Sa description des pyramides de Guizeh est inspirée à la fois par les récits d’Hérodote et de Diodore de Sicile et par les modern researches, les auteurs de ces “recherches”, au nombre desquels on reconnaîtra Lepsius, ayant contribué au progrès des connaissances en égyptologie par une meilleure lecture des monuments.
|Illustration de Woodward (1833)|
“We have seen what care and labour the Egyptians devoted to their tombs, their "everlasting houses". The west, where the sun sets, and the desert spreads out in boundless expanse beyond the Libyan range, belonged in their minds to the gods of night, of the under-world, and of death. About ten miles to the west of Memphis there rises a desolate and barren plateau of rock, which for many miles runs parallel to the river, about 100 feet above the blooming and animated valley through which the Nile takes its course. In that rocky soil, which separates the fruitful land from the desert, the bodies of the dead were placed in chambers, either hewn in the solid stone, or, where the soil was less firm, built of masonry, and thus secured even from the overflow of the river.
Des rois, dans la vie comme dans la mort
Even the kings sought their resting-places on this plateau of rock. They, above all, gave attention to the solidity and durability of their tombs ; and in death, as in life, they wished to be kings. The place where a king rested must be marked as royal, and visible from a distance ; the grave of a king must tower over the rest ; his chamber must be of all most difficult to open. Thus at first blocks of stone were rolled upon the closed burial-place of a king, or a mound of earth was raised over it, if sand and soil were to be obtained in the neighbourhood. The strong winds which blew from the desert made it, however, necessary to secure these mounds, and cover them with stone. Hence by degrees the sepulchral heaps acquired a definite shape : they were rectangular structures, lessening toward the apex ; then, by extending the base and sharpening the gradient, they were brought into the form of pyramids, and thus obtained the greatest possible firmness and solidity. For a similar reason the core, or central part, was no longer made of earth, but of brick ; where blocks of stone could be obtained they were fitted into the core with more and more regularity, until at last these structures were completed within and without of rectangular hewn blocks of stone in regular layers, and artificial mountains of stone towered over the sepulchral chambers of the kings. (...)
About seventy of these structures, which rise in a long line on the plateau of Memphis, from Abu Roash to Dahshur, remain as witnesses of the rulers of the old kingdom of Memphis and their dependants, of the artistic skill and laborious industry of their nation. Of some only the bases and a few fragments are in existence ; of the largest, the points, and at least a part of the casing, are either decayed, fallen down, or broken off; for at a later time the Arabs used these monuments as quarries.
Construction par accrétion
Three pyramids which stand in the neighbourhood of the modern Abusir are formed of rough blocks of stone, both in the cores and in the passages to the sepulchral chambers ; and these blocks are fastened together by mud from the Nile poured in between them ; their casings, now decayed, were of lime-stone blocks, and in height they extended from 150 to 200 feet. Others, originally at least, of an equal height, of which the core was regularly built of brick, are found farther to the south near Dahshur. The architecture of these remains shows that the kings of Memphis commenced building their tombs soon after their accession. They began, it would seem, with a core of moderate size, and in this they probably constructed a sort of temporary chamber. If time sufficed, the first plan was overlaid with new strata, and thus it gradually increased in size. Should the builder die before the whole was completed, the casing of the structure thus raised in the form of steps was left to the successor.
Between seven smaller pyramids, built regularly of stone blocks, which are about 150 feet in height, and of similar plan and structure, rise the three largest at Gizeh ; the highest was originally 480 feet in height, though now it measures only 450 feet ; the next greatest, standing south-west of the highest, is now 447 feet, and was originally 457 feet in height ; the third measures but 218 feet.
The second largest, originally twenty-three feet lower than the largest, is on a slightly higher level, the masonry is inferior to the largest, and the chamber lies immediately under the area of the structure.
The largest measures 716 feet, or 500 Egyptian cubits, on each side of the area ; the height along the slope is 574 feet, and the structure contains about ninety million cubic feet of masonry. Fifty feet above the original area, now covered with the sand of the desert, in the middle of the north side, there commences a gradually descending passage, about three feet broad and four feet high, leading to a chamber hewn deep in the foundation rock. This chamber lies more than one hundred feet below the level of the pyramid, exactly 600 feet under the apex, and in a perpendicular line with it ; it is thirty-six feet above the level of the Nile. From this passage to the chamber there branches off, just behind the entrance, a horizontal shaft, and from this rises an ascending passage leading to two chambers, one over the other, which, like the sepulchral chamber below, lie in the axis of the pyramid.
The third and smaller pyramid its sides measure 333 feet, and the height of the slope is 262 feet being built upon looser soil, required a greater substructure, on which it rose in five or six perpendicular and gradually diminishing stories, the spaces between being filled up with bevelled masonry. Up to a considerable height the casing consists of polished slabs of granite. Under this structure in the native rock lies a larger chamber, and behind this the sepulchral chamber.
|Illustration de Russ Leander (1842)|
Ce qu’Hérodote a appris de son guide-interprète
When Herodotus visited Egypt about the middle of the fifth century B.C., and questioned his interpreter and guide about the builders of these three pyramids, he was told in answer that they were built by Cheops, Chephren, and Mycerinus. He was told that Cheops first caused a road to be made from the stone quarries in the Arabian chain of hills the range east of the Nile down to the river, and again from the west side of the river to the high ground above Memphis. The road was built of smoothed stones five stades in length, ten fathoms broad, and at the highest places thirty-two fathoms high ; and it was intended to convey the materials from the Arabian side of the river. In making this road and building the subterranean chamber for the grave of Cheops ten years were consumed, although 100.000 men were constantly employed upon it by spaces of three months, when they were relieved by an equal number of fresh workmen. Twenty years were then spent upon the pyramid, of which each side and the height measured 800 feet ; it was built in such a manner that the structure was carried out by landings and steps, like a staircase. When the proper height was reached, the landings were covered from top to bottom with smoothed and carefully-fitted stones, and no stone is less than thirty feet. Under the surface was a canal carried in masonry from the Nile round the subterranean chamber. (Suivent les relations d’Hérodote et de Diodore)
Le “canal souterrain” : une simple légende
The accounts given by Herodotus and Diodorus of the structure of the largest pyramid are completely confirmed by modern researches. Even now it is thought that traces can be recognised of the causeway which served for the transport of the materials from the left bank of the Nile to the plateau. The pyramid itself is built in large regular steps constructed of squares of granite. The yellow lime-stone of the casing must also have been really brought from the Arabian side of the Nile, because better stone of that kind was found there. On the other hand, the account of a subterranean canal round the grave chamber is merely a legend of the people, who desired to adorn with new marvels the structure already so marvellous ; it is impossible, simply because the lower chamber, and not only the area of the pyramid, is above the lower level of the Nile. The 100.000 workmen of Herodotus, changed every three months, and the 360.000 of Diodorus a number formed from the days in the old Egyptian year have arisen out of the free invention of later times, although the building must certainly have occupied more than a decade of years.
Ce que l’on sait des noms des bâtisseurs des trois plus grandes pyramides
Inscriptions are not found now on the external side of the pyramid. If such were in existence at the time of Herodotus, they certainly contained other things than those which the interpreter pretended to read there. The interpreters who served as guides to the travellers of that day in Egypt, as the dragoman does now, could hardly have read the hieroglyphics ; they contented themselves with narrating the traditions and stories popularly connected with the great monuments of past time, not without certain exaggerations arid additions.
But the names of the builders of the three largest pyramids, which these interpreters mentioned to the Greeks, are confirmed by the monuments. In the deep chamber of the largest pyramid there is no sarcophagus ; in the upper of the two chambers which lie in the axis of the pyramid there has been found, it is true, a simple sarcophagus of red granite, but it bears no inscription. Above these chambers, however, there are certain small spaces left open, with a view no doubt of diminishing the pressure of the stone-work upon them, and on the walls of these spaces is written the name, Chufu, Chnemu Chufu, in hieratic characters. The same name frequently recurs in the tombs surrounding this pyramid, in which, according to the inscriptions, the wives, sons, officers, and priests of Chufu were buried ; and among them the scribe of the buildings of the kings and the priest of Apis, who was at the same time keeper of the gates and of the palace. In this inscription the pyramid of Chufu is called "Chut". On a monumental stone found in the Apis tombs now in Cairo we read : "The living Horus, the King of Egypt, Chufu, has built a temple to Isis near the temple of the Sphinx, north of the temple of Osiris, and has erected his pyramid beside the temple of Isis." Chufu himself is not found in Egypt, but in the peninsula of Sinai he is pictured in relief on the rocks in the Wadi Maghara. He is represented as lifting his war-club against an enemy whom he has forced upon his knee and seized by the head-dress with the left hand. In an inscription in the same valley, the oldest which we possess, his predecessor Snefru claims to have subjugated these regions.
In the second pyramid, in the chamber under the surface, a sarcophagus of granite has been discovered on the floor without any inscription. But in the inscriptions on the graves, especially on the grave of the architect of King Chafra, his pyramid is mentioned as "the great pyramid". Between the paws of the Sphinx which stands to the north of the second pyramid, hewn out of the living rock, is a monumental stone, on which is read the name Chafra, and in the ruins of a temple lying near the Sphinx the same without doubt which is mentioned in the stone at Cairo seven statues have been exhumed, the inscriptions on which prove that they represent "the Master and Gold Horus, Chafra, the good god, the lord of the crown", i.e. King Chafra himself. And lastly, the inscriptions on the tomb of a woman whose name is read as Mertitef, prove that she was the chief favourite of Snefru and of Chufu, and had been united to Chafra. Hence Chafra must have succeeded Chufu, and the "great" pyramid built by him can hardly have been any other than that which now holds the second place.
In the sepulchral chamber of the third pyramid, it is known in the inscriptions as " Har, " i.e."the supreme", the sarcophagus of King Menkera with his mummy has been discovered. It is made of blue basalt, and bears the following inscription : "Osiris, King Menkera, ever living one ; begotten of the sky, carried in the bosom of Nut, scion of Seb. Thy mother Nut is outstretched over thee, in her name of the mystery of the sky may she deify thee and destroy thy enemies, King Menkera, ever living one."
It is therefore an ascertained fact that Chufu, Chafra, and Menkera were the builders of the three great pyramids.”
(texte extrait de The History of Antiquity, vol. 1)
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