mercredi 2 février 2011

Les passages et chambres des pyramides : un “inconcevable et laborieux terrier de renard” selon le prince Pückler Muskau (XVIIIe-XIXe s.)

 Illustration extraite de Wikimedia commons
Le prince Hermann Ludwig Heinrich von Pückler-Muskau (1785-1871) était un paysagiste, orientaliste et écrivain allemand.
Lors d’un séjour en Égypte, il acheta au marché des esclaves du Caire une adolescente, qu’il dénomma “Mahbouba” (Bien-Aimée) et avec laquelle il poursuivit son périple en Asie mineure et en Grèce. Souffrant de tuberculose, la jeune fille mourut en Allemagne, en 1840, au terme du voyage.
Dans son ouvrage Egypt under Mehemet Ali, traduit de l’allemand par H. Evans Lloyd (1845) - dont on trouvera quelques extraits ci-dessous -, contrairement à ce qu’il avait pu ressentir face aux “réelles merveilles” de Thèbes, il manifesta peu d’admiration pour ce qu’il vit et découvrit de la Grande Pyramide (une entrée colossale, des chambres sombres et misérables, une visite fatigante, des incertitudes sur l’endroit exact de la pyramide où fut enseveli le roi, pour autant qu’il y ait été inhumé...). À sa décharge, il est vrai, il tint à souligner qu’il n’était pas archéologue, et que son propos était simplement de donner ses “impressions personnelles”, sans plus.
D’où les imprécisions et approximations que l’on pourra détecter dans ce texte, en dépit du fait que l’auteur connaissait personnellement Vyse et qu’il suivait de toute évidence les travaux de Caviglia.

Le prince Pückler Muskau (illustration extraite de Wikimedia commons)
“As soon as we had descended from "the little pyramid," as it is called, for indeed it is still an enormous mass, we proceeded into the bowels of the largest. The rude, but boldly constructed colossal entrance, resembling a work of the Druids, is the only part which produced an effect of grandeur upon me ; for, as I have observed, passages in which you can scarcely turn, except bent like a fiddle-bow, nor penetrate unless by crawling on your chest, and, after all your pains, lead at length into a sanctuary, which consists only of a couple of miserable dark chambers, of the dimensions of a servants' room, the walls of which are covered with dusky slabs of granite, once polished but now quite dull, without a trace of writing, ornament, or sculpture, appeared to me to be as little worthy of admiration as the two plain stone coffins which are here seen, and least of all for one who has beheld the sublime art of the Egyptians and its real wonders in Thebes. The latter, it is true, were at this time unknown to me ; yet, without the comparison, the first impression on me was no other than I now describe ; and as I am no learned archaeologist who looks for discoveries, I endeavour only to give the reader a true and intelligible picture of the whole, conformably to the individual impression which it produced on me, and which is generally wanting in the accounts given by the learned.
With my usual perseverance I went through all that has been opened, and afterwards by means of ladders crept into the holes which have been partly discovered of late, and partly at a time already forgotten (for instance, what is called David's son's [sic] chamber). All this is very fatiguing and heating, but not at all dangerous, except perhaps the descent into the well, 280 feet deep, merely by means of notches cut into the wall, from what is called the hall of the Queen, who perhaps was only a lady of the court, to the lowest passage, which constantly declines, and terminates in a natural cavern in the rock, near the middle of the pyramid, and actually in its very foundation.
On the opposite side, another narrow horizontal passage leads from this cave, still farther towards the centre, and then suddenly terminates. Here perhaps is the key to what is more deep and unknown. At this spot I think active research should be made, for here the king must lie, if indeed there is a king here, in the heart of the rock, formerly surrounded by a canal drawn from the Nile, as the father of history describes it, without indeed having seen it himself, and given us no other security than the questionable authority of the priests.
The air-holes which are found in the wall, in the room called "the hall of the King”, have been followed for above one hundred feet, as we were assured; and Colonel Vyse is of opinion that he has discovered their issue above, but all this is extremely unimportant. (...)
The inside of the second pyramid was opened by Belzoni. The passages are a little more convenient, the chambers more numerous, and some rather larger than in the sister pyramid, equally bare and unornamented, and the object of this laborious fox’s-burrow equally inconceivable. An area, hewn in the living rock, surrounds this monument, and it appears from the stones of the floor, all ready to be broken up, that it was intended to go deeper. On the smoothed, outer walls of the rock of this area, some hieroglyphics of ancient, though more of recent time, are observed, and likewise a cartouche of the great Rameses. Several remains of buildings, near the hollowed places, show cyclopean walls, exactly in the style of the great wall in the Pnyx, at Athens, and quite different from the style of the pyramids themselves. In the ruins of the avenue which led to this pyramid, are the largest blocks employed here, which are inferior only to those of Thebes.
The clear weather enticed me in the evening once more to the summit of the Great Pyramid, as it wore, to take leave ; and on this second visit, I could not help thinking, that a colossus must have stood on the platform at the top, as on the similar monument in the lake Moeris, though Herodotus says nothing of it.
As I was on the point of mounting my horse on the following morning, to proceed on my journey, Colonel Vyse sent me word that he had at that moment discovered a new entrance into the second pyramid, for this indefatigable man is working on all three at the same time. I found this to be correct ; but as this low entrance only joins an inner passage, already known, little is gained by it, and I heartily wish that the worthy colonel may soon obtain a more brilliant result for his industry, his perseverance, and his money.
M. Caviglia, who had discovered, close to the pyramid, a singular labyrinth of apartments and passages, the plan and object of which he had not yet been able to make out, assured me at Cairo, that at a distance of some leagues in the desert, he had discovered the foundations of pyramids, the granite blocks of which were, for the most part, crumbled into dust ; whence he inferred, that if the pyramids built of sand-stone, which are still standing, are 4000 or 5000 years old, those of granite, which are now pulverised, must have been built at least ten times as far back. The little detention before-mentioned hindered me from seeing this remarkable dust with my own eyes.”

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