mercredi 30 juin 2010

"La majorité, si ce n'est la totalité des pyramides, ne sont que de petites collines naturelles recouvertes de maçonnerie" (James Augustus St. John - XIXe s.)

L'écrivain et journaliste britannique James Augustus St. John (1795-1875) fut un grand voyageur. En 1832, il se rendit ainsi en Égypte où il se déplaçait la plupart du temps à pied.
Son périple dans la vallée du Nil lui inspira plusieurs ouvrages : Egypt and Mohammed Ali, or Travels in the Valley of the Nile (2 vols., 1834), Egypt and Nubia (1844), Isis, an Egyptian Pilgrimage (2 vols., 1853).

Le texte que j'ai retenu de cet auteur est extrait de Egypt and Nubia. Pour en agrémenter la lecture, j'y ai inséré quelques intertitres.
"The traveller's sojourn at Cairo is usually diversified by a number of excursions each, to borrow a phrase from the Arabian Nights, more interesting than the other. (…) But none of these enjoyments was perhaps so replete with pleasure as our visit to the great pyramids of Ghizeh. To most persons those structures have now been rendered familiar by description. Thousands of travellers have beheld them, hundreds have delineated their forms, and repeated their dimensions. But this consideration does not in the slightest degree diminish the delight with which the European who arrives for the first time at Cairo undertakes his little expedition across the Nile. (…)

Les pyramides de Guizeh font partie des merveilles du monde... et ce n'est que justice !
The rocky eminence upon which Cheops and his successors erected their vast pyramidal temples to Venus, rises about one hundred feet above the level of the Egyptian plain, and has now been covered, by the action of the west wind, with sandy mounds, various in form and height, which cause it to exhibit a ruggedness of aspect altogether congruous with our ideas of the Libyan waste. When we had gained the summit of this height, and cleared the hillocks which at first obstructed our view, all the sublimity of the Pyramids burst at once upon us. The tallest among our companions, standing at their feet, were scarcely so high as a single layer of stones ; and when I drew near and beheld the mighty basis, the vast breadth, the prodigious solidity, the steep acclivity of the sides, misleading the eye, which appears to discover the summit among the clouds, whilst the kite and the eagle, wheeling round and round, far, far aloft, were yet not so high as the apex, I secretly acknowledged the justice of the popular opinion which enumerates those majestic structures among the wonders of the world. (…)

Loin d'être inutiles, les pyramides sont une expression de l'Art
Men, ambitious of the reputation of philosophers, have declaimed in all ages about the inutility of the Pyramids. But can anything be called useless by which the mind is elevated and aggrandised ? which rouses and fires the imagination with ideas of diuturnity and grandeur and power ? What are we, divested of the pleasures furnished by the imagination ? Why has Art in all ages mimicked the creative energy of Nature ? Is it not that we may remove from ourselves that sense of insignificance which is inspired by the feebleness of our physical power, by the exertion of another power, in which it would appear from many of the works of men that we are not deficient ! However this may be, I thanked Cheops, Cephrenes, and Mycerinus for creating a marvel in the regions of art, and thus, whatever may be pretended to the contrary, adding to the sum of permanent enjoyment. If in the execution of their designs they oppressed their subjects, the fact is to be lamented ; but too many modern princes, with equal recklessness of what they inflict upon the people, wantonly engage in wars which still more lavishly and uselessly exhaust their treasures, without producing anything for the instruction or gratification of posterity. (…)

"The majority, if not the whole of the Pyramids, are merely small natural hills faced with masonry"

On drawing near the Pyramid [of Illahoon], we observed a striking peculiarity in its appearance : between the dark unburned bricks, with which it seems to be constructed, we could perceive, on every side, immense blocks of stone projecting through the casing. This circumstance leading me to reflect more maturely on the subject, I was convinced by the observations I afterwards made, that the majority, if not the whole of the Pyramids, are merely small natural hills faced with masonry. To a certain extent, we know this to be the case with that of Cheops, in which the living rock is visible in the interior. At Sakkarah, likewise, the same advantage has been taken of a large rocky nucleus furnished by nature ; so that, in the erection of these vast temples of Venus, the Egyptians would appear to have done nothing more than build round a number of those conical hillocks of stone, which are so numerous in this part of the Libyan Desert, adding to their bulk and height, and fashioning them so as to represent on all sides the mystic Delta, in whose honour they were constructed.
We may thus also account for the seemingly fortuitous manner in which the Pyramids are scattered over the face of the waste, and for their remarkable proximity to each other, in the case of those at Ghizeh.
Herodotus relates that Asychis, desirous of surpassing his predecessors, not by the grandeur or magnificence of his public works, but by the difficulties which he knew how to overcome, erected a pyramid of bricks made with mud drawn up by poles from the bottom of the lake ; and that he commemorated his silly achievement on a stone in the face of the Pyramid. If the lake intended in this passage was that of Moeris, or the Bahr Yusuf- which seems to have been not unfrequently confounded with the lake - then the Pyramid of Asychis may be that of Illahoon, or of Hawara ; though the inscription nowhere appears. By compelling the people to labour, however, on works of this kind, to the neglect of agriculture and commerce, Asychis reduced his subjects to great poverty and misery ; so that, in order to raise money for their subsistence, they were, in many cases, compelled to pawn the dead bodies of their parents. Like the Haram-el-Kedâb, the Pyramid of Illahoon springs up almost perpendicularly from a conical base, and having attained a certain elevation, slopes rapidly to a point. Originally, therefore, it was not possible to ascend to its summit ; but by the industry of the Arabs, a path has been formed on its southern face, leading in a zig-zag direction to the top. Denon considers this the most dilapidated of all the Pyramids of Egypt ; but it is, perhaps, less ruinous than that of Hawara ; and in the Desert near Dashour and Sakkarah, there are several structures of this kind already reduced to the shape and appearance of barrows.
No attempt seems to have been made to open a passage into the interior, though it probably contains chambers, like the other Pyramids ; but on the sand, all around its base, we observed the tracks of numerous wheeled carriages, which we found, upon examination, had been employed in carrying away stones cut from the north-east corner of the hill, on which it has been erected ; so that in all probability it will shortly be undermined and totally overthrown. The stones thus obtained would appear to be used in the public buildings and sluices on the Bahr Yusuf. (…)

La "fausse pyramide" de Meïdoum
From Boosh we proceeded northward to the village of Maydoon, where, instead of pursuing the ordinary route, wo turned to the left towards the false Pyramid, which had been long visible, sometimes presenting the appearance of a prodigious tent on the edge of the verdant horizon ; sometimes dwindling, from the undulation of the ground, to an insignificant cone, or disappearing entirely behind the larger eminences. Occasionally we were conducted, by a bend in the road, into its immediate vicinity ; but pursuing the sinuosities of the path, winding hither and thither, according to the position of the different hamlets, it again receded, seeming to fly our approach, like the unreal waters of the desert : and from this circumstance it may have been denominated by the Arabs, the false or delusive Pyramid, though others derive the name from its being only in part of the pyramidal form. (...) Its appearance from a short distance is so red, that, like the other religious structures, it appears to have been painted ; but the ruddy tint is in the stone, which, when broken by the hammer, discloses numerous rubiginous strata. This Pyramid differs in construction from those of Memphis, consisting of a series of square inclined towers, erected upon each other, successively diminishing in size to the summit, and originally terminating, I imagine, in a point. Each tower, however, was built completely, from the foundation to the apex, before that which encloses it like a sheath was commenced, so that the Egyptians here exhibited the utmost prodigality of expense and labour ; for the masonry of this prodigious structure is so admirable, the stones are so truly squared and so exquisitely fitted in the parts intended to be concealed, no less than in those which present themselves to the eye, that it would be impossible to insert the point of a penknife between them. Midway up the third tower, reckoning from the base, a band of unfinished masonry, about eight feet broad, extends along each of its four faces, while all above and below is finely polished. Though the Egyptians appear always to have planed and made even their walls after they were erected, beginning in most cases from the top, and working downwards, this rough band cannot be supposed to have been accidentally left unfinished, being everywhere of the same depth, and studded with greater inequalities than would have been found on a surface intended to be smoothed. It is, therefore, probable, that it was originally covered with a fine stucco, ornamented with bas-reliefs or intaglios, and painted in the most gorgeous style observable in the temples.
Thus adorned, it would be difficult to conceive a more striking object than this vast barbaric pile, towering aloft in a transparent atmosphere, and overlooking, like a mighty fortress, the whole extent of the sacred valley. In fact, the false pyramid greatly resembles the idea which the descriptions of the ancients convey of the Tower of Belus, except that no flight of steps, running along the face of the edifice, conducts to the summit ; though it may be conjectured that the central turret contains a staircase, approached by some subterranean entrance now unknown. Grand, however, as this structure is, its magnificence has not sufficed to protect it from the barbarism of the Turks, who, to obtain materials for the construction of cotton mills or barracks, have commenced the demolition of the exterior towers. An attempt has likewise been made, high in the northern face, to discover a passage into the interior ; but, after considerably defacing the beauty of the Pyramid, the barbarian, who most probably was in search of treasure, relinquished his hopeless undertaking. Heaps of stones and rubbish, the spoils of the edifice, encumber the ground, and beyond these are the sand-hills of the desert, and constantly advancing their shifting bases towards the cultivated country. (…)

Les pyramides de Dahchour

Pushing on rapidly towards Dashour, we visited and examined its several pyramids, which have nothing very peculiar in their construction, except that the largest having been commenced on a grand scale, with the evident intention of being carried to an immense height, contracts suddenly, and terminates in a blunt point. Its entrance, as usual, is found in the northern face, about twenty-five feet from the ground. Of the other pyramids, built in the same style as those of Sakkarah, there is one which has been so completely uncovered that the hillock of earth forming the original nucleus of the structure alone remains. Leading from the valley are several causeways, the existence of which has given rise to various conjectures ; for if they are admitted to have been the work of the ancient Egyptians, it will follow that the desert has not greatly encroached on the cultivated country, and that the pyramids must have been originally erected on rocks in the midst of sand-hills. But, supposing them of modern date, constructed for the convenience of removing stones and bricks to be used elsewhere, the presumption would ensue that the Pyramids were built in the valley considerably in advance of the desert. Appearances are favourable to the latter hypothesis ; for the immense masses of stone which have been displaced are no longer to be seen, though the sands have not risen so high as to conceal them, did they still exist upon the spot. Without laborious and extensive operations it would, however, be impossible accurately to determine to what extent the sands of the Libyan waste have advanced eastward ; but it is probable that the loss of land here sustained exceeds what has been acquired by the enlargement of the Delta. (…)

Attended by all these followers, not one of whom, perhaps, ever before acted as a guide, we proceeded towards the largest of the Pyramids [of Sakkarah], the entrance of which they strenuously insisted had not hitherto been discovered. Arriving at the spot, however, we discovered the adit at the bottom of a deep pit, partly filled with sand and stones. Externally, this structure resembles the Haram-el-Kedab, consisting of a series of square inclined towers, built upon each other, and terminating in a point. (...)
We now descended into the pit with the guides ; who, after clearing a portion of the sand away with the hands, threw themselves on their faces, and proceeding feet foremost, forced their way with much difficulty beneath the superincumbent rock. We did the same, and found ourselves in a low horizontal passage, leading directly towards the centre of the pyramid. Here the lamp and palm-branches were kindled, and we commenced the exploring of the subterranean galleries, a part of the Arabs preceding, others following us. For a short distance the passage continued so low, that it was necessary to stoop ; but becoming higher by degrees, we were enabled to proceed with greater facility, until at length it branched off, on either hand, into numerous smaller corridors, leading in different directions, like those intricate excavations which extend beneath the foundations of Persepolis. Evidently unacquainted with the topography of the place, the guides here seemed in doubt respecting the track they ought to follow ; but after a moment's pause, selected a passage conducting, by an abrupt descent, to a lower level. All these galleries and corridors are excavated in the solid rock, which appears to constitute the whole interior of the pyramid, and probably lead to as many different suites of apartments ; though to ascertain this it would be necessary, in some cases, to clear away numerous blocks of stone, which have detached themselves from the roof, and closed the passages. Arriving at length at a small fissure in the rock, the guide, who moved in front of me with the flaming palm-branches in his hand, descended through this opening, disappeared with his light, and it was some time before he returned, having, I imagine, hurried forward, in the hope of discovering whither it led. As soon as the light appeared, we also went down, and proceeding through narrow galleries and corridors, winding, mounting, descending, and crossing each other - at length arrived at a hall of immense height, excavated in the solid rock. A pistol was here fired, but the report, though loud, was succeeded by none of those extraordinary echoes distinguishable in the Pyramid of Cheops. From this chamber another series of passages, the entrance to which is now closed with stones and rubbish, seems formerly to have descended to inferior suites of apartments hitherto unexplored. The light yielded by the lamp and palm-branches was insufficient to discover the roof, or the exact form of several openings, resembling balconies or galleries, where, perhaps, during the celebration of the mysteries, the initiated may have sat observing the movements of the hierophants. Numerous lateral galleries, diverging from this point, appear to extend on all sides beneath the foundations of the Pyramid ; but in attempting to explore them, our progress was generally obstructed by heaps of stone or sand. At length, however, after pursuing for some time the windings of a low corridor, we arrived suddenly at the mouth of a chasm of unknown depth, whose dimensions were concealed by the shadows of the projecting rocks. Deceived at first by the dimness of the light, I was about to step forward, when a loud and sudden exclamation from my terrified companion, who perceived the danger I was in, arrested my progress, and saved me from being precipitated into the abyss. On further examination it appeared that we were standing in one of the balconies overlooking the great hall. Retracing our footsteps from this perilous gallery, and finding nothing further in the Pyramid to detain us, we returned towards the entrance, and emerging into the desert found all our baggage and garments wetted by the rain."

mardi 29 juin 2010

George Andrew Reisner, l'un des inventeurs de l'égyptologie moderne

L'Américain George Andrew Reisner (1867-1942) est, selon Peter Der Manuelian, directeur de Giza Archives, au Museum of Fine Arts de Boston, "l'un des plus éminents pères fondateurs de l'archéologie moderne scientifique".
Cet universitaire, passionné de langues sémitiques et de l'Orient ancien, fit son premier voyage en Égypte à l'âge de trente ans. Il y effectua ensuite de longs séjours, partageant son temps entre le professorat (Harvard) et les campagnes de fouilles sur le terrain (plateau de Guizeh, Nubie, Djebel Barkal au Soudan..).
Pour approcher ce personnage hors du commun, la meilleure référence est sans conteste le département Giza Archives, du Museum of Fine Arts de Boston, où sont conservées précisément les archives personnelles du célèbre égyptologue.
Je conseille également le film documentaire, en français, consacré à cet "aventurier de l'Égypte ancienne", écrit par Anne Andreu et Xavier Simon, réalisé par Xavier Simon, produit par la Cinquième/Avidia/Cinétévé en 1998. Les réalisateurs de ce film de 20 minutes se sont inspirés d'archives conservées par Cat's Collection, le Collège de France, l'Ensemble conventuel des Jacobins de Toulouse, l'Institut Français d'Archéologie Orientale (le Caire), etc., et bien entendu, le Museum of Fine Arts de Boston.
Le documentaire met en avant la personnalité de Reisner (un "esprit libre", un "véritable drogué de travail", une "grande gueule" cultivant des amitiés profondes et sincères et sachant s'entourer de précieux collaborateurs...), l'importance de ses découvertes autant à Guizeh qu'en Nubie, ainsi que sa méthode de travail réellement révolutionnaire pour l'époque.
Outre ses précieux carnets de notes qu'il a rédigés lui même ou dictés tout au long de sa vie de chercheur, George Andrew Reisner a en effet été le premier archéologue sur la terre d'Égypte à utiliser systématiquement la photographie pour fixer chacune de ses campagnes de déblaiement. Au terme de son parcours, il avait ainsi réalisé 60.000 clichés, dont le département Giza Archives du Museum of Fine Arts de Boston est le dépositaire.

Plus d'informations: Giza Archives.

lundi 28 juin 2010

"Son bloc fatal semblait des ténèbres construit" (Victor Hugo - XIXe s. - à propos de la pyramide de Khéops)

Portrait de Victor Hugo, par Léon Joseph Bonnat (1833-1922) – Wikimedia commons

Notre septième Merveille française avait le verbe généreux, emphatique, lyrique à souhait.
Pour donner libre cours à sa célébration des mots, Victor Hugo (1802-1885) devait se sentir au large dans son costume de poète-dramaturge-écrivain politique. La légende était son domaine de prédilection et, tant qu'à faire, la "Légende des Siècles" (excusez du peu !).
Je n'ai lu nulle part que cet auteur ait visité l'Égypte. Corrigez-moi si je fais erreur. Mais qu'importe ! L'Égypte et sa magique splendeur ne pouvaient que l'inspirer, à commencer par les pyramides.
Les deux textes que j'ai retenus ici ne font pas, à proprement parler, progresser d'un pas nos connaissances en égyptologie. Ils sont toutefois issus d'une générosité littéraire et d'un souffle épique qui, à leur manière, glorifient le pays qui, mieux que tout autre, célébrait l'Astre-Roi.

Photo Marc Chartier

L'Égypte ! - Elle étalait, toute blonde d'épis,

Ses champs, bariolés comme un riche tapis,

Plaines que des plaines prolongent ;
L'eau vaste et froide au nord, au sud le sable ardent
Se disputent l'Égypte ; elle rit cependant
Entre ces deux qui la rongent 

Trois monts bâtis par l'homme au loin perçaient les cieux
D'un triple angle de marbre, et dérobaient aux yeux
Leurs bases de cendre inondées ;
Et, de leur faîte aigu jusqu'aux sables dorés,
Allaient s'élargissant leurs monstrueux degrés,
Faits pour des pas de six coudées.

Un sphinx de granit rose, un dieu de marbre vert,
Les gardaient, sans qu'il fût vent de flamme au désert
Qui leur fît baisser la paupière.
Des vaisseaux au flanc large entraient dans un grand port.
Une ville géante, assise sur le bord,
Baignait dans l'eau ses pieds de pierre.

On entendait mugir le semoun meurtrier,
Et sur les cailloux blancs les écailles crier
Sous le ventre des crocodiles.
Les obélisques gris s'élançaient d'un seul jet.
Comme une peau de tigre, au couchant s'allongeait
Le Nil jaune, tacheté d'îles.

L'astre-roi se couchait. Calme, à l'abri du vent,
La mer réfléchissait ce globe d'or vivant,
Ce monde, âme et flambeau du nôtre ;
Et dans le ciel rougeâtre et dans les flots vermeils,
Comme deux rois amis, on voyait deux soleils
Venir au-devant l'un de l'autre. 

(extrait de "Le Feu du ciel" - Les Orientales -1829) 

Photo Marc Chartier
Et, comme dans un chœur les strophes s'accélèrent,
Toutes ces voix dans l'ombre obscure se mêlèrent.
Les jardins de Bélus répétèrent : - Les jours
Nous versent les rayons, les parfums, les amours ;
Le printemps immortel, c'est nous, nous seuls ; nous sommes
La joie épanouie en roses sur les hommes. -
Le mausolée altier dit : - Je suis la douleur ;
Je suis le marbre, auguste en sa sainte pâleur ;
Cieux ! Je suis le grand trône et le grand mausolée ;
Contemplez-moi. Je pleure une larme étoilée.
- La sagesse, c'est moi, dit le phare marin ;
- Je suis la force, dit le colosse d'airain ;
Et l'olympien dit : Moi, je suis la puissance. -
Et le temple d'Éphèse, autel que l'âme encense,
Fronton qu'adore l'art, dit : - Je suis la beauté.
- Et moi, cria Chéops, je suis l'éternité.
Et je vis, à travers le crépuscule humide,
Apparaître la haute et sombre pyramide.

Superposant au fond des espaces béants
Les mille angles confus de ses degrés géants,
Elle se dressait, blême et terrible, étagée
De plus de plis brumeux que l'âpre mer Égée,
Et sur ses flots, jamais par le vent secoués,
Avait au lieu d'esquifs les siècles échoués.
Elle était là, montagne humaine ; et sa stature,
Monstrueuse, donnait du trouble à la nature ;
Son vaste cône d'ombre éclipsait l'horizon ;
Les troupeaux des vapeurs lui laissaient leur toison ;
Le désert sous sa base était comme une table ;
Elle montait aux cieux, escalier redoutable
D'on ne sait quelle entrée étrange de la nuit ;
Son bloc fatal semblait des ténèbres construit ;
Derrière elle, au milieu des palmiers et ses sables, 
On en voyait surgir deux autres, formidables ;
Mais, comme les coteaux devant le Pélion,
Comme les lionceaux à côté du lion,
Elles restaient en bas, et ces deux pyramides
Semblaient près de Chéops petites et timides ;
Au-dessus de Chéops planaient, allant, venant,
Jetant parfois de l'ombre à tout un continent, 
Des aigles effrayants ayant la forme humaine ;
Et des foules sans nom éparses dans la plaine,
Dans de vagues cités dont on voyait les tours,
S'écriaient, chaque fois qu'un de ces noirs vautours
Passait, hérissé, fauve et sanglant, dans la bise :
- Voilà Cyrus ! Voilà Rhamsès ! Voilà Cambyse ! -
Et ces spectres ailés secouaient dans les airs
Des lambeaux flamboyants de lumière et d'éclairs,
Comme si, dans les cieux, faisant à Dieu la guerre,
Ils avaient arraché des haillons au tonnerre.
Chéops les regardait passer sans s'émouvoir.
Un brouillard la cachait tout en la laissant voir ;
L'obscure histoire était sur ses marches gravée ;
Les sphinx dans ses caveaux déposaient leur couvée ;
Les ans fuyaient, les vents soufflaient ; le monument
Méditait, immobile et triste, et,par moment,
Toute l'humanité, comme une fourmilière,
Satrape au sceptre d'or, prêtre au thyrse de lierre,
Rois, peuples, légions, combats, trônes croulants,
Était subitement visible sur ses flancs
Dans quelque déchirure immense des nuées.
Tout flottait sur sa base en ombres dénouées ;
Et Chéops répéta : - Je suis l'éternité.

(extrait de La Légende des Siècles - Ouvres complètes de Victor Hugo - Poésie 7)

dimanche 27 juin 2010

Quel lien entre les pyramides de Guizeh et le tumulus de Tumiac (Morbihan) ?

Dans son ouvrage, édité en 1887, La création de l'homme et les premiers âges de l'humanité, Henri Du Cleuziou (1833-1896) établit des passerelles culturelles entre les civilisations anciennes, notamment sous l'angle de leurs rites funéraires, de l'Inde à... la presqu'île de Rhuys (Morbihan - France), en passant bien sûr par le plateau de Guizeh.
Dans son argumentation, le fait de situer chronologiquement l'apparition d'Adam "vers l'an 4004" et de donner généreusement aux pyramides égyptiennes "au moins" soixante siècles d'existence laisse a priori supposer que nous serons embarqués dans des considérations simili-historiques faisant place à l'étrange. En fait, l'Atlantide ne sera citée qu'une seule fois, comme en passant, dans les développements de l'auteur.
Henri Du Cleuziou s'efforce surtout de démontrer que l'idée des pyramides n'est pas apparue ex nihilo. Cela, nous le savions déjà, en restant dans le périmètre de la civilisation égyptienne (lien entre les pyramides et les mastabas). Mais l'auteur franchit le pas d'une vision beaucoup plus globale, à partir d'une civilisation antérieure "importée de toutes pièces". Vaste débat !
Quoi qu'il en soit, la ressemblance architectonique que Du Cleuziou relève entre la pyramide de Khéops et le tumulus de Tumiac (communed'Arzon - Morbihan) est pour le moins surprenante.
Le tumulus de Tumiac (86 m de diamètre, 20 m de hauteur) est un monument funéraire de l'époque néolithique, connu également sous le nom de "butte de César" (il aurait en effet, selon une légende, servi d'observatoire à Jules César pendant sa guerre contre les Vénètes en 56 av. J.-C.) Constitué de couches d'argile, il contient une chambre funéraire (4,40 m de longueur, 2,40 m de largeur, 1,75 m de hauteur), construite en pierres sèches et en mégalithes, et couverte par trois dalles.
Selon la datation au carbone 14, le tumulus de Tumiac aurait été érigé entre 4790 et 4530 av. J.-C. (source : Wikipédia)

Texte extrait de La création de l'homme et les premiers âges de l'humanité :
"Les Pyramides de Dahschour et de Sakkarah sont, au dire de Champollion, "les plus anciens monuments construits par la main des hommes dans le monde connu" (Lettres d'Égypte et de Nubie, 1828,1829, p. 364). Elles furent élevées sous les rois de la troisième
dynastie, originaires de Memphis, vers l'an 5318 avant Jésus-Christ.
Celles de Gizeh, qu'on appelle les grandes Pyramides, et qui contiennent les tombeaux de Saophi Ier et de Sen-Saophi, le Chéops et le Chéprem des Grecs, sont un peu plus récentes ; elles ne datent que de la quatrième dynastie, 5121 ans avant Jésus-Christ (Table de Manéthon, p. 269 ; Égypte ancienne, par Champollion-Figeac).
Or, on sait qu'Adam, d'après la chronologie sacrée, ne vint au monde que vers l'an 4004. L'âge de ces monuments remonte donc à une antiquité qui a droit, ce nous semble, à tous nos respects. Ce ne sont pas quarante siècles qui, du haut des Pyramides, nous contemplent, selon le mot fameux du général Bonaparte, mais bien soixante, au moins. "Ruines silencieuses, tombeaux saints, masses formidables, leur aspect, comme dit Volney, ne peut que faire naître dans le cœur de l'homme les leçons utiles, les réflexions fortes, que doit inspirer l'expression première d'une idée sublime, majestueusement tracée par des lignes devenues immortelles."
Ces gigantesques débris sont, pour tout être pensant, profondément vénérables.
La race qui les créa arriva-t-elle du premier coup à combiner ces tailles de pierre, à fabriquer ces plafonds, à creuser ces couloirs, à orienter ces assises, à polir ces granits et ces calcaires ? - Non.
La Pyramide, née de l'imitation de la tombe du scarabée, qui enterre, sous une motte de limon façonnée par ses pattes, son œuf, d'où doit renaître au printemps l'insecte ailé qui s'élèvera vers le soleil (A. Jacquemart, Les Merveilles de la Céramique, p. 12), la Pyramide a eu comme principe un monument plus simple, le tumulus. Ce tertre vert, dont nous retrouvons des traces à l'autre bout du désert (Guillaume Le Jean a signalé des Mégalithes dans son voyage à travers ces contrées inexplorées), ce tertre que nous revoyons chez une autre race, celle des Dolmens, fut l'expression formelle d'une idée, que durent puiser à la même source les Égyptiens et les Aryas (1), religion basée sur le culte des morts, verbe superbe d'immortalité, révélation de nos vrais aïeux.

La butte de Tumiac, dont nous donnons ici une coupe, est une pyramide sans architecture. Qui sait si elle n'est pas plus ancienne que la grande tombe de Chéops ? 
Les Égyptiens des bords du Nil, lorsqu'ils dressèrent les immenses marches de Gizeh, étaient déjà gouvernés par des rois, preuve de décrépitude ; les hommes de la presqu'île d'Arzon, lorsqu'ils accumulèrent les durs cailloux de leur Manè, n'obéissaient encore qu'à des juges : ils étaient restés libres. Appartenaient-ils au même peuple ? C'est ce que nous n'oserions affirmer; mais, à coup sûr, ils dataient d'une époque où l'évolution de la pensée sur la terre se fit jour d'une façon identique, dans ce qui était alors l'humanité.
À la fin de l'époque quaternaire, une révolution colossale eut lieu dans nos contrées. Nous trouvons à ce moment, dit M. de Mortillet, les traces irréfutables de l'invasion chez nous d'une civilisation importée de toutes pièces, installant en maîtresse, sans aucun lien avec celle qui l'avait précédée, se substituant complètement à elle, s'impatronisant de force, l'invasion de la pierre polie. (…)
La science archéologique a le grand tort de se cantonner un peu trop dans l'observation simplement locale des objets et des monuments qu'elle étudie, place par place ; les analyses minutieuses de ses adeptes sont certes très utiles, mais il nous semble qu'il est plus que temps d'essayer d'en faire des synthèses.
La comparaison des nôtres avec les autres peuples du nord, à ces époques lointaines, nous sera devenue facile, grâce à nos musées, à nos collections, conservées secrètes si longtemps, ouvertes maintenant à tous les travailleurs ; grâce surtout aux grandes expositions, qui réunissant les richesses venues de tous les points du globe, provoquent des comparaisons parfaitement lumineuses.
L'Asie, l'Afrique, les grandes îles de la Mer du Sud, nous ont déjà fourni, on le voit, des renseignements tout nouveaux sur les temps qui font l'objet de nos études spéciales. L'Égypte, surtout, perfectionnement superbe du premier élan de l'humanité, à l'origine, nous a déjà permis d'établir la parenté des fellahs, semeurs de blé, bâtisseurs de pyramides, avec les agriculteurs de l'Inde, constructeurs de topes et les laboureurs de France, dresseurs de tombelles. (...) Les monuments de Dahschour et de Giseh nous ont déjà appris ce que furent les Manè de Saint-Michel, de Gavrinis et de Tumiac. Les obélisques de Louxor, pierres du chéri d'Ammon, toujours vivant, nous feront peut-être comprendre le pourquoi des menhirs de Kerveatou, les stèles des vivants à toujours. Et le grand sphinx, accroupi près des hypogées, tête humaine pleine de pensée, corps de lion plein de force, contemplant d'un œil calmé la figure de l'idéale justice, bercé par ce grand bruit d'ailes de l'ureus, esprit qu'entendit un jour le grand croyant ; bête sublime, fécondant de son souffle puissant la nature entière, symbolisée par le Lotus entr'ouvert ; le grand sphinx, plantant la vie dans la mort, nous indiquera que la même pensée d'immortalité surhumaine a traversé le monde, et que le génie celtique, en écrivant au Cap Finistère, au milieu des tombes, cette belle devise : Mervel da veva. mourir c'est vivre, était bien le frère de celui qui inspira jadis les grands penseurs de Thèbes et de Memphis."

Source : Gallica

samedi 26 juin 2010

Selon l'égyptologue Salah al-Naggar, les fissures dans le plafond de la Chambre du Roi (Grande Pyramide) "paraissent s'être produites à l'époque même de la construction du monument"

Photo Jon Bodsworth (Wikimedia commons)
Dans la revue Verlag der Österreichischen Akademie der Wissenschaften (Vienne, 2005), l'égyptologue Salah al-Naggar, auteur de l'ouvrage Les voûtes dans l’architecture de l’Égypte ancienne (2 vol., 1999), a publié un article sous le titre "Les couvrements de granit dans les pyramides de Giza".
L'auteur y rappelle que la chambre haute de la Grande Pyramide est entièrement construite de blocs de granit. Elle comporte notamment un couvrement "complexe et unique", à savoir un plafond composé de neuf énormes poutres de granit, "toutes ces poutres (présentant) des fissures qui paraissent s'être produites à l'époque même de la construction du monument".
Des poutres de granit ont également été utilisées dans la construction des cinq pièces vides qui surmontent de plafond de la Chambre du Roi.
Le premier emploi de ce matériau, provenant d'Assouan (900 km au sud de Guizeh), dans l'architecture égyptienne remonte à la IIe dynastie (tombe de Khâsekhemoui, en jambage de porte), puis, pour la construction de plafonds, à la IIIe dynastie (deux caveaux du complexe funéraire du roi Neteri-Khet - Djoser -, à Saqqara, construit par Imhotep, l'inventeur de la construction en pierre de taille). Mais c'est bien dans la Chambre du Roi de la pyramide de Khéops que l'emploi du granit bat des records : alors que les poutres utilisées à Saqqara pour Djoser mesurent 3,80 m de long, elles atteignent 7,35 m pour la pyramides de Khéops.
La technique sera appliquée ensuite pour les pyramides de Râdjedef (voûte de granit en chevrons) et de Mykérinos (chambre funéraire, avec construction d'une voûte formée de neuf paires de dalles de granit en chevrons à intrados curviligne), alors que les bâtisseurs de la pyramide de Khéphren ont fait l'impasse, évitant d'utiliser ce matériau, pour le remplacer par du calcaire, dans un couvrement sous la charge de la pyramide.
Un détail technique, déjà mentionné, retiendra l'attention : en deux occasions dans le cours de son article, l'auteur relève que, dans le plafond de la chambre du sarcophage et les chambres de décharge (Grande Pyramide), "fissures et désordres se sont très probablement produits durant la construction".
Pour retrouver l'intégralité de cet article, cliquer ICI.

vendredi 25 juin 2010

À propos de Caviglia - 4e partie

Avec la présente note, nous voici parvenus au terme d'un mini-inventaire sur l'apport de Caviglia, marin converti sur le tard à l'égyptologie, à ladite science.
Après les propos "sur", place maintenant aux propos, même indirects, "de" Caviglia, qui ne se prive pas de répondre à celui qui fut d'abord son maître, pour devenir ensuite son critique déclaré : Howard Vyse.
Il y est question de règlement de comptes (dans tous les sens de l'expression), la défense répondant à l'accusation. Sous des airs de chamaillerie surréaliste concernant l'appellation à retenir pour telle ou telle chambre de décharge dans la Chambre du Roi de la Grande Pyramide, l'autodéfense de Caviglia est un brin pathétique. Elle concerne surtout sa crédibilité, le sérieux de ses travaux, le jugement que portera l'histoire sur des années de longues et pénibles recherches de nouveaux indices ou autres constats venant éclairer un pan essentiel de l'archéologie égyptienne.
Aux propos on ne peut plus explicites de Vyse le taxant d'incompétence, Caviglia riposte en mettant en cause le comportement hégémonique et arrogant de son accusateur. Et de revendiquer la paternité de ses "discoveries", quoi qu'il en coûte à l' "esprit de corps" bien mis à mal en la circonstance.
Où se trouve donc la vérité dans cette polémique ? Ce blog est ouvert aux points de vue plus autorisés que le mien. Il importerait en tout premier lieu de savoir si l'histoire a tranché entre les deux présentations, pour le moins divergentes, d'une même page, ô combien importante, des découvertes archéologiques sur le plateau de Guizeh.
Les textes qui suivent sont extraits, sous le titre "A brief account of the discoveries made in Egypt, between the years 1820 and 1836, by T.B. Caviglia", de la revue Tait's Edinburgh Magazine for 1837, vol. IV.
Le colonel Patrick Campbell y est plusieurs fois cité. Cet officier diplomate britannique fut Consul général en Égypte de 1833 à 1841. L'une des chambres de décharge dans la Grande Pyramide porte son nom, sur une proposition de Giovanni Battista Caviglia.

Lettre de présentation par B.C.
To the Editor of Tait's Magazine. 

"The following, being translations of letters which have been sent to me for publication, by Mr. Caviglia, you will probably think worthy of an early insertion in your Magazine. The facts alleged in these letters rest for proof entirely upon the authority and veracity of the writer ; and you will, therefore, probably deem it due to justice, and to the characters of Colonel Vyse and Colonel Campbell, to proffer the use of your pages to those gentlemen, for an explanation of the part they have taken in the interesting transactions referred to. For your justification, and the satisfaction of your readers, however, I can state, in corroboration of the principal incidents alluded to, that, having myself visited Egypt in the course of a tour in the East, during portions of the last and present year, and having paid several visits to the Pyramids, I there made the acquaintance of Mr Caviglia, who was, at the time, engaged in superintending the labours of a party of workmen, who were paid by Colonel Campbell, Colonel Vyse, Mr Sloane, and himself, jointly, as described in the following letters. I spent the month of January in Cairo and the neighbourhood, and frequently met and conversed with Mr Caviglia, upon the subject of his views and projects ; but I found that, both towards myself and others, who took an interest in his scientific labours, he maintained a prudent reserve respecting the discoveries he expected to make, and the operations by which he hoped to effect them. I mention this to shew that, if he imparted his secrets to Colonel Vyse, it must have been in a spirit of confidence, springing from the intimate alliance they had entered into. How far that confidence has been abused must be determined by other testimony than mine, as I have no means of judging of the circumstances of the case, excepting such as are given in Mr Caviglia's own letters below.
One word as to the names with which the chamber discovered by Caviglia, is to be christened ; for it seems that rival godfathers are disputing over the subject. It appears that, whilst the discoverer of the chamber in question would give it the title of O'Connell, Colonel Vyse, with an esprit-de-corps, not a little natural, assigns to it the name of Wellington. Neither name is, in my opinion, well chosen. For the Liberator of Ireland, a fame more imperishable than even the Pyramids themselves has already been secured, at the hands of the historian : whilst the hero of Waterloo, if he be not remembered in the bridges, streets, and tools, which are named after him, will for ever be preserved in our memory, by those annual instalments which, in the form of taxation, are levied in payment for his glory. In my opinion, the apartment should be named after its discoverer, Caviglia, as both the most proper and most euphonious title. Colonel Campbell, whose name has been given to one of these discoveries, has no right to identify himself in any way with the triumph of antiquarian science ; not having, since his residence in Egypt, as British Cosul, until the present questionable instance, lent the slightest assistance to the cause of such researches. I would recommend to his notice and imitation, the very opposite conduct of his worthy predecessor, Mr Salt, who, whilst he patronised the exertions of such enterprising individuals as Belzoni and others, left them in the undisputed possession of all the honour which justly accrued from their meritorious labours. I venture, then, to give to the lately-discovered apartment the name of the Caviglia Chamber ; in justice to the fame of an amiable and enthusiastic devotee at the shrine of antiquarian learning - in justice to one who has sacrificed country, home, friends, and fortune, for the indulgence of the refined though eccentric taite, for exploring the hidden mysteries of the Pyramids and tombs of Egypt."
B.C. Manchester, 20th Aug. 1837

Photo Marc Chartier
"Captain Caviglia - already known by the discoveries which he made in 1817 in the intent of the great Pyramid, by the discovery of the temple situated betwixt the fore-feet of the Andro-Sphinx ; as well as by other labours crowned with similar success - begs to submit to the notice of the scientific world the results of his subsequent exertions in the same great field of antiquarian learning.
In 1820, upon revisiting the great Pyramid, he was induced to try an experiment, by pushing into the two small apertures which are on the north and south sides of the "King's Chamber", a great number of palm branches, tied together, to the length of about 120 feet ; and which led him to the opinion that there were other apartments in the interior of this monument. But, having failed in the attempt to enlarge these small openings, owing to the want of proper implements for working the granite with which the chamber is lined, he determined to pierce another passage in the calcareous stone of which the body of the Pyramid is formed, beginning at the right-hand side of the entrance to the chamber, in the hope of striking upon the above small passage, in the calcareous mass to the north.
Having excavated to the distance of about 15 feet, the above-named small aperture, the course of which tended at an angle of about 271 to the westward, was encountered ; and afterwards the labours of the workmen were diligently continued in the same direction.
But, with a view to come upon the track of the other hole which opens into the south side of the King's Chamber, Captain Caviglia caused another passage to be opened in the calcareous stone to the south of the ''Davison Chamber" ; and, having penetrated about 20 feet, without rinding the object of his search, he gave orders to the workmen to continue their labours in another direction.
After much labour, in 1817, Caviglia exposed to view the north and east sides of the Andro-Sphinx, which, together with the base, he discovered to be so delicately coated with a reddish-coloured composition, that it left him in doubt whether the covering had originally been of plaster or paint. In 1820, he moreover discovered the west side of this monument, which he now found to be placed upon a pedestal, likewise plastered or painted, and surrounded by a ditch cut in the rock, intended probably for the circulation of water, which was supplied from a canal in the neighbourhood, an indicated by a bridge in the embankment, to the south-east of the trees in the valley.
Whilst engaged in superintending the above works, Captain Caviglia discovered, in a valley five miles to the north-west of the great Pyramid, several houses and tombs, together with a large cistern, the whole cut from the solid rock, and presenting no traces of hieroglyphics ; which latter circumstance has given rise to the opinion that this valley was peopled by an ancient race, of whose name and history we are totally ignorant. In the same valley, Caviglia having observed the traces of a road, which conducted him to the summit of a small hill, he there laid open to view the base of a Pyramid of about 300 feet square, surrounded by small pyramids of granite, which had nearly crumbled to dust beneath the hand of time. There is little doubt that these monuments had a much earlier origin than the Pyramids of Gizeh, the granite that covers the smallest of which is still in a tolerable state of preservation. Having suspended his labours in the neighbourhood of the great Pyramids, he went, in 1821, to the vicinity of Memphis, where his labours were that year rewarded by the discovery of the colossal statue of the great Sesostris, the magnitude and beauty of which are known throughout the scientific world.
In 1836, Captain Caviglia resumed his labours at the great Pyramids, with the hope of finding some additional chambers. He discovered, in the second of these monuments, at the point where the passages of the two entries unite, to conduct to the chamber discovered by Belzoni in the centre, a third passage, which, in the circumstance of its communicating with the other entries of Belzoni, by means of a small well, presents a feature of interest to the scientific student of the principles of Egyptian architecture. After considering as to the best mode of prosecuting further investigations in the interior of the above Pyramid, it was determined to open its exterior entry, situated at the base ; when it was found, at the distance of 43 feet from this entrance, that the rocky foundation had been plastered or painted red, in the same manner as the Andro-Sphinx ; and a similar circumstance was observed with reference to a step, situated at eleven feet nearer the soughtfor entrance. As this red plaster or paint is of the same kind as that which is found upon the stones which have crumbled from the faces of the Pyramids, there is reason to conclude that the whole of the exterior surface of those monuments, as well as the principal part of their foundations, was painted or plastered red. Another incident tends to confirm this supposition. Having picked up, at the eastern base of the great Pyramid, a stone covered with a coat of red paint, which he accidentally shewed to an English traveller, Mr H. B. Agnew, that gentleman produced a stone of the same kind, covered also with a red paint or plaster, which he had found on the west side of the same monument. From that time there was no longer reason to doubt that the two great Pyramids, as well as the Andro-Sphinx, had been originally covered with a surface of plaster, in colour very much resembling the red granite with which the third Pyramid only was cased.
The unsuccessful attempts which have been made by a variety of persons to open the smallest of the three great Pyramids, induced Caviglia to make an experiment, by piercing another passage at a certain height on the north side, in the hope of being able to penetrate more easily the interior, than by searching for an entrance at the base.
As the works before referred to, in the interior of the great Pyramid, proceeded necessarily very slowly, it was determined, without interrupting them, to commence an opening above that of the entrance to Davison's Chamber ; and it is hoped that, in a short time, it will be found practicable to penetrate above the ceiling of that chamber.
Besides the above labours, Caviglia has discovered, at a distance of 300 feet to the west-north-west of the Andro-Sphinx, a large tomb, surrounded with a ditch sixty-eight feet long, and six wide, and already excavated to the depth of about fifty feet, cut out of the solid rock, and altogether of a style of construction so peculiar as to warrant the hope that it may lead to still more interesting results.
Captain Caviglia has found it necessary to suspend his labours ; but he hopes soon to be able to resume them, and to continue his operations without further interruption. And he will deem it his duty to announce his further progress to the scientific world, of which he has the honour to regard himself as the devoted and obliged servant."
(Signed) T. B. Caviglia.
Alexandria, 2d April 1837


Letter from T. B. Caviglia, addressed to Colonel Campbell, Consul-General and Agent of his Britannic Majesty in Egypt and its dependencies :
In the brief account which I have published to the scientific world of my discoveries in the Pyramids of Gizeh and their environs, I stated :
1. That I had commenced an opening above that of the entrance to Davison's Chamber, and that I hoped soon to be able to penetrate above the ceiling of that chamber.
2. That I had discovered, at a distance of 300 feet to the west-north-west of the Andro-Sphinx, a large tomb, surrounded with a ditch, sixty-eight feet long, and six wide, and already excavated to the depth of about fifty feet, cut out of the solid rock, and of a construction so peculiar as to lead to the hope of still more important results.
At the moment when these hopes have been realized, and these results obtained by Colonel Vyse, it becomes my duty to make known to the public why I have been compelled to suspend my labours : and how I have been superseded as director by that gentleman : justice requires that we should render unto every one according to his works.
When, in the month of November last, in conjunction with Colonel Vyse and Mr Charles Sloane, your vice-consul at Alexandria, you made me an offer that, if I would again take upon myself to direct the works at the Pyramids of Gizeh and the neighbourhood, you would furnish me with the funds and the firman necessary to the undertaking ; and that, as a recompense for my services, I should receive a fourth part of such antiquities as I might discover - I accepted the proposal, begging you, at the sane time, to be good enough to offer to the disposal of the British Museum my share of our future discoveries. It was thus that I disposed of the antiquities which I found in the year 1817.
In fulfilment of the above arrangement, having received £ 40 from each of my three associates, and being provided with a.firman from the Pasha in my own name, I forthwith commenced my labours. A short time afterwards, you paid me a visit, accompanied by Colonel Vyse, when you were so fully satisfied with an inspection of the works, that you gave orders to your vice-consul at Cairo to furnish me with additional funds for the further prosecution of the undertaking. Soon afterwards, however, Colonel Vyse came and took up his residence at the Pyramids with me. Regarding him in the relation of a partner, I felt no hesitation in confiding to him my views and ideas as to the direction of our works ; and I explained to him, in all the security of the most perfect confidence, the minutest details of my plans. Of course, I did not allow the unworthy suspicion to enter my mind, that he would profit by my frankness, in a manner so unbecoming his rank as to supplant me in my capacity of director of the works.
On the 10th February last, I was superintending the labour of 150 work-people at different points, when Colonel Vyse, without assigning any other reason than his own humour, proposed to employ, at his expense, and on his own account, 300 additional labourers. It became my duty to sustain the rights of the partnership ; and I explained to him that one individual had not the right to embark in such an undertaking, on his own account, without the previous consent of all the members of the association ; and, besides that, being the holder of the government firman in my own name, and having been the first to discover the unexplored passage in which we were still prosecuting our labours, I could not consent that he should take upon himself to act thus despotically, to the injury of the rights of the partnership, and to the detriment of my own individual reputation. Having, in consequence of that which had passed between Colonel Vyse and myself, paid you a visit in Cairo, to apprise you of the proceedings of that gentleman, 1 was a good deal hurt at finding a character of indecision in your observations upon the subject ; but the letter you did me the honour to transmit me two days afterwards, 
a copy of which is given below, cleared up my doubts as to your intentions ; and I now perceive, that it was determined, by Colonel Vyse and yourself, to dispense with my services, and to profit, in concert, by the results of my previous studies and researches in these monuments, which I had so freely imparted to you. Nevertheless, I obeyed your orders, and returned to you the firman which had been granted to me by the Egyptian government. But let it not be imagined that, in doing so, I acted from ignorance of my own rights or duties. I was influenced entirely by a prudent sense of the deference and respect which are due to power, especially in a foreign land.
But, further, when Colonel Vyse affected to solicit your permission to continue the works in the large tomb which I had discovered, I stated, in reply to the letter which you did me the favour to send me on the subject, that not only were the parties interested at liberty to proceed with the works in that tomb, but also to pursue further discoveries in all those other monuments which I had brought to light in the years 1817, 1820, 1821, 1836, and 1837 ; thus preferring the progress of scientific discovery to my own private resentment. This correspondence, however, which took place after my return to Alexandria, offers no palliation for the injustice previously exercised towards me.
Subsequently, in a conversation with you at Cairo, I requested your consent to be allowed to form another association, for the purpose of continuing my labours, but which you formally refused ; intimating, as a reason, that, not having, like Colonel Vyse, the command of great pecuniary resources, I was not in a condition, like him, to prosecute such expensive undertakings : thus, then, because Colonel Vyse is a richer man than myself, he has been allowed to commit an act of injustice, to despoil me, probably, of the fruits of a life of study and labour, and to trample under foot those courtesies of society which are reciprocally due from one individual to another. I addressed a similar request to you in writing, to which you replied, verbally, through your vice-consul at Alexandria, that the firman, though made out in my name, was specially intended for you and Colonel Vyse ; which leaves no room to doubt the deplorable fact of a special understanding having been entered into to my prejudice.
I am then forced to conclude, that, to favour Colonel Vyse, a great abuse of authority has been committed against myself; and I am bound to add, that a just sense of what is due to my character, will compel me to submit to the tribunals of public opinion the above statement of facts ; and to demand, at the hands of the scientific world, an award of the fame due for the discoveries which have just been made, and which were only seized upon by others at the very moment when, after years of labour and study, I was about to realize them. In the capacity of proprietor of these discoveries, seeing that the author has alone the right to name his own works, I have, moreover, to announce to you that I have given to the chamber in the great pyramid, situated above that of Davison, the name of the O'Connell Chamber, which will serve as a memorial of the toils he has endured for the cause of the people - as, in fact, this monument itself does of the sufferings of the oppressed people whose hands erected it.
I have the honour to be, etc."
(Signed) T. B. Caviolia. Alexandria, 21st April 1837.

N.B. - Since forwarding the above letter to Colonel Campbell, I have learned that Colonel Vyse has given the names of Wellington and Campbell to the two discoveries above referred to, and I understand that he is following up successfully other works, according to the plan traced out in my account, published in the Journal of Malta of the 22d March.

Cairo, 12th Feb. 1837.
"My Dear Mr Caviglia,
As I find that the affair of the Pyramids gives me nothing but trouble and annoyance, I have determined, though with much regret, to withdraw altogether from the undertaking.
It therefore becomes necessary that you should consider our labours as finished, and you will be pleased to send me the firman, and the translation ; as it at present belongs by right to Colonel Vyse, with whom the sheiks of the villages will henceforth concert their operations. You will also be pleased to pay the government cavass and dismiss him.
It now only remains for me to assure you how sensible I feel of the zeal you have manifested in our undertaking ; and that it is with the utmost regret, that I find myself compelled by circumstances to decline your co-operation, as well as the pleasure which I had promised myself, from the prosecution of the works at the Pyramids.
I beg you to believe that I remain, etc."
(Signed) Pat. Campbell 

jeudi 24 juin 2010

À propos de Giovanni Battista Caviglia - 3e partie

La parole maintenant à Howard Vyse qui a certainement le plus écrit sur Caviglia. Et pour cause : ils se trouvaient ensemble sur le chantier d' "excavation" de la Grande Pyramide. Mais le moins que l'on puisse dire est que le courant passait mal entre ces deux égyptologues au tempérament bien trempé. Au point, comme on le lira ci-dessous, que Vyse avait quelque doute sur la qualité de jugement et les compétences de Caviglia. Pire : il n'avait pas confiance en lui et se faisait fort de remettre à leur juste place les supposées découvertes de celui à qui il avait pourtant servi de parrain en égyptologie.
Non, non ! précise Howard Vyse, "I never entertained the slightest hostility towards him" (je n'ai jamais entretenu la moindre hostilité à son encontre), mais ça y ressemble fort !
Il sera donc grandement temps d'avoir, même indirectement, le point de vue de Caviglia lui-même. Tel sera l'objet de ma prochaine et dernière note consacrée à ce personnage hors du commun.
Le texte qui suit est extrait de Operations carried on at the Pyramids of Gizeh in 1837, vol. II, qui a déjà été présenté sur ce blog. Voir

Howard Vyse
"At the Great Pyramid, misled by an erroneous opinion of the vertical direction of part of the southern air-channel, which he stated that he himself had ascertained by actual experiment, M. Caviglia expended much time and labour in enlarging an excavation, begun by him some years before, on the southern side of Davison's Chamber. The height of the King's Chamber is nineteen feet one inch ; the average thickness of the granite blocks forming the roof of the King's, and floor of Davison's Chambers, is at least three or four feet, which, together, amount to about twenty-two or twenty-three feet ; the height of the mouth of the channel from the floor of the King's Chamber is three feet.

Now, M. Caviglia stated that, after passing horizontally through the wall of the King's Chamber for five feet, the southern airchannel ascended vertically for fourteen (making the total height from the floor of the King's Chamber seventeen feet), and that it afterwards turned off in an unknown direction, probably towards the centre of the pyramid. He accordingly deepened the abovementioned excavation, in order to cut down upon the channel ; and, having failed in that object, he continued the operation towards the centre of the pyramid.
This excavation is to be seen in nearly the same state as it was at M. Caviglia's departure, scarcely any additional labour having been expended upon it, and that, not so much with a view of intercepting the air-channel, as with the intention of getting above the ceiling of Davison's Chamber, upon which undertaking Mr. Perring and myself determined after our examination on the night of the 12th of February .

On the 13th, Mr. Perring reported that, having been again in Davison's Chamber, he had taken the men from the southern side of that apartment, and set them to work for the sake of greater convenience at the end of the passage to the north of it, where a small stick had been inserted on the preceding evening for about the length of two feet up a crevice in an open joint on the eastern side of the corner granite block, that formed part of the ceiling of the chamber.
Caviglia states that he had discovered an unexplored passage, in which we were still prosecuting our labours when he left the Pyramids, and in which, he would lead the public to infer, that he had commenced an opening into Wellington's Chamber. Now, there is positively no passage in this part of the building but that leading into Davison's Chamber and the air-channel. The former had been open, at all events, since 1764 ; and the latter was, at the time, entirely unexplored, and remained so till the 29th of May 1837, when it was ascertained that no part of it was in a vertical direction as M. Caviglia had confidently asserted, but that it continued in one inclination from the wall of the King's Chamber to the exterior of the pyramid, at a considerable distance, and perfectly inaccessible from the excavation at the south of Davison's Chamber, in which so much time and expense had been, in consequence of M. Caviglia's unaccountable mistake, so long and so inconsiderately wasted.
Had M. Caviglia ever entertained an idea of getting above Davison's Chamber, by any other means excepting by that of the southern air-channel, it is manifest that instead of excavating downwards and towards the centre of the pyramid, he would have worked upwards in the calcareous stone on either the eastern or western side of that apartment. (1) The exact spot was of no consequence, excepting as it afforded greater facility for cutting through the stone, which was the sole reason why the one at the end of the passage was fixed upon ; but if any great merit is to be attached to its selection, Mr. Perring should be immortalised ; and it should be named, according to the ideas of the anonymous correspondent, " Perring's Hole, or Passage."
With regard to the northern air-channel, it appears, by M. Caviglia's Italian exposé, that in 1820 he tried to ascertain its direction (as many other people have done), by the insertion of long sticks, which led him to the conclusion that " there were other apartments in the interior of this monument," (2) and that, having failed, as might have been reasonably expected, in cutting through the blocks of granite, "assistito da quella costanza che gli e tutta propria, immaginò di aprire un nuovo sentiero nella pietra calcarea aderente al granito". This excavation he followed up in his last operations to the extent altogether of thirty-six feet without any beneficial result, and the work was accordingly discontinued on the 13th of February.
When this channel was ultimately opened from above, it appeared that, like that to the south, it had no communication with any other chambers, - a fact directly at variance with M. Caviglia's conjectures, formed "after years of labour and study" which intense application might have been spared, if he had taken an excursion over the exterior of the pyramid, where the forced mouth of the northern air-channel, and the aperture of the southern, were plainly to have been seen. I have already mentioned that the one was discovered accidentally by Mr. Perring, and the other in one day by Abd El Ardi. Indeed, whoever has examined these extraordinary buildings must be aware how idle it is to talk of secrets and of study, about what there is little or no analogy, or data, to go by. Proofs are not wanting, that most of the discoveries at the Pyramids (excepting those of the Caliphs, who appear to have possessed some knowledge of their interior formation), have been the result of conjecture, and many of mere accident. 

It is only necessary to instance M. Caviglia's interesting discovery in 1817, of the communication between the upper and lower passages by means of the well. It is 191 feet 6 inches in depth, and it had been examined in 1764 by Mr. Davison for 155 feet, so that the space of 36 feet 6 inches was all that remained unexplored at that time ; and a good deal of sand was removed by the French in 1800. The difficulty of respiration, however, of course remained the same till the lower passage had also been cleared out. And it seems, by Mr. Salt's account, that, notwithstanding his perseverance and industry, M. Caviglia failed entirely in his attempt to penetrate through the well, and was obliged to give up the operation as hopeless ; but that, in clearing out the lower passage leading to the subterraneous apartment, (which, however, had also been entered by Mr. Davison, to the extent of 131 feet,) he unexpectedly effected his former purpose, as the rubbish in the well naturally fell down as fast as it was taken out at the bottom, and thus M. Caviglia, whilst directing his attention to another object, unintentionally made a most important discovery, and put an end to the doubts and speculations, that had existed respecting the well for above 2000 years.
At the commencement of our operations, I certainly imagined that M. Caviglia was better acquainted than any other person with the interior of the Great Pyramid ; but my confidence in his judgment and skill was considerably lessened when he proposed that the boring-rods should be used on the granite floor of the King's Chamber, and also that they should be worked downwards from the exterior of the pyramid upon the northern end of the great passage, for the sake of ventilation ; a distance, in his opinion, of about 40 feet, but which afterwards proved nearly 200 feet. After this latter exposition of the knowledge he had so laboriously acquired of the relative distances of the several parts of this edifice, and after other similar instances, that could be advanced, I had not much reliance upon him. (…)
At the Third Pyramid, M. Caviglia had begun a narrow passage from the southern end of the upper excavation made by the Mamelukes, "in the hope," as he says, "of being able to penetrate more easily the interior than by searching for an entrance at the base", which proves that, "after years of labour and study", he knew no more of the interior of that pyramid than of the others, as the entrance is considerably below the lower excavation, and as the whole of the apartments are entirely subterraneous. On the 13th of February, M. Caviglia's passage had only arrived at the length of six feet, notwithstanding the apparent satisfaction with which he mentioned, in his letter of the 17th of January, the progress he had made, and that he was within sixty feet of the centre of the pyramid. As I afterwards carried on this work to the centre, and sunk shafts to the foundation, without finding any passage or apartment, it is clear that I received from M. Caviglia no more assistance in the discoveries made at this pyramid, than in other instances. (…)
Having now clearly shewn that I never received from M. Caviglia the slightest useful information, or assistance (which indeed was not in his power to afford), but that on the contrary I had much reason to complain of the ill-judged and feeble manner, in which he attempted, most unsuccessfully, to carry on the intentions of the firmaun, and particularly also of the time and labour which he wasted on other trifling objects, I have now most distinctly and indignantly to deny, that any determination existed between Colonel Campbell and myself "to dispense with his services, and to profit in concert by the results of his previous studies and researches", which, it is falsely stated, he "so freely imparted ";-an imputation which can only affect the character of the persons who have so vainly endeavoured to cast it on Colonel Campbell and myself. M. Caviglia's dismissal on the 12th of February, was the consequence of his own unwarrantable conduct.
The details, which I have thought it necessary to draw up respecting the recent discoveries at the Pyramids, will sufficiently prove that I entertain no silly vanity respecting them, but that on the other hand I have endeavoured to give full credit to those gentlemen, by whose skill and perseverance I have been so materially assisted ; and I here beg to assure M. Caviglia how much I regret that it is not in my power to make similar acknowledgments to him. The tenour of my answer to his application, made through Mr. Galloway, on the 7th of March, to be allowed to return to the Pyramids, will shew that I never entertained the slightest hostility towards him, although it was evidently impossible to accede to his request. I could also, were it necessary, appeal to Mr. Wilkinson's testimony, that I sedulously avoided any allusions to these unpleasant transactions, beyond what were necessary to make intelligible the operations afterwards so successfully carried on at Gizeh : nor should I have now entered into so long and disagreeable a detail, had it not been for the groundless and foul accusations publicly preferred, in M. Caviglia's name, against Colonel Campbell and myself."

(1) Since this statement was written, Lord Lindsay's book has been published, and the following passage will remove all further doubt on the subject. His lordship visited the Pyramids in December 1836, and, after describing the King's Chamber, and M. Caviglia's excavation along the course of the northern air-channel, he says: " 'Now', says Caviglia, 'I will shew you how I hope to find out where the southern passage leads to.' Returning to the landing-place at the top of the grand staircase, we mounted a ricketty ladder to the narrow passage that leads to Davison's Chamber (so named after the English consul at Algiers, who discovered it seventy years ago) ; it is directly above the King's Chamber, the ceiling of the one forming the floor of the other. The ceiling of Davison's Chamber consists of eight stones, beautifully worked ; and this ceiling, which is so low that you can only sit cross-legged under it, Caviglia believes to be the floor of another large room above it, which he is now trying to discover. To this room he concludes the little passage leads that branches from the south side of the King's Chamber. He has accordingly dug down into the calcareous stone at the further end of Davison's Chamber, in the hopes of meeting it ; once found, it will probably lead him to the place he is in quest of. And now, I am sure, if I have been happy enough to inspire you with a tithe of the interest with which I followed every winding of the pyramid, and of our cicerone's mind (itself a most extraordinary labyrinth), you will be glad to hear that there seems every probability of his soon reaching the little passage. Leaving a servant in the excavation, descending to the King's Chamber, and shouting at the hole, the man answered by striking on the stone distinct strokes, - as satisfactory a reply as could be wished for." With respect to the latter part of this quotation, I can only say that, believing upon M. Caviglia's authority that the air-channel was vertical, and that the excavation was consequently near it, I have repeatedly endeavoured to ascertain its direction, by listening in Davison's Chamber to noises made high up in the passage, but always without success ; and the accompanying plan laid down by Mr. Perring will shew that it is impossible I could have done so. The sounds, therefore, mentioned by Lord Lindsay, must have been conveyed through the passage by which his lordship had ascended to Davison's Chamber. 
(2) It is scarcely possible to enter the King's Chamber without observing the two air-channels. Greaves, who travelled in 1638, describes the opening of that to the south to have been forced, and also to have been blackened with smoke.