dimanche 7 février 2010

Grande Pyramide : la "chambre" d'Edward Melton

D'Edward Melton, on ne sait pas grand-chose, sinon que c'était un explorateur anglo-néerlandais, qu'il vécut au XVIIe siècle et qu'il effectua de lointains voyages de 1660 à 1667.
L'ouvrage An English nobleman't strange and memorable voyages and travels, through Egypt, West-India, Persia, Turkey, East-India, and the adjacent countries ; containing a very curious Description of the said lands, as also of their inhabitants, religion, government, manners and customs, together with many very strange accidents, uncommon histories and wonderful events ; begun in the year 1660 and ended in the year 1667, qui lui est attribué, pourrait être en réalité, selon certaines interprétations, une compilation de différentes sources, œuvre d'un certain Godofridus van Broekhuisen, Edward Melton n'ayant été en la circonstance qu'un pseudonyme.
N'ayant pas à ma disposition cet ouvrage, je ne puis me référer qu'à deux citations ayant pris rang dans mon inventaire : un extrait de Operations carried on at the Pyramids of Gizeh in 1837, de Howard Vyse, et une citation directe de Corneille le Bruyn.
J'ai retenu l'extrait de Vyse pour une allusion, faite par le récit d'Edward Melton, à une grosse colonne, fabriquée "en pierre d'Égypte", située, d'après le contexte de la citation, dans la chambre du Roi.
On notera par ailleurs la mention d'une "chambre" située à "mi-chemin" de l'arête nord-est de la Grande Pyramide. On reconnaîtra bien sûr l'encoche (le "salon") qui a également retenu l'attention de certains "visiteurs".
Ici comme ailleurs, toutes précisions pour une interprétation de ces textes nous parvenant d'un lointain passé seront les bienvenues.
L'espace "Messages-tchat" a été mis en place dans ce but sur ce blog.
Merci par avance aux éventuelles contributions.

Illustration extraite www.brown.edu/
Extrait de Operations carried on at  the Pyramids of Gizeh in 1837, with an account of a voyage into upper Egypt, du colonel Howard Vyse, vol 2, 1811 :

An Englishman, travelled from 1660 to 1677, and his notes were published in the Dutch language, owing, probably, to the unsettled state of England at that time.
He visited the Pyramids, called by the Arabs the Mountains of Pharaoh, on the 27th of April, and says that three were much more considerable than the rest, and could be seen at a great distance ; that some of the others were like those of the Mummies, which he would afterwards describe ; and that the rest, although numerous, were of no great size. He adds, that one of the three largest was much smaller than the other two, which were nearly of equal bulk ; that the Great Pyramid was the only one which could be ascended or entered ; and that the passage was said to have been effectually concealed by a stone, until a pacha opened it. He ascended at the north-eastern angle, and observed the chasm half way up, which he calls a chamber. He found that the ranges of stones were two hundred and six in number, and of an average height of two feet six inches, but that some were more than three feet high. He says, in another place, that some of the stones in the lower part of this Pyramid were four feet in height ; others, three feet six inches, and five feet in length - that, in the middle, they were about three feet square ; and, towards the summit, about two feet high, and three feet six inches in length. The height of the Pyramid was five hundred and twenty feet ; the sides of the Pyramid about six hundred and eighty-two feet ; but he found that none of the three buildings were squares, and that the northern and southern sides were the largest.
Although, when seen from the ground, the summit appeared to end in a point, it was a platform sixteen feet eight inches square, originally composed of twelve large stones, some of which were wanting. He was informed that a statue had been placed upon it ; and thought that it had been the case, as the Pyramid did not end in a point like the others, and as the holes, in which the Colossus had been fixed, were apparent. However, when he saw it, nothing was to be discovered but the names of various travellers.
He supposed that a stone could not be thrown, but that an arrow might be shot, from the summit beyond the base.
After the usual ceremony of discharging fire-arms into the entrance to drive away the serpents, which he rightly considered a useless precaution, he then visited the interior. He ascended, over the mound of rubbish, to the entrance, which was on the sixteenth range of stones, and about thirty feet from the centre, on the northern front. The stone over it was eleven feet long, and eight feet broad. The passage was much encumbered with an accumulation of sand, and likewise with a multitude of bats, so that the torches could scarcely be kept alight.
The passage extended to the middle of the Pyramid, and inclined so sharply that it could scarcely be traversed : and it had been so contrived, in his opinion, as a protection for the sarcophagus. It was straight, and lined on each side by blocks twenty or thirty palms in length, and was so low, that it could only be entered stooping. At the bottom of it he found a square hole, where he reposed. He then went up an ascending passage, which had a roof formed of projecting stones, that narrowed towards the top. It was without steps, and could only be ascended with great difficulty, by laying hold of certain stones which projected, and by taking advantage of holes cut in the smooth floor at six palms interval.
Having arrived at the top, he entered the sepulchral chamber, which had no door : it was about forty feet long and twenty-one feet wide, and was roofed with seven blocks laid across it, which were supported by the walls.
The tomb was built aslant at the end of the chamber, and was separated from the whole body.
He found also a large column made of Egyptian stone, and tried to break it with a hammer, which he took for that purpose, but could make no impression. It emitted, when struck, a sound like a bell, which could be heard at a great distance.
The tomb had no lid ; and it was said that the king for whom it was intended had not been buried in it.
The author then repeats the ancient traditions, that three hundred and sixty thousand men were employed for twenty years in building the Great Pyramid ; and that the construction of the three was completed in seventy-eight years and four months. He remarks, however, that nothing certain is known about them.
Mr. Melton appears to have revisited the Pyramids in company with many other persons on the 28th of the following December ; when, it is to be remarked, that, on account of the water remaining from the previous inundation, he was carried by the Arabs across a canal, precisely in the same way as he would have been at the present moment.
From his observations on this and his former visit, he imagines that the hills adjacent to the Pyramids were converted into one large cemetery, probably for Memphis ; that all the Pyramids had entrances, and inclined passages of considerable length, leading to sepulchral chambers, which were concealed by the accumulation of the desert sands ; that they also contained deep square wells, excavated in the rock, as he had found to be the case in ten which he had examined ; that these monuments were regularly placed ; that each of the three larger were at the head of ten smaller, many of which had been destroyed. He concluded that there had been originally above one hundred.
He adds that they were not built with blocks brought from a distance, but with those quarried on the spot, which consisted of a very hard white sandstone, and not of marble ; and says that they were situated upon a ridge of rocks covered with desert sand, as appeared by various excavations, particularly those at the north-eastern angle of the third Pyramid.
The author further says that he discovered on some of them hieroglyphics, which, he concludes, were the titles of the persons to whom these monuments belonged.

Extrait de Voyage au Levant, c'est-à-dire dans les principaux endroits de l'Asie mineure, dans les îles de Chio, Rhodes, Chypre, etc., de même que dans les plus considérables villes d'Égypte, Syrie et Terre Sainte, tome 2, 1725, de Corneille le Bruyn (Cornelis de Bruyn) :

"On y voit [au Champ des Momies] encore quinze pyramides, entre lesquelles il y en a trois d'une grandeur extraordinaire, et qu'il semble que le temps ait voulu respecter, car elles sont presque entières et sans être endommagées ; elles ont aussi chacune une ouverture par où l'on passe dans une chambre. La curiosité, qui est ordinaire aux voyageurs, fit que nous entrâmes dans celle qui est la plus éloignée du bourg, et qu'on appelle ordinairement la Pyramide de Rhodope. Nous en trouvâmes l'entrée plus commode, selon mon jugement, que celle des autres que nous avions vues auparavant, parce que le chemin par où l'on y entre est plus élevé, mais il est bien deux fois aussi profond que celui des autres pyramides. Cependant, comme il n'est pas raide, il est bien plus aisé à pratiquer ; d'ailleurs il est si profond que je crois qu'il va jusqu'aux fondements. Au bas de cette descente nous ne trouvâmes point de degrés pour monter, comme dans les autres pyramides, mais seulement la chambre des sépultures, qui est fort spacieuse et fort élevée ; sa voûte n'était pas plate, mais elle montait de biais et finissait en pointe. Nous ne trouvâmes pourtant point de tombeau dans cette chambre, peut-être parce qu'on n'y avait jamais enterré personne ; ou, que s'il y en avait eu, le tombeau était ruiné et avait été rompu. Cette pyramide est bâtie en manière de pavillon ; et c'est le sentiment de plusieurs voyageurs qu'une fameuse courtisane, nommée Rhodope, la fit bâtir de l'argent qu'elle avait gagné à se prostituer. Mais sans doute qu'ils se trompent, au moins si ce que Pline dit est vrai, que la pyramide de Rhodope était petite, mais fort belle, ce qui ne peut convenir à celle-ci qui est une des plus grandes de l'Égypte. Pour ce qui est des autres, plus petites, qui sont dans ce même Champ, le temps les a presque entièrement ruinées, car ce ne sont à présent que des monceaux de sable, qui n'ont plus que la forme de ce qu'elles ont été autrefois.
On voit aussi là une grosse pile carrée de grandes pierres de taille : les Arabes l'appellent Mezenbet Faraoun, sur laquelle ils disent que montaient les Pharaons rois d'Égypte, lorsqu'ils voulaient donner quelque nouvelle loi à leurs sujets."

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