samedi 12 mars 2011

Selon Louisa Caroline Tuthill (XIXe s.), les pyramides de Guizeh ont été construites à l’aide de machines d’une “immense puissance”, mais dont on ne sait rien

Dans son History of architecture from the earliest times, 1848, Louisa Caroline Tuthill (1798- 1879) a consacré quelques pages à l’architecture égyptienne, dont les extraits ci-dessous traitant plus spécifiquement des pyramides.
Il s’agit en fait d’un survol à base d’approximations (cf. la postériorité des pyramides de Saqqarah en comparaison des "plus grandes"), donnant à penser que l’auteur(e) n’a jamais visité les pyramides... Certes, l’impression globale ne peut que titiller l’attention du lecteur, lorsqu’il est question de “la plus grande masse de matériaux qui aient jamais été assemblés pour en faire un seul édifice”. Mais lorsque la visite (réelle ou virtuelle) commence, ça se corse un peu ! L’intérieur des pyramides est décrit comme ayant fait l’objet de “beaucoup de travail”, avec “de nombreux passages longs et compliqués”. Pourquoi pas ? Mais quant à écrire que les murs de ces passages, sans distinction aucune faut-il noter, sont “sculptés et peints, avec des couleurs qui restent aussi fraîches que si elles avaient été appliquées récemment”, cela prête quand même à confusion.
Reste cette “machinery of immense power”, utilisée pour élever les blocs de pierre à une hauteur étonnante. Il est bon de rappeler que tous renseignements sur de telles machines ont été perdus. Mais on reste quand même sur sa faim, dès lors que l’on a entre les mains une histoire de l’architecture.

lllustration extraite de l'ouvrage de L.C. Tuthill
“The famous pyramids of Egypt stand upon a plain which extends from Cairo about fifty miles along the Nile. Forty, or more, of different sizes, and of various materials, are irregularly scattered over this plain ; the three largest, the pyramids of Cheops, of Cephrenes, and of Mycerines, are in the neighbourhood of Djiza.
The great pyramid of Cheops is the largest structure in the world ; or in other words, it is the greatest mass of materials which men have ever placed together, to form a single building ; and one of our distinguished countrymen says : "The oldest pyramid is yet the most perfect work of art." It has stood through the moral and physical convulsions of more than thirty centuries, and may remain until
"The cloud-capt towers, the gorgeous palaces,
The solemn temples, the great globe itself,
Yea, all which it inherit, shall dissolve,
And like the baseless fabric of a vision,
Leave not a rack behind."
This pyramid is five hundred feet in height, and seven hundred and twenty feet on each side of the base; thus covering 518,400 square feet. It is ascended by steps to the summit, which is, a platform of nine large stones, each of which would weigh a ton.
Some of the stones in other parts of the pyramid are still larger. They are of hewn granite and limestone on the outside, cemented together with fine mortar ; in the interior the stones are so nicely smoothed and fitted together, as not to need cement of any kind. Machinery of immense power, of which all knowledge is lost, must have been employed to raise these stones to such an amazing height. The pyramid is ascended by steps.
The second pyramid, that of Cephrenes, is about four hundred feet high, and six hundred and sixty-five feet on each side at the base. The enterprising traveller, Belzoni, discovered the entrance to this pyramid, in 1818. When he forced his way to the interior, he found inscriptions in Arabic, showing that the pyramid had been entered by a Saracen conqueror some centuries before. Nothing of great value has been discovered in them in modern times. We are told that under one of the Caliphs, an order went forth for the destruction of these edifices, and that the work was committed to one of the most skillful engineers of the age. He wrought at it for a long time, expending much labour and treasure, and finally gave it up. Of course, he had no gunpowder. The engineer began at the top ; but how he got there, up the smooth plane of five hundred feet, is beyond comprehension, unless by cutting a flight of steps from the bottom. "Nothing can be farther from the truth than the idea that there was a regular series of steps for ascent in the original plan of either of these pyramids."
The attempts to destroy them, or to effect an entrance, have uncovered these steps.
All the pyramids are finished in the interior with much labour. They contain many long and intricate passages, the walls of which are sculptured and painted, the colours remaining as fresh as if recently executed.
For what purpose these stupendous edifices were erected, remains an enigma which the most learned antiquaries have in vain attempted to solve. Were they for tombs, or for temples for religious worship ? Probably they united both purposes. The ancient Egyptians believed that the soul existed as long as the body could be kept from dissolution, and they therefore preserved the bodies of the dead by embalming and placing them in situations where they would not be disturbed. From this fact it has been inferred that the Pyramids were the sepulchres of kings.
"And round a tyrant's tomb, who none deserved,
For one vile carcass, perished countless lives."
They were thus consecrated as the burial-place of a hero or king whom they idolized ; and in them were probably celebrated the most sacred mysteries of their strange religion. From some fancied derivation of the word pyramid from a Greek word signifying corn, some antiquary conjectured that the pyramids were the granaries which were built by Joseph to preserve the grain of Egypt ! But M. De Lacy has proved that the word pyramus belonged to the primitive language of Egypt.
The Pyramids of Saccara, at some distance from the Great Pyramids, are in a ruinous state. Some of them are rounded at the top ; others are flat, and ascended by steps.These are supposed to be of more recent origin than the larger pyramids. One, which has partly fallen down, was built of unburnt bricks, badly made with gravel, shells, and chopped straw. It has been suggested that these were the works upon which the Israelites toiled under their hard task-masters.”