Dans son ouvrage Ancient Egypt : its monuments and history, publié en 1854, le théologien méthodiste américain Daniel Parish Kidder (1815–1891 ou 1892) ne se livre à aucune conjecture personnelle sur la construction et la fonction des pyramides égyptiennes.
Destinés à être des lieux de sépulture des rois, ces monuments, se contente-t-il de répéter, ont été construits “from stage to stage”, à l’aide d’échafaudages, de manière à former, pour leur plus grande partie, une “solide maçonnerie”, recouverte, au terme de la construction, d’un revêtement lisse que les ouvriers bâtisseurs mirent en place “en descendant”.
Quant au Sphinx, il continue, dans le récit de l’auteur, de poser globalement plus d’énigmes que les pyramides elles-mêmes : à quelle époque a-t-il été construit ou sculpté ? que (ou qui) représente-t-il ? quelle relation a-t-il avec les pyramides ? Autant de questions qui, on le sait, restent d’actualité, les réponses apportées étant loin de faire l’unanimité.
“Ten miles south-west of Cairo, on the western side of the Nile, and about five miles from the river, lie the ever-memorable pyramids of Gizeh, or Jizeh. They are built on a bed of rock, one hundred and fifty feet above the level of the surrounding desert, being a projection of the Libyan chain of mountains. This elevation, their immense size, and the clearness of the atmosphere, render them visible at a great distance.
The purpose of such massive piles of almost solid masonry is scarcely yet satisfactorily discovered, it being difficult to conceive of them only as the burying-places of the kings. Many various conjectures have been entertained respecting them, but this is after all the only one supported by evidence.
The principal pyramids are three in number, that of Cheops, or Suphis, being the largest. The ascent of this on the eastern side is easy, and there is a space at the top of thirty-two feet. The stones that formed the apex have been removed, and also the outer casing of the pyramid, in order to build the numerous mosques of Cairo. The prospect from the summit is very extensive, embracing a circle of thirty miles distance. On one side is the Libyan Desert, stretching out as an ocean of sand, and on the other are the city of Cairo and the green and fertile Valley of the Nile. The pyramid is about 115 feet higher than St. Paul's Cathedral, being 460 feet in height, and is about 3,053 feet in circumference at the base. It is built with two hundred and six steps, or tiers of stone, and covers an area equal to Lincoln's Inn Fields up to the houses. A stone thrown by the strongest arm from the top of the pyramid will not reach the ground without first falling on the pyramid itself. A hundred thousand men are said to have been employed for twenty years in the erection, and it is reckoned to have required six million of tons of stone.
The pyramids are built due north and south, and were erected in steps and terraces for the convenience of the builders, who advanced from stage to stage by scaffolding, and smoothed the face with an outside casing as they descended. For the most part, the pyramids are solid masonry. Caliph Mamoon, A.D. 820, first opened the great pyramid. The entrance is on the sixteenth step on the northern side, and, to deceive the seeker, it is placed twenty-eight feet from the centre. The caliph expected to find treasure, and for fear of disappointing and exasperating his workmen when no gold was found, sufficient was taken into the pyramid to cover the expenses of opening, and was then reported to be found in it. The Arabs tell a story of a statue being found in a sarcophagus, and with the statue a body, having a breastplate of gold and jewels, and an inscription in characters which no one could decipher.
There are passages and small chambers inside the pyramid, and in one of the latter the sarcophagus yet remains. When struck, it emits a sound like a bell, and from the fragments broken off by Europeans, it will very soon become transported piecemeal to Europe. It is found in one of the chambers called the king's chamber. No hieroglyphics have been discovered on it, but colonel Vyse found the name of the king from whom this pyramid is called in the stones of the upper chamber. There is space enough in the pyramid for 3,700 rooms of the size of the king's chamber, leaving the contents of every second chamber solid by way of separation.
The second pyramid, that of Cephrenes, is very similar to the first. It was opened by Belzoni, in 1816, and a sarcophagus was found sunk in the floor, containing the bones of an ox. Both pyramids, however, had probably been long ago visited by the Arabs, and despoiled of any contents which might appear valuable. The third pyramid was opened by colonel Vyse. It contains a chamber, with a pointed roof, in which was a stone sarcophagus, which was lost at sea by the wreck of the vessel which transported it. The wooden coffin, with the name of the king inscribed on it, is one of the most valuable antiquities deposited in the British Museum. The name of the king is Mykerinus. Although this pyramid was only about half the size of the other two, yet it was the most beautiful, as its outer casing was of granite. Besides these three pyramids, there are several others in the same neighbourhood, of inferior dimensions, and also many tombs. In one of these tombs, probably as old as the great pyramid, are representations of persons engaged in various trades, carpenters, boatmakers, etc., and persons eating, drinking, and dancing.
Not far from the pyramids stands the great Sphinx, an enormous statue of the composite animal of which the Egyptians were so fond. It is in this case half man and half beast. It is cut out in solid stone, with the exception of the forelegs, and it has no pedestal, but a paved dromos or platform in front, on which the legs repose. They extend fifty feet, and processions took place between the legs to the breast, where a temple has been discovered, composed of three tablets. On one of these is a representation of Thothmes IV offering incense and a libation of oil to the Sphinx. Some contend that it was this Thothmes who oppressed the Israelites, and go so far as to affirm that the Sphinx is a portrait of the king in whose reign the departure from Egypt took place.
The whole of it was formerly painted, and the face yet retains some of the red ochre. It is hewn out of a mass of limestone rock, and it is not impossible that the original form of the rock suggested the idea of converting it into an enormous colossal statue. Inscriptions have been discovered on the paws, one of which, in Greek, has appended to it the name of Arrian, the elegant historian and philosopher of the second century. Arab characters are seen scratched on the right cheek. Formerly there was a cap of ram's horn and feathers on the top of the head, but this has been for a long time removed, and only the cavity remains.
Pliny gives us the measure of the Sphinx's head ; round the forehead 102 feet, the whole length of the figure 143, and the height from the belly to the top of the head 62 feet. It was an enormous idol, the representation of a local deity, to whom sacrifices and worship were rendered by the kings and inhabitants of Egypt. Its nose is broken away, and the sand continually accumulates in the area beneath, so that its present appearance is clumsy, though many travellers speak of its calm and smiling aspect when contemplated for some time.”
Source : archive.org