddon eulogised the science and skill of the architect who combined a mausoleum susceptible of yearly increase, without alteration of form, with the nec-plus-ultra of durability when completed.
When Herodotus stated, twenty-four hundred years ago, that the Pyramids were finished from the top downwards, he was laughed at, but he was right. (...)
Here Mr. Gliddon made a digression to show that the same laws of construction which had guided the builders of Egyptian Pyramids, were visible, owing to the great discoveries of Squier and Davis, in the aboriginal " Mounds of the West", the difference consisting solely in the material. (...) (2)
The philosophical deduction from all this is that the size of the Pyramid is in direct proportion to the length of the King's reign in which it was constructed, having been begun at his accession and finished at his death. Large pyramids indicate long reigns, and small pyramids short reigns. The sixty nine pyramids, therefore, represent some seventy or eighty kingly generations (two kings having been sometimes buried in the same pyramid), the last of which race died before Abraham was born. Such is the law of pyramidal construction. (...)

Les pyramides furent construites par une “volonté nationale”
Mr. Gliddon concluded by answering the objections so often urged against the Pyramids, that they were the monuments of the tyranny and oppression of the Egyptian rulers. It is impossible to condense and do justice to his forcible argument, that a people whose civilization in arts and sciences is attested by the architecture, materials, and hieroglyphical data of the Pyramids themselves, even if forced by despotism to have erected one or two such monuments, would never have endured tyranny, in the modern and European sense of the word, for above sixty-nine kingly generations. He showed that Grecian and Roman opinions on the subject, written 2,000 years after the cessation of Pyramidal buildings, were puerile ; and that as each of these mausolea was erected seriatim, bit by bit, and year by year, by national will, and at the expense of the Government, its construction was no drain on the country, either in men or in money. On the contrary, the wisdom of the Egyptian Pontificate became apparent when, independently of an infinitude of other advantages, it was shown that the gross bulk of the labor on the Pyramids must have employed the poorer classes of a vast agricultural population, confined by nature "in immiti solo" on a mere strip of alluvial bounded by barren rocks, when thrown idle every year for three months by the periodical inundation of the river Nile.”

(1) [Commentaire de G.R. Gliddon : ]The chamber in the rock is the royal tomb. On the surface, the first two layers of stone form the central nucleus, which at any after stage could be cased over, and become at once a perfect Pyramid ; so that the tomb was ready for H. Majesty, "die whenever he saw fit". Above and around this centre, or nucleus, outwards and upwards are ranged progressive degrees, composed of massive blocks of masonry. When the finishing or filling-up process commenced, the outer angles were filled up with rubble-work ; and the outside was reduced to a series of steps, one stone each, whereby to ascend the monument. [Such is the present surface of the Great Pyramid, since the removal of the casing.] The outermost layers, or exterior talus, are the revetment, of white limestone (...).
Les pyramides n’ont pas été construites pour être rouvertes
Two conclusions will strike the observer ; first, that a Pyramid, being smooth from its base to its summit, was by its builders never meant to be re-ascended ; secondly, that the entrance was hermetically closed, never to be reopened ; although its location, to judge by classical and Arabian traditions of hieroglyphics on the exterior, was probably indicated by a royal Tablet, or Stele, commemorative of the Pharaoh interred in each sepulchre. A line of hieroglyphical legends seems also to have been inscribed around the monument, a few feet above its base : the latter being surrounded by a broad platform, or terrace (...).
Such are Egyptian Pyramids, the most perfect of mausolea ever conceived by human intellect, or executed by human skill ; whether as regards their capability of expansion in direct proportion to the length of a Monarch's reign, the beautiful simplicity of their architecture, the costliness, variety, and gigantic masses of their materials, their ante-Abrahamic antiquity, or their everlasting durability, had barbarian man not despoiled, at a later age, the venerable monuments of his civilized predecessors.
It will now become evident, that, as there was but one Pharaoh on the throne at a time, (...), only one Pyramid was constructed in each reign ; and therefore each Pyramid is the tomb of a Sovereign (...).”

(2) [Commentaire de G.R. Gliddon : ] “I had long been of opinion (...) that a Pyramid, whether in Egypt or in Mexico, is but a developed Mound, marking in its superior structure only a more advanced stage of human progress. Under this view the primeval builders of Egyptian stone Pyramids must have previously been "earth-mound-builders," elsewhere, probably in Asia.”

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