Il relata ce périple dans The East : sketches of travel in Egypt and the Holy Land, publié en 1850.
Plus que l’analyse d’un égyptologue patenté, c’est plutôt les réflexions d’un voyageur éclairé qu’il faut chercher dans cet ouvrage. Outre ses observations personnelles, l’auteur a pris soin de consulter les références qu’il avait à sa disposition (les auteurs anciens et modernes) pour mieux comprendre et interpréter l’histoire des pyramides égyptiennes, sans pour autant parvenir à une synthèse satisfaisante. D’où un réel scepticisme sur les prétendus acquis de l’archéologie, au regard de la “vérité”. D’où également cette conclusion, au moins provisoire : “Peut-être le secret des pyramides n’a-t-il pas encore été découvert.”
“We could not restrain our astonishment, when we drew near the Great Pyramid, beheld the immense blocks of stone, and looked up from one corner at the towering mass which rose to such a height above us. It is only in this position, when you are standing close by, when you see the layers of stone, examine and measure their length, breadth and thickness, look along the sides, or upward toward the summit, notice the diminutive appearance of some smaller pyramids near the base, and see how very insignificant seem objects like oneself, that the imagination becomes satisfied that the reality is in no wise inferior to what it expected in these mighty monuments. For myself, I can but say, that though I had supposed a far different scene would meet the eye, and had pictured to myself something quite unlike the reality, I now felt all the effects which grandeur in nature or art produces upon the mind ; and it is not too much to say - though rather common place - that I was overwhelmed with the sight, and lost in wonder and surprise. What immense labor, what an amount of toil for hundreds of thousands, what astonishing skill and ingenuity must have been exerted in their erection ! How strange does it seem to look at the Pyramids and turn the thoughts back to four thousand years ago, when they were built by the proud oppressors whose names they bear ! (...) The Pyramids stand, in gloomy grandeur, frowning upon the pigmies of a day who come to gaze awhile at them and then go away to die ; here they remain, the lasting evidences of death's triumph over the race of man, and the puerile attempt of royal despots to provide for themselves mausoleums of imperishable renown. What a lesson do they teach of the vanity and worthlessness of this world's greatness and glory ! (...)
Les pyramides ont perdu non seulement leur revêtement, mais aussi de nombreux blocs de pierre que l’on a fait rouler à partir du sommetThere is something rather surprising in the fact that the top of the Great Pyramid, which, from the bottom, appears only partially broken off, presents, when you are really there, a broad surface of between thirty and forty feet. In former times, it appears that the platform was much less ; and, we are told that, in the earliest ages the Pyramid was complete and finished up to the very apex ; but, as is well known, the vast structures here situate were used by the Saracen conquerors as quarries, from which to obtain stone for the edifices of Cairo, and consequently, not only the casing-stones, which the Great Pyramid is said to have once possessed, and which are partially remaining on the second, have been carried off, but also many blocks have been rolled down from the top, breaking and crushing the sides and corners of most of the layers in their descent, as well as diminishing the vertical height of the Pyramids. (...)
Le sarcophage endommagé par la conduite coupable des visiteurs
Whatever it [the sarcophagus] may have contained in former days, it is now empty ; and here it stands, a strange monument of the instability of kingly power, since all this vast structure, as is supposed, was built to contain the perishing dust of a monarch, whose remains have long since, we know not when; been carried off, and scattered to the four winds of heaven.
The sarcophagus has been much injured by the culpable conduct of visitors, who are usually desirous to carry away some relic of the Pyramid, and who have not scrupled to break off pieces from one of the corners, to an extent which, if continued, will ere long destroy it entirely.
We hardly had time to reflect much upon the perplexing questions which present themselves in connection with the sarcophagus and the King's chamber, in general ; but we could not fail to be as much struck as every one has been with the fact, that there is an entire absence of hieroglyphics where, above all places, we should have expected to have found them. May it not be, after all, that the secret of the Pyramid has not yet been discovered ? Is it not possible, that where so much skill and care has been displayed in everything, to keep out intruders, and to conceal from all eyes some sacred spot or object, that there is yet something to be discovered, which will throw light upon points, even to the present day much debated, and far from being satisfactorily ascertained ?
Opinions et théories divergentesI am, by no means, skeptically inclined ; but I profess (...) that I am not wholly satisfied on the subject of the Great Pyramid : perhaps time will reveal what is now hidden from the wise and learned laborers in the field of Egyptian history and antiquities. (...)
It is a singular fact in regard to these imposing monuments, that there are few points on which ancient writers agree with the moderns, or the moderns with themselves ; or, if this be thought too strong language, there can be no doubt that it is a strange thing how many and various opinions and theories have been started, and how little satisfaction is, after all, derived from the researches of many learned and able men, in this interesting field.
The ancient writers, commencing with Herodotus, have related the traditions which were current in their days, and have furnished some facts of a rather curious nature, and made several statements which it seems impossible to reconcile with truth. (...)
Les pyramides furent érigées par les Rois bergersI do not know how these sentiments may strike your mind, or whether you will be able to see any force in the arguments used, to support the opinion of the Jews' connection with the erection of the Pyramids ; for my own part, I cannot accede to this view, for several reasons, but principally the deficiency of everything like proof in its support. I am much disposed to prefer the more commonly adopted view, that the Pyramids were erected by the Shepherd Kings, during the time of their rule id Egypt. This would accord very well with the great antiquity of these vast monuments, and would serve, in some measure, at least, to explain the reason why "every shepherd is an abomination unto the Egyptians”. If it be true, as is generally agreed at the present day, that Egypt was overrun by a foreign tribe, known in history as the Hyksos or Shepherd Kings; and if it be true that they established their power, maintained their supremacy for some hundreds of years, and treated their conquered subjects with severity amounting to actual tyranny, the supposition does not, certainly, seem improbable, that they might have been the founders of the Pyramids, and that they might have hit on this plan as an excellent one for breaking down the spirit of the people, and for preventing any sudden or violent outbreak. (...) Hence, on this hypothesis, we can understand the significancy of that expression, that shepherds were regarded as an abomination by the Egyptians ; not, probably, all shepherds, for the Egyptians themselves had flocks and herds, but shepherds who came from abroad, and towards whom, having no natural affinity, they entertained invincible repugnance and hatred.
I am well aware, that very much of what I have stated as most probable on this subject, is yet unsubstantiated by proof ; but as it is most likely, that for many years to come we shall be under the guidance of theories and great names, instead of clear and satisfactory evidence, I hope that you will agree with me in looking upon this hypothesis as, all things considered, quite as reasonable as any other. (...)
Érigées comme des sépulcres, les pyramides ont peut-être eu aussi d’autres fonctions
It is a question of considerable interest as to what were the intended uses of the Pyramids ; and here too there is nearly as much disagreement as in respect to the date and founders of these massive monuments. (...) Not to dwell upon other theories, I may mention that the one most usually adopted, and which has the least difficulties connected with it, is that which is derived from the ancients, and which makes them to have been built for tombs or sepulchres. While I am not thoroughly convinced on the point, I must confess that this is, on the whole, the most probable supposition ; it is not unlikely too, that they may have subserved another, or other purposes, and thus, though primarily intended as tombs, may still have been used for scientific purposes.”