vendredi 15 juillet 2011

“La date des pyramides doit être synchrone avec l’époque des Rois Bergers” (Michael Russell - XVIIIe-XIXe s.)

Rien n’indique que Michael Russell (1781-1848), évêque anglican de Glasgow et Galloway, ait personnellement visité les pyramides égyptiennes avant de rédiger son ouvrage Egypt, ancient and modern, 1832. Il semble plutôt en proposer une description par divers auteurs interposés.
Certes, il ne se contente pas de citer, parfois abondamment, tel ou tel de ces auteurs ; il manifeste ses préférences dans l’interprétation des sources auxquelles il puise ses informations, notamment sur l’âge et la destination des pyramides.
Par deux fois au cours de ce texte, l’auteur relativise l’importance de certaines prétendues découvertes archéologiques modernes. Depuis Hérodote, Ératosthène, Diodore de Sicile et Strabon, quels progrès ont été accomplis par l’égyptologie ? Ce sont, remarque Michael Russell, toujours les mêmes sujets qui sont étudiés. A-t-on réalisé de réels progrès, dans l’examen de la structure de la Grande Pyramide, depuis les Grecs et les Romains ? “It is extremely doubtful”, s’empresse-t-il de répondre aussitôt. Aurait-il donc été influencé par cet autre auteur - Jean de La Bruyère - qui affirmait : “Tout est dit, et l'on vient trop tard” ?

“The Pyramids, during several thousand years, have attracted the curiosity of the traveller, and given rise to much learned disquisition ; while so great is their magnitude, and so durable the material of which they are constructed, that they present to the moderns the same subject of study which was contemplated by Herodotus, Eratosthenes, Diodorus, and Strabo. Pursuing the plan we have hitherto followed, we shall first extract from the oldest Greek historian the tradition which prevailed in his days, and then draw from other sources the most probable account of the origin, the date, the intention, and the actual appearance of those famous buildings.
Herodotus, it is well known, ascribes the largest of the Pyramids to Cheops, a tyrannical and profligate sovereign. (...)
It is from the last circumstance mentioned by Herodotus that the very reasonable conclusion has been formed by Bryant (1), Dr Hales, and others, in regard to the people by whom the Pyramids are supposed to have been erected. We have already explained the connexion which subsists between the term Pales, Phalis, or Philitis, and the Shepherd Kings who, having invaded Egypt from the east, possessed that country as masters during more than a hundred years, and who, upon being expelled by the indignant natives, settled on the adjoining coast of Syria under the denomination of Philistines. It is manifest, at first sight, that the dynasty of princes to whom these stupendous works are ascribed were foreigners, and also, that they professed a religion hostile to the animal worship of the Egyptians ; for it is recorded by the historian, with an emphatic distinctness, that, during the whole period of their domination, the temples were shut, sacrifices were prohibited, and the people subjected to every species of oppression and calamity. Hence it follows that the date of the Pyramids must synchronise with the epoch of the Shepherd Kings, those monarchs who were held as an abomination by the Egyptians, and who, we may confidently assert, occupied the throne of the Pharaohs during some part of the interval which elapsed between the birth of Abraham and the captivity of Joseph. (...)

Les pyramides : sépultures et temples
The most probable opinion respecting the object of these vast edifices is that which combines the double use of the sepulchre and the temple, nothing being more common in all nations than to bury distinguished men in places consecrated by the rites of divine worship. If Cheops, Suphis, or whoever else was the founder of the great Pyramid, intended it only for his tomb, what occasion was there, says Dr Shaw (2), for such a narrow sloping entrance into it, or for the well, as it is called, at the bottom, or for the lower chamber with a large niche or hole in the eastern wall of it, or for the long narrow cavities in the sides of the large upper room, which likewise is incrusted all over with the finest granite marble, or for the two antechambers and the lofty gallery, with benches on each side, that introduce us into it ? As the whole of the Egyptian theology was clothed in mysterious emblems and figures, it seems reasonable to suppose that all these turnings, apartments, and secrets in architecture, were intended for some nobler purpose, for the catacombs or burying-places are plain vaulted chambers hewn out of the natural rock, and that the deity rather, which was typified in the outward form of this pile, was to be worshipped within.

Nature et origine des matériaux de construction
The present aspect of the Pyramids renders it doubtful whether they were ever fully completed, or whether the apparent dilapidation of the external parts ought not to be altogether ascribed to the injuries of the atmosphere and the hands of barbarian conquerors. It is presumed that a pile of this description was not regarded as entirely finished until it was coated over with polished stone, so as to fill up the vacancies occasioned by the diminution of the successive layers of the building, and to render the surface quite smooth and uniform from the foundation to the summit. Herodotus states, in the clearest terms, that, after the structure was raised to its full height, the artisans began to finish it from the top downwards.
In the second Pyramid, accordingly, which bears the name of Cephrenes, a considerable portion of the original casing still remains ; confirming the accuracy of the ancient historian as to the general plan of all such edifices, and affording, at the same time, the means of understanding that part of his narrative in which he asserts that a great quantity of the stone was brought from the Arabian side of the Nile, and even from the neighbourhood of the Cataracts.
It has been ascertained by several modern travellers that the main body of the huge masses now under consideration is composed of rocks still found in the immediate vicinity ; we must therefore infer that the granite and porphyry used for casing the exterior, as well as for the decorations of the chambers within, are to be identified with the materials described by the Halicarnassian, and which Strabo and Pliny more usually designate as precious stones and marble.

"D'Alexandrie à la Seconde Cataracte" (Himley - 1841)
Pyramides de Guizeh
The number of pyramids scattered over Egypt is very great ; but by far the most remarkable are those at Djizeh, Sakhara, and Dashour. The first of these places, which is situated on the west side of the Nile, about ten miles from its bank, and nearly in the latitude of Grand Cairo, is distinguished by possessing the three principal edifices described by Herodotus, and which are still regarded as the finest monuments of this class that are to be seen in any part of the world. It is noticed by every author who, from personal observation, has described these wonderful works of art, that the sense of sight is much deceived in the first attempt to appreciate their distance and their magnitude. Though removed several leagues from the spectator, they appear to be quite at hand ; and it is not until he has travelled some miles in a direct line with their bearing that he becomes sensible both of their vast bulk and also of the pure atmosphere through which he had viewed them. They are situated on a platform of rock about a hundred and fifty feet above the level of the surrounding desert, a circumstance which at once contributes to their being well seen, and also to the discrepancy that still prevails among the most intelligent travellers as to their actual height. (...)

La Grande Pyramide
The largest Pyramid stands on an elevation free all round, on which account the accumulation of sand in contact with it is less than might have been apprehended. It has, however, suffered much from human violence, immense heaps of broken stones having fallen down on each side, which form a high mound towards the middle of the base. The corners are pretty clear, where the foundation is readily discovered, particularly at the north-west angle ; but it is impossible to see straight along the line of the base on account of these heaps of rubbish. Hence, as has been already suggested, the difficulty of making an exact measurement, and the frequent disagreement of the results ; it being impracticable, without removing the sand and fallen stones, to run a straight line all the way in contact with the building. Dr Richardson (3) paced one side, at a little distance from the wall, and found it two hundred and forty-two steps ; whence he conjectures that the extent of seven hundred feet, usually assigned to it, is not far from the truth.
The entrance into the Pyramid is on the north side, and is nearly in the centre, about an equal distance from each angle ; being, at the same time, elevated about thirty feet above the base, probably that it might be more difficult for a conqueror to discover it, and less liable to be blocked up with sand. The ascent to it is over a heap of stones and rubbish that have either fallen from the Pyramid, or been forced out and thrown down in the various efforts made at successive periods to find a passage into the interior. This heap at present rises considerably above the entrance, which is a small orifice not more than three feet and a half square : it is lined above and below, and on either side, with broad flat blocks of red granite, smooth and highly polished. The flags in the bottom of the passage are formed with alternate depressions and elevations, in order to afford a firm footing to the person descending ; but this, it is presumed, is a modern operation, because the depressions are not smooth and polished like the rest of the stones.
After advancing nearly a hundred feet into the entrance, which slopes downward at an angle of about twenty-six degrees, the explorer finds an opening on the right hand, which conducts him up an inclined plane to the queen's chamber, as travellers have agreed to call it, an apartment seventeen feet long, fourteen feet wide, and twelve feet high to the point on which the roof is suspended.
Ascending a similar passage, but somewhat steeper than the first, he perceives another chamber of larger dimensions, being thirty-seven feet two inches long, seventeen feet two inches wide, and about twenty feet in height. This is denominated the king's chamber, but upon no better authority that we can discover than the caprice of tourists already converted into a local tradition. Its magnificence, however, entitles it in some degree to the distinction which it has obtained. It is lined all round with large slabs of highly-polished granite, reaching from the floor to the ceiling ; this last being formed of nine immense flags which stretch from wall to wall. Towards the west end of the room stands the sarcophagus, which likewise consists of red granite highly polished, but without either sculpture or hieroglyphics. Its length is seven feet six inches, while the depth and width are each three feet three inches. There is no lid, nor was there any thing found in it except a few fragments of the stone with which the chamber is decorated.
As this room does not reach beyond the centre of the Pyramid, Dr Richardson suggests the very probable opinion that there are other passages leading to other chambers in communication with it ; the entrance to which would, it is very likely, be found by removing some of the granite slabs which serve as wainscoting to the walls. To present to the eye a uniform surface in the interior of an apartment was one of the devices usually employed by an architect in old times when he wished to conceal from an ordinary observer the approach to a secret retreat, reserving to himself and his employer the knowledge of the particular stone which covered the important orifice, as well as the means of obtaining a ready access.
A third chamber, still higher in the body of the Pyramid than either of the two just mentioned, was discovered by Mr Davison (4), who, about sixty years ago, was British consul at Cairo. (...) The room is four feet longer than the one below ; in the latter you see only seven stones, and a half of one on each side of them ; but in that above, the nine are entire, the two halves resting on the wall at each end. The breadth is equal with that of the room below. The covering of this, as of the other, is of beautiful granite, but it is composed of eight stones instead of nine, the number in the room below. (...)

Que connaît-on de plus, sur la structure de la Grande Pyramide, que les Grecs et les Romains ?
It is extremely doubtful, even after these laborious endeavours, whether we have yet made farther progress in dissecting the structure of the Pyramid than was attained by the Greeks and Romans two thousand years ago ; for it is worthy of notice that every recess which has been explored in modern times bears marks of having been examined by former adventurers. We find, besides, that the narrow entrance into the great Pyramid was known to Strabo, which he tells us had a stone placed at the mouth of it to be removed at pleasure. The same author likewise, as well as Herodotus, was acquainted with the subterraneous chambers, and Pliny has left a description of the well. It is true that they declined to enter into many particulars which could hardly fail to have met their observation, an omission which we are justified, at least in the case of Herodotus, in attributing to certain superstitious notions of their sanctity and mysterious uses. (...)

Qui a ouvert le premier la Grande Pyramide ?
The opening of the Great Pyramid has, by many oriental writers, been ascribed to the Caliph Abdalla Mamour, the son of Haroun Al Raschid ; and they state that he employed for the accomplishment of his object, fire, vinegar, and other chemical solvents. Others attribute this achievement to the Caliph Mohdi, whose name was Mohammed. The latter is not improbably the sovereign whose reputation is embalmed in the inscription, copied by the direction of Belzoni, under the title of King Ali Mohammed ; and as it is recorded that he attended the opening of them - in the plural number -, it is certainly not unreasonable to conclude that it was he who first penetrated into the interior of both, and who is, consequently, chargeable with much of the unnecessary dilapidation which accompanied his fruitless labours. (...)

Construction des pyramides et mesure du temps sidéral
It is indeed quite consistent to suppose that the priests, in the construction of these stupendous monuments, would avail themselves of the means thus offered of connecting their sacred duties with their favourite study, and of combining the sentiments of piety with the sublime conceptions of astronomy. Among other benefits which this union has conferred upon posterity, is that of having fixed with precision the faces of the Pyramids, from which, as Pauw has observed, "we know that the poles of the earth have not changed". But there is reason to think that the Pyramids were made subservient to a more immediate and important use in the science of astronomy, namely, to correct the measurement of time. This object, it may be conceived, was in contemplation when the main passages leading from the northern sides were formed. These approaches, as we have repeatedly remarked, are invariably inclined downwards, in an angle of about 27°, with the plane of the horizon, which gives a line of direction not far removed from that point in the heavens where the polar star now crosses the meridian below the pole. The observation of this, or some other star, across the meridian, would give them an accurate measure of sideral time, a point of the first importance in an age when it is probable no other instruments than rude solar gnomons, or expedients still more imperfect, were in use. Indeed it would not be easy to devise a method more effectual for observing the transit of a star with the naked eye, than that of watching its passage across the mouth of such a lengthened tube; and it is manifest that some one of these luminaries, when in the meridian below the pole, must have been seen in the line of a passage inclined at an angle of twenty-six or twenty-seven degrees.”
Source :

(1) Sans doute Jacob Bryant (1715-1804). Une note de Pyramidales sera consacrée prochainement à cet auteur.
(2) Sur cet auteur, voir Pyramidales ICI
(3) Sur cet auteur, voir Pyramidales ICI
(4) Sur cet auteur, voir Pyramidales ICI