samedi 3 septembre 2011

“La relation d’Hérodote est probablement exacte” (W.L.Balls - XIXe-XXe s., à propos des pyramides égyptiennes)

William Lawrence Balls (1882-1960) était un botaniste britannique, spécialisé dans la production du coton. De 1904 à 1910, il fut engagé, à ce titre, au Caire par la Khedivial Agricultural Society of Egypt.
Dans son ouvrage Egypt of the Egyptians, édité en 1920, il ne consacra qu’une courte page aux pyramides égyptiennes, dont on trouvera le texte ci-dessous. Et tant qu’à être bref, il ne pensait pas mieux faire que d’orienter ses lecteurs vers la prétendue incontournable référence du “Père de l’Histoire”.

“The technical skill displayed, in addition to the artistic ability, was amazing. Bowls of hard diorite and alabaster were worked down to translucent thinness ; rock-crystal, ebony inlaid with ivory, copper and gold, were all employed for ornaments and furniture. The houses and temples of Menes' time were of wood and wattle, with enclosures and gardens, but the whole art of building developed most rapidly. This can be most easily realised by the evolution of the Pyramids from the pre-dynastic burial pits.  
The simple burial pit was first floored with granite, then built solidly with bricks, and later, in the Third Dynasty, with limestone. The sarcophagus containing the body was lowered down a shaft left vertically in the structure, which was sealed with great slabs, while chapel-like chambers were made elsewhere in the solid masonry.
These wide flat rectangular tombs were next enlarged by the addition of superincumbent layers of stone, so that a kind of pyramid of several steps was produced. From this, by elimination of the steps, there developed the true pyramid, of which the greatest is that of Cheops at Giza.
Mere figures convey little of the significance of this, the sole survivor of the classic wonders of the world. It is 480 ft. high, and the base is over 750 ft. long. The average error of its sides from their strict geometrical form is less than one ten-thousandth part of the side in equality, squareness, and level.
The statement of Herodotus is probably correct, that it required the labours of a city of 100,000 men during twenty years. All the stone came from the opposite side of the Nile valley 10 miles away, from the quarries in the cliffs facing those on which the pyramid stands, and in spite of the colossal scale of the work, we find that in many places the blocks of stone, weighing several tons, are so finely finished that the finest needle cannot find a way between the stones for foot after foot of jointing.
Covered on the outside with a smooth limestone casing, it was not only the largest, but also the simplest mass of masonry ever put together by human hands. Yet it failed to protect the body of the king, entombed in its polished granite chamber in the heart of the mountainous mass ; robbers ultimately found the sealed entrance and rifled the sarcophagus. The whole of this revolution, from the simple pit in the sand to the Great Pyramid, was effected in five centuries.”

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