mardi 5 janvier 2010

D'après une relation du XIXe siècle, le secret de la construction des pyramides a disparu avec les derniers rois et prêtres d'Égypte

Je vous propose ci-dessous un texte de J.O. Noyes, sous le titre "A trip from Cairo to the Pyramids", extrait de la revue The National Magazine, volume IX, July 1856.
Si vous avez quelque difficulté avec la langue anglaise, je vous rappelle que la barre d'outils que j'ai associée à ce blog (voir en bas de page) comporte un onglet "traduire". La traduction n'est certes pas parfaite. Elle permet néanmoins de se faire une idée...
Voici, dans ses grandes lignes, l'articulation du texte :
- au cours de l'ascension de la Grande Pyramide, l'auteur constate que, sur l'arête nord-est, à mi-chemin, plusieurs blocs de pierre ont été enlevés, formant un espace de repos fort apprécié ;
- contrairement à "beaucoup" d'autres pyramides, celle de Khéops ne comporte, dans la chambre du Roi, aucune inscription ;
- les étroits conduits de la chambre du Roi avaient bien pour fonction d'aérer la pièce ;
- même si le but de la construction des pyramides est resté secret - un secret qui a disparu avec les derniers rois et prêtres d'Égypte -, il ne fait aucun doute que cette construction a été inspirée par une "idée religieuse" (le sarcophage a un lien avec le culte d'Osiris), tout en ayant une finalité pratique (un rempart contre l'avancée du désert et la "furie de Typhon") ;
- "la construction du puits dans la pyramide de Khéops a dû avoir un lien mystérieux avec le Nil" ;
- la pyramide de Khéphren est plus ancienne que celle de Khéops : des hiéroglyphes le prouvent ;
- selon des auteurs arabes, les pyramides l'ont échappé belle : le calife Othman Ben Youssuf avait l'intention de détruire la plus petite des trois pyramides de Guizeh, tandis que l'un des derniers califes voulait tout simplement faire exploser la Grande Pyramide, en remplissant de poudre le puits au cœur de cet édifice !

Entrée de la Grande Pyramide (illustration jointe à l'article) 
We began to scale the stony cliffs afforded by the retiring strata on the north side of the Pyramid, near the opening to the chambers within. The steps varied from two to five feet in height, and were so broken away in many places that we were often obliged to deviate from a direct course. (...) Having ascended about one hundred feet in this manner, I sat down to rest. The slope of the Great Pyramid presents an angle of fifty-one degrees fifty minutes, and as I glanced down the steep descent, the effect was positively frightful. From that moment I looked only toward the summit, which seemed, indeed, to retire among the clouds as I advanced. (...) About half way up on the northeast corner several stones are broken away, forming a secure and desirable resting place. (...) A couple of pauses to rest, a couple of efforts, and I stood upon the topmost stone of the mighty Cheops. (...)
The majority of the company now repaired to the opening on the north side of the Pyramid, for the purpose of penetrating to the chambers within. At the opening, said in the Arabic account to have been forced by the Caliph Al Mamoon, by means of fire, vinegar, and battering rams, the guides often fire their guns to frighten away the genii, by whom they suppose the Pyramids to be inhabited. The passage is but little more than three feet square, and descends at an angle of twenty-six degrees. Our dragoman carried lighted tapers, and as we slid from notch to notch in a stooping posture, the hot and mephitic atmosphere soon became so impregnated with dust that I could scarcely breathe. A long descent and an equal ascent brought us at last to the king's chamber, the largest yet discovered in the Great Pyramid. It is thirty-four feet in length, seventeen in width, and twenty-two in height. Its walls are formed of immense blocks of polished granite, those of the passages being for the most part of porphyry. Ancient inscriptions have been discovered on the chamber walls of many of the Pyramids, but I observed none in that of Cheops. There was nothing calling to mind the succession of ancient dynasties, no tableaux representing the royal banquets, or the loves of Isis and Osiris. In an exposed fragment of rock one of my companions discovered a splendid fossilized nautilus. To what interminable ages was my mind carried back by the sight of that ancient and solitary mariner of the pre-Adamic seas, first entombed in the everlasting rock, to be re-entombed ages upon ages afterward in this Cyclopean mausoleum, which defies and wearies the wasting hand of time !
There are narrow passages leading from the king's chamber, which terminate near the summit of the Pyramid. They have not been scientifically explored, but a cat, whose litter of kittens had been placed on the top of the Pyramid, having been let loose in the chamber, she was in a few minutes found with her young. M. Maillet contends that these passages were constructed for the purpose of letting down food to persons who buried themselves in this chamber, for the remainder of their lives, with their deceased king. The object of their construction was, doubtless, the ventilation of the chambers.
The sarcophagus in the king's chamber, now greatly broken, gives, on being struck, a ringing and metallic sound. Instead of the ashes of an Egyptian king, it probably once contained a body typical of Osiris.
Our Arabs wished to perform a wardance around the sarcophagus, but we left as soon as possible to visit the queen's chamber, a solitary apartment many feet below the one just described. On our way from the latter we stopped to look into the mouth of the well near the grand passage.
The construction of the well in the Pyramid of Cheops must have had some mysterious connection with the Nile, as, being in all one hundred and ninety feet deep, its bottom is nearly on a level with the surface of the river. During the descent, which is by no means regular, it passes through two or three chambers.
The ascent to the summit of the Pyramid had so completely exhausted me that I did not attempt to explore the well. The latter is between two and three feet in diameter, and the explorer has to be lowered down by means of a long rope. The Arabs themselves are afraid to descend, on account of the genii supposed to inhabit the mysterious chambers. (...)
The purpose for which the Pyramids of Egypt were erected is a question that has been discussed from the days of Herodotus to the present time. The actual and mysterious secret of their origin appears to have perished with the ancient kings and priests of Egypt, by whom it was never communicated to the people, not even to the strangers who came from distant lands to study their arts and their monuments. But modern science has at last wrung a reluctant answer from the Sphinx, and we can now speak with more confidence as to the design of "These piles and monuments tremendous, Whose very ruins are stupendous"
than could the philosophic Plato, or Diodorus Siculus.
That they were erected for the mausoleums of kings ambitious of perpetuating their memory by having their ashes rest in indestructible tombs, for royal treasuries, or to serve as astronomical observatories, were the favorite theories of the ancients. Still more varied are the hypotheses, highly imaginative in most cases, of modern travelers, who have visited and written upon the Pyramids. By one they have been regarded as the granaries of Joseph ; by another, as temples to the Egyptian Venus ; while a third, with more truth, explains them as the tombs and monuments of the god Osiris. Says Sir Thomas Brown :" These dark caves and mummy repositories are Satan's abodes." (...)
These Cyclopean structures were the Pyramids of Egypt, the results of science and the noblest memorials of Egyptian civilization, rather than the monuments of ambitious folly and superstition on the part of her kings. That such is the fact seems probable from the following considerations:
The different groups of Pyramids are, without exception, built at the embouchures of the various gorges breaking the continuity of the Libyan chain. The Pyramids, constituting the individual groups, are so disposed with respect to each other as to form, as nearly as possible, walls across the valleys at whose termination they were built. They are placed en echelon. The Pyramids themselves are oriented, not with their corners uniformly in the direction of the four cardinal points of the compass, as we have always been taught, but with their sides fronting the ravines, at whose embouchures they were constructed.
The pyramidal shape combined the chief elements of durability. Presenting four inclined triangles, they exhibited in this particular the triangular form of the Yoni, a sacred figure, worshiped by the ancient Egyptians as well as Asiatics, as symbolical of deity. A religious idea was doubtless associated with the erection of the Pyramids for the purpose of acting upon the common mind of the Egyptians.
The sands of Sahel had advanced to the very waters of the Nile. Typhon had triumphed, and " the body of Osiris was broken into a thousand pieces." It was proposed by the college of priests to build magnificent and imperishable monuments to the fallen god of Egypt. Moved by this tender and pious idea, the myriads of Egypt tailed patiently for years in the erection of the Pyramids, while at the same time their labors were so directed by the priests, and learned men, who alone understood the secret purpose of these mighty structures, as to secure a great national benefit.
The Pyramids appear to have answered in part the purpose for which they were doubtless built. I found the sand but a few feet deep at the base of Cheops, and saw peasants cultivating the valley of the Nile scarcely half a mile from the group of Ghizeh. The Bedouin and the Fellah point to the silent and mysterious Sphinx as a talisman to prevent the advance of the desert ; but, in the estimation of science, the Pyramids themselves are the monuments whose talismanic influence has protected the domain of Osiris from the fury of Typhon.
This is the theory of M. de Persigny, and has been adopted by several French savans, among others by M. Huot, the illustrious successor of Malte Brun.
Having completed our examination of the Great Pyramid, we repaired to the base of the Pyramid of Cephrenes. The latter appears taller than the former, in consequence of its being built upon higher ground. It is smaller, however, covering but little more than eleven acres of ground, and was opened by Belzoni in 1816. The granite casing has been removed from the lower part. That of the upper part, consisting of calcareous stone, still remains, and renders the ascent to the apex exceedingly difficult. The Arabs, however, offered to make the attempt for a few piasters. The hieroglyphics found within prove this to be older than the Great Pyramid.
A little further south stands the third Pyramid, vastly inferior in size to the giants of Cheops and Cephrenes, but surpassing them in beauty and in the magnitude of the stones of which it is composed. Part of the red granite casing with which it was revetted has also been removed. This desecration of the Pyramids was the work of the Saracenic Caliphs in their search for hidden treasures, or in order to furnish building materials for the mosques and walls of Cairo. According to the Arabic accounts, Othman Ben Youssuf determined to demolish the third Pyramid, but found that the wealth of the whole kingdom would not afford him the means of accomplishing his design. One of the later caliphs wished to blow up the Great Pyramid by filling the well with powder, but gave up the idea on being told that the explosion would cause the destruction of Grand Cairo, though the latter is twelve miles from the Pyramids.

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