Le texte que j’ai choisi ici est extrait du vol. I : Egypt, Nubia and Abyssinia, 1827.
N’ayant jamais voyagé lui-même à l’étranger, il s’y est adonné à un travail de compilation, comme par exemple dans sa description des pyramides égyptiennes, pour laquelle il se réfère à Richardson, Caviglia, Salt, Bruce (*), etc. Complétant ce survol à base d’érudition, nourri de nombreuses et longues citations (que je ne reprendrai pas ici), il ponctue son inventaire de quelques remarques personnelles contribuant à donner à son contenu rédactionnel quelque originalité.
En réalité, sur la ou les destinations des pyramides comme sur l’identité de leurs bâtisseurs, l’auteur navigue entre différentes hypothèses, pesant le pour le contre et se limitant à souligner la “probabilité” de telle ou telle conjecture. De même lorsqu’il s’agit de la configuration de la Grande Pyramide : contient-elle des espaces encore non découverts ? Sur ce dernier point toutefois, Josiah Conder se prononce plus clairement et, selon lui, le doute n’est pas permis : “Il reste beaucoup à découvrir dans ces sombres demeures de mystère et d’émerveillement.”
“In the south-west corner of the chamber [la Chambre du Roi], sloping upwards, is a small tunnel, apparently designed to communicate with the external air ; and at the bottom of the granite flags with which the walls are lined, is a small " rut " or cavity of about ten inches in width, "apparently left for their admission, and neglected to be filled up". As this chamber does not reach beyond the centre of the Pyramid, Dr. Richardson remarks, there are probably passages leading off to other chambers, which may be concealed by some of the large stones. The sarcophagus is exactly the size of the orifice which forms the entrance to the Pyramid, and could not have been conveyed to the place it now occupies by any of the known passages in their present state ; it must, therefore, either have been deposited there during the building of the Pyramid, or before the passage was finished and narrowed by its present polished and beautiful casing. (...)
Much more (...), there can be no doubt, remains to be discovered within these "gloomy mansions of mystery and wonder”. ”We have now", it is remarked, "the knowledge of three distinct chambers in that of Cheops, all of which had evidently been opened by the Saracens, and, perhaps, long before by the Romans ; but, for any thing that is known to the contrary, there may be three hundred, and might be ten times three hundred such chambers yet undiscovered." (1)
All the rooms at present discovered are on the west of the general passage ; that is, in the north-west quarter of the pyramid ; with the exception of the one discovered by Mr. Caviglia in the centre of its base ; and till examination shall have ascertained the contrary, it may be presumed that the other three quarters have also their chambers. The insulated tomb of Cheops, the founder, if the statement furnished by Mr. Salt be correct, must be an excavation far deeper than has yet been discovered ; and the channel by which the waters of the Nile could be brought into any part of the pyramid, remains altogether concealed. Yet, we can hardly bring ourselves to believe that no such communication ever existed. The excavated passage, which leads off from the great chamber, and abruptly terminates at the end of fifty-rive feet, can never have ended, originally, in a cul-de-sac, but must have had some design, and some outlet. (...)
La finalité funéraire des pyramides...
We must not bid adieu to the Pyramids without adverting to the interminable discussions relating to the design and character of these wonderful structures. That they are sepulchral monuments, it would now be absurd to deny. They stand in the midst of a vast cemetery, surrounded with smaller tumuli, and the rock on which they are founded, is hollowed out into catacombs. These plains were called by the Egyptians Kahi-mhau, the land of tombs or caves, which the Greeks wrote Koxômè (translated Necropolis).
To this vast repository of the dead, there is perhaps an allusion in the prophetic declaration respecting the Jewish refugees : “Memphis shall bury them."(2) On the opposite side of the river, a little above Cairo, there are also numerous sepulchral excavations which merit a more careful examination than they have hitherto received, as they probably belonged either to Memphis, or to the settlements of Jewish, Phrygian, or Babylonian colonists.
… complétée par d’autres fonctions annexes ?
It is difficult, at the same time, to believe that the complicated and scientific structure of the larger pyramids had no further object than to enclose a soros, whether tenanted or empty, whether designed for the remains of a tyrant or the relics of a god, a Cheops or a Serapis, or the patriarch Joseph himself.
In all the pyramids that have hitherto been opened, either at Djizeh or at Sakkara, amounting to at least six, the entrance has been found near the centre on the northern face, whence the passage invariably slants downward at an angle of 26° or 27°. This uniformity in their construction, taken in connexion with the exact position of their four faces towards the four cardinal points, has been thought to afford sanction to the hypothesis that some astronomical purpose was intended to be answered - possibly the correction of their measurements of time - by this remarkable peculiarity.
Others have supposed them to be immense temples or fire-altars raised to the god of day ; or rather, to the father of the sun, "who shines night and day", the great Hephaistos or Phthah. "The pyramids, in Coptic called Pi-re-moue, the sun-beam", says the learned Editor of Bruce's Travels, "were sepulchral monuments, bearing the same name with the obelisk. Both were sacred to this deity. The pyramid was formed on the model of the obelisk, as much as the compound materials of one could imitate the unity and solid mass of the other."
The variation in the figure of the pyramids, however, makes rather against the correctness of this representation. Those of Sakkara, Dahshour, and Meduun bear no conceivable relation to the obelisk, and these are supposed to be the most ancient of this class of monuments. Dr. Clarke was led to suppose, from the form of some of these, that the tumulus was the original model of the pyramid. Sometimes it formed a stupendous pedestal to a colossus. Yet, under all these modifications, it always preserved its character as a sepulchral monument.
The number of the pyramids, as well as the variation in their form, militates strongly against the supposition that they were designed as a sort of astronomical apparatus. If those of Djizeh were constructed with any such intent, it must have been dictated, in those particular instances, by the more enlightened views of the architect ; and this design must have been grafted, as it were, upon their original purpose. But admitting that the pyramid was a sacred figure, and that there was a significance in the form of these monuments, or that astronomical science prescribed their position, this will not prove that they were primarily designed either as temples or as observatories, or that they were consecrated to any deity.
Are we then to suppose that they were merely designed as mansions in which their barbaric founders "vainly hoped to slumber out the three thousand years of transmigration, the assigned period after which they should return to humanity" ? Why, for this purpose, were so many chambers necessary ? Why the double entrance, each with its granite portcullis, and all the intricate architecture of the interior ?
Des forteresses pour protéger les trésors royaux ?
It seems to us the most probable explanation that they were intended to serve, in subordination to their sacred character as sepulchres, the purpose of treasuries ; that, with this view, they were rendered disguised fortresses ; that the professed and known entrance was closed after the admission of the soros, a secret entrance being reserved, which was known only to the priests. The vulgar notion of the Arabs, that treasure is concealed in the ancient monuments, a notion which has led to so many discoveries and to so much destruction, doubtless originated in fact. The pyramids were opened by the Mohammedan conquerors with this expectation ; and although it does not appear that any discoveries of concealed treasure were made, this would only prove what indeed what might have been anticipated, that those who had had the art to conceal, had also the precaution to withdraw what they had deposited, or that the treasury had been long exhausted. They may nevertheless at the same time have been made use of for the purposes of priestcraft and imposture.
|Auteur inconnu (1884)|
The period at which the Great Pyramids were erected is another point which has occupied much learned discussion. By Perizonius (**) and others, the workmen are supposed to have been the Israelites ; and Dr. Clarke has contended for the strange notion, that the pyramid of Cheops was built to receive the body of the patriarch Joseph. Diodorus and Pliny confess that every thing relating to their origin was uncertain ; and the Arabian writers solve the mystery by informing us that they were built before the Deluge. Others, on the contrary, are for assigning them a date which, in speaking of Egypt, might almost be termed modern. Homer mentions Thebes and its hundred gates, but has not noticed the pyramids. Is it probable, it has been asked, that he would have omitted to speak of them, if they had been erected in his time ? In confirmation of this view, it may be remarked that Herodotus believed them to have been built only twelve generations before the time of Cambyses. Cheops, the builder of the largest pyramid, is stated to have flourished, indeed, nearly a hundred years before Homer ; but Asychis, the successor of Mycerinus, is said to have reigned about 815 B.C.; which date, if correct, would require the reign of Cheops to be brought down much later. Upon the whole, the most probable opinion is that which assigns them to a period between 1000 and 800 years B.C.
Comment interpréter l’absence de hiéroglyphes dans les pyramides ?
The absence of hieroglyphic inscriptions in these stupendous structures has been accounted for on the supposition that the founders were of a foreign and intrusive dynasty, hostile to the religion of their subjects, and that the priests refused to record their names in the sacred character. In that case, however, it might have been expected that there would be found, if not hieroglyphic inscriptions, some records in a different character. It cannot be supposed that a dynasty of sovereigns who could command such architects were at any loss for secretaries. Herodotus, in fact, refers to an inscription engraved on the pyramid of Cheops, which, he says, was in Egyptian characters, but it has been doubted whether he means hieroglyphics.
Dr. Hales supposes them to have been alphabetic characters : if so, they would not be the less curious. Ibn Haukal speaks of Syrian and Greek inscriptions which covered some part of the pyramids : the latter were probably of late date, and might have been written by Greeks who visited these monuments. On the other hand, Abdallatif states that he saw a prodigious number of hieroglyphic inscriptions on the two great pyramids ; as many as, if copied, would fill perhaps 10,000 volumes. Other Arabic writers prior to Abdallatif have also mentioned the hieroglyphics on the pyramids. The removal of the coating would account for their disappearance. Yet, among the pyramids of Sakkara and Dahshour, there is one on which the covering is pretty entire, but no inscription has been found upon it.”
(1) Quart. Rev., vol. XIX, p. 401.
(2) Osée, IX-6
(*) auteur de Travels to discover the source of the Nile.
(**) Jakob Voorbroek (1651-1715)