mardi 29 mars 2011

“Nous ne savons pas précisément dans quel but les pyramides ont été construites” (Annie et Eliza Keary - XIXe s.)

Les jeunes Britanniques qui, vers la fin du XIXe siècle, s’intéressaient à l’Égypte, et plus particulièrement aux pyramides, eurent beaucoup de chance : deux soeurs, Anna Maria (Annie) Keary (1825 -1879) et Eliza Harriett Keary (1827-1918), spécialistes de l’écriture pour young people, vinrent à leur rencontre, avec leur ouvrage commun Early Egyptian history for the young, édité en 1863, pour accompagner leurs recherches et répondre à leur besoin de savoir.
C’est en effet un exposé assez détaillé, ne se satisfaisant pas d’informations au rabais, que propose cet ouvrage. Certes, les données de référence restent très “classiques”. Mais à la fin du XIXe siècle, qu’avait-on d’autre à se mettre sous la main que le récit d’Hérodote ? Soulignons toutefois qu’Annie et Eliza Keary vont parfois plus loin qu’un simple copier-coller, au point de se poser quelques questions sur la véracité de la relation du Père de l’Histoire.
D’autres points d’interrogation apparaissent également dans cette page d’histoire. La Grande Pyramide ne contiendrait-elle pas d’autres chambres que celles d’ores et déjà connues ? Qui a été enseveli dans la chambre dite “de la Reine” ? À qui attribuer la seconde pyramide ?
Si les réponses se font attendre, l’ouvrage des sœurs Keary a au moins le mérite de poser les bonnes questions.
Rappelons-nous qu'il est destiné à de jeunes lecteurs. On appréciera donc comme il se doit la pertinence d’une telle pédagogie, qui ne craint pas de faire appel à une démonstration strictement historique, au lieu d’avoir recours au délayage du mystérieux et du merveilleux que l’on constate souvent, encore de nos jours, dans de telles publications.

Extrait de Google maps
“After Shure came Shafu, who was the builder of the Great Pyramid. It was not (...) the first Pyramid ever built, there had been probably many others before it.
The first care of an Egyptian king in the old time appears to have been to build himself a Pyramid tomb. He built a small complete one first, and then as his reign was prolonged, he added to it layer upon layer of stone, so that the stupendous size of the building became a monument of the length of his reign. We do not know precisely with what design the Pyramids were erected. It would be pleasant to think that the kings who built them had some other purpose than the selfish one of securing for themselves the grandest possible tomb, to sleep in after they were dead .
There is no doubt that kings were buried in the Pyramids, but perhaps they were designed for other uses as well as that of holding the dust of a king.

Ce que nous apprennent les tombes du Plateau de Guizeh
Some people have thought that they served as watch towers, others as observatories from which the course of the stars through the heavens might be watched and noted. If they were meant simply for very secure tombs, they have not served their purpose. Their very magnificence awoke the cupidity of the Saracen conquerors of Egypt, who caused them to be broken open in search of treasure.
The dust of King Shufu, for whose security a whole nation spent their lives in "piling stones," has probably been blown about the desert for several centuries now. His name the Pyramid has preserved for us ; it is written in hieroglyphic characters on some of the large stones of which the upper chambers are built. There are no pictures in the Pyramid chambers, nothing as in the tombs round, which can give us a clue to the character of the builder, or the manners and customs of the time he lived in. Fortunately the smaller tombs, with their exact pictures and picture writing, tell us more about that very distant time, than we have any right to expect to know.
Dr. Lepsius says that he has deciphered the names and offices of several hundred people who lived at King Shufu's court. Among others he has discovered the tomb of his chief architect, who probably superintended the building of the Pyramid. His name was Merhet, and as he seems to have been a prince, the owner of eight villages and much wealth, Dr. Lepsius conjectures that he was King Shufu's own son. (...)
It appears that Shufu had a brother called Noum Shufu, who seems to have reigned with him fifty years, and taken part in the building of the Pyramid. His name is found inscribed on some of its stones, and it is probable that he was buried in the second chamber, which has been erroneously called the Queen's Chamber. He seems to have survived Shufu, and reigned for some years after his death. Herodotus and several other historians have confounded him with the builder of the second Pyramid.

Cliché Lehnert et Landroc
La référence : Hérodote... avec quelques bémols
I am afraid that I have now told you all that we know certainly about the builders of the Great Pyramid. Herodotus, who visited Egypt nearly 2,000 years after their death, has left us a record of what he was told about them in his time. The elder Shufu he calls Cheops ; and he gives us, I am sorry to say, a very bad character of him. Egypt had been very well governed, he says, till Cheops arose, but as soon as he succeeded to the throne he began to oppress the people, and plunged into all manner of wickedness ; he closed the temples, forbad the Egyptians to sacrifice to the gods, and compelled every one, whether they liked it or not, to work in his service.
The construction of the Great Pyramid was the undertaking at which they were all obliged to labour. Some were employed in quarrying stones in the Arabian hills, on the eastern side of the river ; others had to drag them down to the water and convey them across the hill to the western side ; 100,000 men, he says, worked constantly. The first thing they did was to make a great causeway from the western bank of the river, to the spot where the Pyramid now stands. It took ten years to construct it, to level the top of the rock, and to make the underground chambers over which the Pyramid is built . Herodotus thought the causeway as great a work as the Pyramid itself. When he saw it, it was ornamented with carvings of animals, and built of polished stones.
The remains of this magnificent road still exist, but the outer stones having all been carried away by the Arabs, we have no trace of the carvings of animals or hieroglyphic writing which would now have been so interesting to us. Twenty years were employed in building the Pyramid ; the outer stones which have nearly all been taken away were once polished and perhaps covered with hieroglyphic writing.
Herodotus asked an interpreter to read him one of these inscriptions, and he assures us that it recorded the cost of the radishes, onions, and garlic, consumed by the labourers who constructed the Pyramid. "I perfectly well remember," says the chatty old father of history, " that the money spent in this way was 1,600 talents of silver ; if this, then, is a true record, what a vast sum must have been spent on the iron tools used in this work, and on the feeding and clothing of the labourers."
We cannot help wishing that Herodotus had asked the interpreter to read on a little further, and preserved some other information for us more important than this onion and garlic story. Some people think it so trivial that they cannot believe that any such inscription ever was on the Pyramid ; they think that the interpreter was a cunning fellow, who was making a joke of Herodotus, and reading nonsense to him, to prevent his knowing anything of the sacred writings of the tombs. Sir G. Wilkinson, however, who, without an interpreter, has read many inscriptions on tombs and monuments, and who knows what they are like, thinks it extremely probable that the sentence translated to Herodotus really did form part of an account of the building of the Pyramid written on its walls.

Les diverses pièces de la Grande Pyramide
The Pyramids were built in steps, Herodotus tells us further, and the architects had wooden machines by which they raised the stones from one elevation to another ; the upper part of the Pyramid was finished first, then the middle, and then the lower part. He also speaks of underground chambers and vaults, constructed by Cheops for his own use, before the Pyramid was begun ; he says, too, that they were surrounded by a canal filled with water from the Nile ; no trace of this canal has been found, but Colonel Howard Vyse, who explored the Pyramid more carefully than any one else ever did, discovered a large chamber excavated in the rock, and a kind of grotto, which can only be reached by a very steep and difficult descent.
The grotto and chamber are now again filled up with stones and rubbish ; the steep passage leading to them is called the well, and is sometimes descended by adventurous travellers. These are evidently the underground vaults of which Herodotus speaks ; he has omitted to tell us for what use Cheops designed them, and there was nothing found in the chambers which explains this to us.
Immediately above the excavated chamber, but separated from it by 200 feet of rock and solid stone-work, lies another room of precisely the same size, which has always been called by travellers the Queen's Chamber ; above that again, and situated precisely in the middle of the Pyramid, is the principal chamber, called the King's. Both these chambers are very difficult of access ; to reach them a long, low, very dark passage, which first descends and then ascends, has to be traversed. In one place it is entirely blocked up by an immense granite portcullis, round which explorers have been obliged to cut a narrow path. It terminates in a wide and high gallery, at the entrance to which two other paths open ; a narrow dark path leading to the Queen's Chamber, and the steep descent called the well, which once, as you know, communicated with the underground vaults.
The grand gallery is 6 feet 10 inches wide, and has stone benches along each side ; in these stone benches are oblong holes placed at short distances from each other, whose use no one has been able to guess. At the end of the great gallery lies the chief sepulchral chamber, it is 34 feet long and 17 wide, and is lined with very fine red granite ; within it, in the very centre of the room, is a sarcophagus, made of such a very perfect kind of granite, that when it is struck with any hard substance, it emits a clear ringing sound, like the sound of a bell. It is now empty, and the lid has been removed. There are no hieroglyphics either on the sarcophagus or on the sides of the room.
Great care seems to have been taken to prevent any one from penetrating to this part of the Pyramid. The great gallery was originally blocked up in four different places by granite portcullises, which have now been broken up and carried away, piece by piece, only the grooves into which they fitted remaining to show that they were once there.
Above the King's Chamber are five smaller rooms, all one over the other, like stories in a house ; they are seldom visited, for I believe there is no way of getting to them, but by climbing up the walls of the passage leading to the King's Chamber. In one of these Colonel Howard Vyse found the names of the two kings who built the Pyramid, painted in red on the large stones that form the ceiling, in a rough manner, as if they had been done by workmen before the stones left the quarry, perhaps for marks to show for what purpose they were cut. Those painted letters are the only hieroglyphics in the Pyramid, the only positive evidence they preserve to us of the names of the builders.

Des chambres ignorées dans la Grande Pyramide ?
No other chambers have as yet been discovered, but some people think that there may be a great many more. It has been calculated that there is room in the great Pyramid for 3,700 rooms of the size of the King's Chamber, and for partition walls between them, as thick as the rooms themselves. Think of that ! perhaps there may be many such rooms, the entrances to which are
still closed by granite blocks, like those which once obstructed the Great Gallery. It is said that a traveller once fired a pocket pistol inside the Pyramid, and the echoes were countless, the reverberations going on for an astonishing length of time. Whether we shall ever know more about the inside of the Great Pyramid than we do now, I cannot tell you. We are obliged now to guess at a great deal.

Deux frères qui souhaitaient rester proches, y compris au-delà de la mort
In the two large chambers, called the King's and the Queen's, Shufu and Noum Shufu were probably buried. If Herodotus had not given us such a bad character of them, we might have thought of them as two affectionate brothers, who, having reigned peaceably together during a very prosperous life-time, wished to sleep side by side, each secure of finding the other near him when he awoke. Their precautions, however, if they had such a purpose, were of little avail. When the Pyramid chambers were first opened by Europeans, no mummy was found, nothing but an empty stone sarcophagus in the King’s Chamber, the bodies having probably been taken away by the Saracens, who broke into the Pyramid in search of treasure, in the reign of the Caliph Mamoon, A.D. 820, while Egbert was reigning in England.
An Arab writer tells us, that when the sarcophagus in the King's Chamber was opened, a statue in the form of a man was found inside, and within the statue a human body, with a breast-plate of gold and jewels, bearing written characters which no one understood. The statue was no doubt a mummy case, and the jewelled body, the body of Shufu, the Great Pyramid King. This is the last glimpse we shall get of him. You will not, I think, forget his name, or the few facts that I have been able to tell you about him.

La seconde pyramide et le Sphinx
Photo Marc Chartier

We will turn now to the second Pyramid, of whose builder I have but little to say. Herodotus tells us that it was constructed by Cephren, the brother of Cheops, and as Shufu had a brother, called Noum Shufu, this Cephren was for some time identified with him, and to him was given the honour of having built the second Pyramid. This opinion, however, presented some difficulties. It did not seem likely that two such great works should be undertaken in the same reign, and it was equally hard to believe that Noum Shufu could have survived his brother, with whom he reigned fifty years, long enough for him to begin and complete a Pyramid after his death.
A name, much resembling the one which Herodotus gives the second Pyramid builder, has been found in a list of kings of the fourth dynasty, recently discovered in a tomb at Sakkara, the site of the ancient Memphis. It is written Shafre, and as it also occurs frequently on tombs near the Pyramids, coupled with the title "Of the Little Pyramid", it is now clear that the second Pyramid was at all events begun by another Pyramid builder of the fourth dynasty. Perhaps it grew from a little Pyramid to a great one at a later period. I can tell you nothing about its architect, except that he appears to have had a long and prosperous reign, for more names of persons of rank, living in his time, have been found inscribed on tombs near his Pyramid, than of those who lived under any other Memphite king.
M. Mariette has found seven statues of King Shafre, in the recently excavated temple, near the great Sphinx. Five of them are much mutilated, the remaining two are so perfect, that they look as if they had only just left the sculptor's hands. The old king is represented seated on a throne supported by lions, between whose paws are sculptured bunches of papyrus flowers and leaves, the very same symbol of prosperity which adorns the thrones of kings a thousand years later. The face and figure of Shafre are said to be so life-like, that it is impossible to look at them, without concluding the statue to be a true portrait. The face is of the old Egyptian type which you have seen so often, but with less regularity of feature, and more expression than is found in the statues of later kings. The head wears the helmet-like cap, the crown of the lower country: the figure is only covered by an apron, extending from the waist to the knee.
With the exception of the Sphinx, these statues of Shafre are perhaps the oldest in the world that have come down to us ; they are an evidence of the perfection to which the art of sculpture had attained in the age of the Pyramid builders, for they are said not to be inferior in beauty to the finest sculptures of the eighteenth dynasty kings. The circumstance of seven statues of Shafre having been found in the temple of the Sphinx, makes it probable, that the Sphinx itself was a work of his time.

La troisième pyramide
The third Pyramid, though it was much smaller than the other two, was said, by those who saw it in its best days, to surpass the other two in elegance. "Much more elegant", Pliny says it was, "from the Ethiopian stone with which it was cased". Some of these outer stones, of granite of Syene, still remain at the base of the third Pyramid, and prove the truth of Pliny's words. It contains two chambers, which were opened by Colonel Howard Vyse. A stone sarcophagus was found within the largest room, and in one of the passages a wooden mummy case, in which was written in hieroglyphic characters the name of Menkaré, or Mycerinus, the builder of the third Pyramid. Both were sent to England : the stone sarcophagus was unfortunately lost at sea, the wooden case arrived safely, and it now stands in the middle of the Egyptian room at the British Museum. (...)”