vendredi 31 décembre 2010

“Selon toute probabilité, beaucoup d’autres chambres et galeries restent à découvrir” dans la pyramide de Khéops (Arthur Cleveland Wigan - XIXe siècle)

Arthur Cleveland Wigan (1815 - ?) était un écrivain et compositeur (ou professeur) de musique anglais, auteur d’un Modulating Dictionary. À part ces quelques mini-données, je n’ai trouvé aucune information sur cet auteur. J’ignore notamment les raisons qui l’ont amené à écrire sur les “grandes merveilles du monde, des pyramides au Crystal Palace” (The great wonders of the world ; from the pyramids to the Crystal Palace - 1856).
Rien n’indique que les remarques de l’auteur sur les pyramides et le Sphinx aient fait suite à une visite effective des lieux. Observez ci-dessous les traits du Sphinx : je doute fort qu'ils aient été inspirés par une observation directe ! Selon toute vraisemblance, l'artiste a dû faire appel à son imagination créatrice particulièrement féconde !
Au cours de l’inventaire qui constitue le matériau de ce blog, je l’ai d’ailleurs maintes fois constaté : combien d’ouvrages n’ont-ils pas été écrits à partir de on-dit, de relations transmises de génération en génération, sans (possibilité de) vérification de leur origine et surtout de leur véracité ! Ainsi sont façonnées des pages d’histoire, qui s’incrustent par la suite dans les esprits et la trame d’une culture dite “générale”. Le discernement et l’éducation ont alors fort à faire pour remettre “la” vérité sur ses rails...

Pyramid of Cheops
“The Pyramids of Memphis, perhaps the most stupendous monuments extant of misdirected skill and energy, have from a very early period excited the curiosity and wonder of mankind. More than two thousand years ago they were visited by Herodotus, whose narrative affords the earliest information we possess as to their origin. According to the account given to him by the priests of Memphis, the Great Pyramid was built about 900* years before the Christian era, by Cheops, king of Egypt. In its construction, 100,000 workmen were employed for twenty years, and the cost of feeding them upon onions and other vegetables amounted to nearly £400,000 of our money.
The Pyramid of Cheops is about 480 feet in height, and covers more than thirteen acres of ground. Placed in Lincoln's Inn Fields, it would occupy the entire space, overtopping, by more than 100 feet, the cross of St. Paul's.
This pyramid consists of a series of platforms, and the steps thus made vary from five to two feet in height. The vacancies were originally filled by highly polished casing stones, the whole surface being thus rendered perfectly smooth. Some of this facing still remains upon the second and third pyramids.
The ascent, though often performed with the assistance of the Arab guides, is laborious, and not without danger. Some years since an English officer lost his footing, and rolled from the top to the bottom of the Great Pyramid. Every bone in his body was broken, and he reached the ground a shapeless mass.
The interior of these singular and mysterious structures has not yet been fully explored, nor is it likely that our knowledge will ever be complete on the subject, so vast is their extent and so difficult and hazardous the undertaking. The entrance to the Pyramid of Cheops is by an orifice fifty feet above the foundation, and three and a half feet square. A narrow passage, seventy-three feet in length, and sloping downwards, leads from the entrance to a second gallery, 109 feet long, but with an ascending inclination. At the end of this last passage there is a platform, in which is the mouth of a well, sunk into the body of the pyramid, and beyond it into the solid rock, where it has been traced to the depth of 145 feet. There is also a second passage or gallery, leading from the platform to what is known as the Queen's Chamber; but the ascending gallery above mentioned is continued for 132 feet beyond the platform, and leads to the King's Chamber, in which there is a sarcophagus of red granite, supposed to have contained the body of Cheops. Other chambers and galleries have been entered, and in all probability many more remain to be discovered.
The purposes for which the Pyramids were intended are not clearly known. They were undoubtedly used as sepulchres for and monuments of the dead, but their internal structure is hardly compatible with so limited a design. A curious observation has been made with respect to the narrow passages by which access is gained to the interior, but which can scarcely be supposed to have been the original means of entrance. The Pyramids have their sides directly facing the four points of the compass, and the galleries in question open on their northern faces. They are, moreover, so inclined as to point nearly to the pole of the heavens ; and the Polar star of those days (...) must, in the time of Cheops and his successors, have been visible once in every twenty-four hours from the inmost recesses of the Pyramids. From this and other circumstances it is conjectured that they were also designed for astronomical and religious purposes.”

* Modern research has added more than 1200 years to the probable age of the Pyramids.

The Sphinx
“The Sphinx is a fabulous being, occurring in the Grecian, Indian, and Egyptian mythologies. In Greece it was variously portrayed, but the figure was always a compound of the human and animal forms, and generally consisted of a woman's head united to the body of a lion or dog, with or without wings. In India, on the other hand, the Sphinx was always represented with the head of a man.
The Egyptian Sphinxes have the upper portion either human (and mostly female), or they have the head of a ram ; the body being that of a lion, without wings. They were usually placed at the entrance of temples, where they sometimes formed a long avenue leading up to the entrance. At Carnac there is one of these avenues, nearly two miles in length.
The largest of existing Sphinxes is the celebrated one which stands near the Pyramid of Cheops. With the exception of the paws, which are formed of masonry and project 50 feet beyond the body, it is hewn out of the rocky ledge upon which the Pyramids are built. It is of enormous dimensions, being 143 feet long and 62 feet in height. All but the head and neck was formerly buried in the sand, which in the course of ages had entirely filled up the surrounding hollow. The body was partially uncovered by the French, during their occupation of Egypt ; and was afterwards entirely freed by Cavaglia at the expense of Colonel Vyse. The work was one of great labour and difficulty, the loose surface from above continually sliding into the excavation. An altar was discovered between the projecting paws. Steps led down into the vast area, which is now again half filled with drifted sand.
In the head of the figure there is a cavity about five feet deep ; and it has been supposed that a passage led thence to the well of the Great Pyramid, the priests being by this means enabled to pronounce their oracles from the monster's head. This communication with the interior has, however, been doubted.
The features have been greatly mutilated by the Arabs, who have used the Sphinx as a target for their arrows and djereeds. But the face, though partaking strongly of the Ethiopian or negro character, still possesses a calm and melancholy beauty which is recognised by every traveller. Seen among the surrounding tombs, it appears, says Stephens, " like a Divinity guarding the Dead."
Part of this effect is, however, in all probability due to association, and to the surrounding desert scenery and ruins. It must, at all events, be confessed that even well-executed drawings or engravings fail in conveying any impression of the kind to those who have not seen the original statue.”

* Modern research has added more than 1200 years to the probable age of the Pyramids.

jeudi 30 décembre 2010

Comment déplacer des blocs de pierre avec de “simples outils” : la théorie du peintre américain Rossi d’Providence

autoportrait de l'auteur
L’Américain, d’origine italienne, Robert J. Rossi, alias Rossi d’Providence (nom adopté en 1973), est né en 1939. Ce peintre "réaliste" de renom, qui préfère donner ses toiles plutôt que de se plier au système actuel du marché de l’art, se présente lui-même comme un maître charpentier-bâtisseur, un adepte du survivalisme, un marginaliste, un photographe, un chef de cuisine spécialisé dans les sauces...
En complément de cette polyvalence de centres d’intérêt, Rossi d’Providence s’est risqué à concevoir sa propre théorie sur le transport des blocs de pierre, applicable, selon lui, à la construction des pyramides de Guizeh. D’où le texte qui suit, publié en décembre 2006 sur le site, et reproduit ici avec l’aimable et explicite autorisation de son auteur.

"Moving Stones with Simple Tools"

“When we think of how the huge rectangular stones have been moved, we think of a gang of people in some way moving the stones as they are, in the shape they are.
When in fact by my thinking the stone's shape had to have been augmented to roll the stones up a ramp by the use of ropes. (If ropes were used). Not having been to the stone's site to inspect them and the surrounding land, one can only guesstimate at their having been moved a certain way.
Firstly, the ramp itself is probably build out of stone (?) capable of taking the weight of the megaliths moving upward along it. From the top of the ramp to the bottom, the multitude of ropes are laid in channels in and along the ramp (submerged somewhat) so that the stones are not sitting on the ropes themselves (to protect the ropes from being crushed).

Une “structure”, coiffant le bloc à déplacer, la hauteur de l’ensemble bloc+structure étant le double de celle du bloc pris sépartément
Then a structure is built atop the stone the same shape as the original stone so that the height of the stone and its structure are now twice the height of the original stone. (As if one rectangular stone were sitting atop another rectangular stone of the same size, width and height - or higher).
Imagine trying to roll a large refrigerator up a hill. You cannot slide it up the hill because it is too heavy. So you roll it one quarter revolution at a time until you get it to move along. But it is too heavy to roll a rectangular refrigerator of that size. So, you put another refrigerator on top of the first one, secure it to the one below as best you can, and then merely topple the structure over, up the hill, by pushing on the top of the structure. Once you have toppled the refrigerator over, repeat the process of putting one refrigerator atop the other and topple it again. In doing so you are moving the refrigerator up hill, one quarter turn at a time.

Changer le ratio hauteur/largeur pour réduire le poids du bloc à faire rouler sur la rampe
However, this is only one aspect of the stone's being moved - moving the stones into position approaching the ramp may be another crew's problem. One would have to be on site to determine this process.
One important factor in the stone theories on their movement is that someone did in fact move those stones. I keep this fact as 65 per cent of the solution as to how they were moved. The stones weren't lifted, nor were they slid (my personal deduction, however shimming would be excepted - that is to move one side forward then the other - very difficult up a ramp), which leaves the task of rolling. To make something roll that is square, is to round the square. Yet this too is not easy because of the massive weight of the stones. Therefore the weight of the stone itself has to be reduced. This can be implemented by changing the height/width ratio - by building the height of the stone with some structure and leaving the width intact. A moving automobile easily rolls over in a turn because it is top heavy, etc. The trick is to build the upper part of the structure to a maximum strength and weight, that will cause the rolling of both units to work as one (the refrigerator atop another refrigerator practice).
The way to achieve this with maximum forward movement is to have the stone roll and fall onto a ramp twice the angle of the intended ramp (If the intended ramp is at 18 degrees throughout its length, fill in a ramp forward of the stone at 30 degrees to bring the stone to a rest with less downward distance and less pull of gravity), then dig out the greater ramp to have the stone rest on the then intended ramp. (Letting the stone roll and fall at a 90 degree angle would possibly break the stone).

La "Pregnant Woman stone" (source : Wikimedia)

Comparaison avec le  trilithon de Baalbeck
In the introduction to "Mystic Places - Baalbek" (1), the following is written : "The Romans constructed a monumental ensemble of three temples, three courtyards, and an enclosing wall built of some of the most gigantic stones ever crafted by man. Some tourists believe that the construction can only be attributed to extra-terrestrial artwork". This indicates the Romans built the wall and therefore "extra-terrestrials” is out of the question - also meaning that strong metals was used in the moving of the stones. If the Phoenicians were the builders or someone before them the process would have been somewhat different regarding implements used.
Then again, did the Romans need big stones to frighten hostile oncomers ? For this, it is not easy to make a proper assessment of the stones without being there and seeing all aspects of the area.
It should be kept in mind that the stones were being moved many times before they were actually put into place - the stones had to be moved out of the quarry and be rolled to work on other sides. So, these workers may have had the movement of these stones down path before they attempted to use them in the building of the wall. In seeing the "Pregnant woman stone" (2), one sees the process of digging below the stone to cause some movement of the stone. Perhaps the builders were moving the stones end over end to gain a greater distance with each rotation - but again, taking the chance that the stone may break from such an high fall.

L'astuce : utiliser également des contrepoids
There are tricks to moving an 800 ton stone. Reduce the weight of the stone and expand the strength of the timber and ropes used. How can one reduce the weight of the stone ? In reality, the stone's mean weight matters only if one lifts the stone or tries to drag it. When rolling the stone, the actual weight of stone one has to deal with is reduced by at least 2/3 or more. By tying three timbers together the strength of the timbers being used is tripled. Finally, counter weights are employed to keep a constant pressure on the stone in the direction to which the stone is to be moved, to add to the force applied by labor. It may be better to build the timber upward on top of the stone, which would give more ways to fasten the timber to the backside of the stone and onto the sides as shown in the schematics.
In this schematic it shows two distinct directions of pull - by physical labor and by counter weights. The counter weights should be stones the maximum allowed by the strength of the rope used.
The labor force should have loops in the rope with which to pull the stone - they should also have a means of counter-force at their feet (such as a baseball pitcher has a counter-force (a wood block) at his foot on the mound when he winds up to throw), therefore increasing the pull-force/push-force of each laborer.”

(1) autre publication de l’auteur
(2) nom donné au célèbre trilithon de Baalbeck (Liban)

mercredi 29 décembre 2010

Au coeur de l’histoire architecturale des pyramides : un numéro spécial de la revue "Pharaon"

À consulter la presse française, on constate que cette fin d’année 2010 est placée sous le signe des pyramides d’Égypte, à commencer par la plus grande, la plus “énigmatique”, la plus “mystérieuse” d’entre elles : celle de Khéops.  
Après un hors série publié sur ce sujet par Sciences et Avenir (voir la note de ce blog), puis un numéro double du Point, avec dossier spécial Égypte (voir ICI), c’est au tour de la revue Pharaon de proposer un hors série sous le titre “Au temps des pyramides”.
Autant dire, pour suivre les indications de lecture de François Tonic, rédacteur en chef de la publication, qu’une nouvelle dose de... mystères ou/et énigmes nous attend, avec bien sûr des pistes de réflexion, des hypothèses émises par des chercheurs, des reconstitutions solidement argumentées, le panel des opinions ou théories développées permettant au lecteur de mieux éclairer et alimenter sa propre “interprétation” du site de Guizeh.
Après un rappel de l’évolution de l’architecture pyramidale mise en oeuvre par les Égyptiens, la revue ne peut donc éviter de nous acheminer vers “les mystères des pyramides” (1), à savoir : la configuration et la fonction des conduits de la chambre de la Reine, le conduit fantôme de la pyramide de Meïdoum, la pyramide perdue d’Ouserkarê, etc.
Sur fond de chronologie de l’Ancien Empire, nous assistons ensuite “en direct”, avec quand même un écart de quelque 5.300 années, à la “naissance des pyramides égyptiennes”, justifiée par “une évolution complexe des pratiques funéraires” dans l’ancienne Égypte et par une “manière d’appréhender la vie après la mort”.
La construction de la pyramide lisse représente un “sommet” de l’architecture pyramidale, “l’apogée d’un savoir-faire, fruit de l’expérience, basé sur la logique et la simplicité” : ce dossier, illustré par l’exemple de la pyramide de Khéops, a été confié par François Tonic à la plume experte de Jean-Pierre Houdin. (2) D’un point de vue technique, l‘architecte reprend les éléments majeurs de sa reconstitution du chantier de construction de la pyramide tel qu’il fut, selon son analyse, mis en oeuvre par les “sapeurs-maçons” du pharaon : rampe extérieure jusqu’au premier tiers de la hauteur totale de la pyramide, mise en place des blocs de façade en premier, utilisation de la Grande Galerie pour le fonctionnement du système de contrepoids nécessaire à l’élévation des monolithes de la chambre du Roi, recours à une rampe interne pour les deux derniers tiers de la hauteur du monument... Au terme de cet exposé, la pyramide de Khéops apparaît dans toute sa prestigieuse configuration, comme le “reflet de l’apogée d’une civilisation”.
Deux autres articles complètent notre périple au coeur de l’histoire architecturale des pyramides.
Le premier, de Fernand Schwarz, nous remémore la finalité symbolique et religieuse de la pyramide, “image du cosmos, lieu de transmutation de l’âme”. L’architecture du monument, dans la logique spirituelle des anciens Égyptiens, est dotée d’une “géographie sacrée” (des réalités terrestres aux principes célestes), dans laquelle (revoici le “mystère”, auquel il est logique de donner ici une acception spécifiquement religieuse, donc justifiée) la chambre funéraire est le lieu d’une “régénération”.
Dans le second et dernier article que nous citerons ici, Franck Monnier développe un aspect essentiel du pourquoi et du comment des pyramides : la “protection des sépultures royales”. Sous le regard et selon l’analyse de l’auteur, les histoires rocambolesques et autres mythes qu’ont pu inspirer les dédales des entrailles des pyramides ont du souci à se faire. Place à la “réalité” ! Le mot est lâché. C’est le seul qui compte. Il recouvre des éléments structurels bien précis : les blocs bouchons et les herses, destinés à contrarier les intentions des pilleurs de sépultures. Mais comme dans notre chère Égypte d’antan, rien n’est tout à fait simple du fait des zones d’ombre (non, non ! je n’ai pas dit “mystère”) qui restent à élucider, les raconteurs de belles histoires aux multiples embûches se s’avoueront sûrement pas battus pour autant. D’où, sur un ton réaliste et un tantinet pessimiste, ce constat de l’auteur :”Si la malédiction des Pharaons est l’apanage des férus d’ésotérisme et de paranormal, les chambres et mécanismes secrets [des pyramides] font encore les choux gras d’une presse certes à sensation, mais aussi quelquefois scientifique. Certains architectes et/ou égyptologues aiment à croire que des pièces demeurent “secrètes”, et pensent que la chambre funéraire de la grande pyramide reste à être localisée.

(1) Un point de vue personnel, qui fera peut-être grincer des dents, mais que m’inspire ma     fréquentation, depuis maintenant deux années complètes, d’une foultitude d’auteurs ayant émis les points de vue les plus divers et contrastés sur la construction des pyramides : il serait temps, me semble-t-il, de laisser aux oubliettes les mots “mystère” et “énigme” dès lors qu’il s’agit de pyramides.
Bien entendu, et comment l’oublier, notre connaissance des pyramides est encore très imparfaite. Mais une explication, que l’on pourrait qualifier de rationnelle ou scientifique (dans la mesure où l’architecture et l’archéologie sont des sciences), existe, doit exister, ou ne demande qu’à se révéler au grand jour. On la perçoit, on l’appréhende par bribes, mais elle n’est pas du ressort plus ou moins fumeux de je ne sais quel ésotérisme. Notre besoin de comprendre reste sur sa faim ; nos investigations sont encore souvent orphelines ; la mémoire en chaîne de nos historiens, depuis la plus haute antiquité jusqu’à aujourd’hui, comporte des lacunes regrettables. Mais le pourquoi et le comment des pyramides égyptiennes sont du domaine du réel historique et tangible, que seule notre myopie nous empêche de capter dans sa pleine expression.
Dans notre lecture des pyramides, il y a assurément un fossé peu confortable, voire très désagréable, entre la réalité historique et notre appréhension de celle-ci, entre ce que nous voyons ou croyons voir et ce que nous comprenons. Mais il ne sert de rien, de mon point de vue, de tenter de combler ce fossé, ne serait-ce que momentanément, en ayant recours à l’irrationnel, même purement verbal.
(2) Concernant la présentation qui est faite de cet auteur dans l’édito de la revue, je lis :”Jean-Pierre Houdin, auteur de la théorie de la rampe intérieure dans la pyramide de Chéops, expliquera ses travaux et pourquoi la construction de l’intérieur, et non depuis l’extérieur, serait la clé de l’énigme.
Que l’auteur de cette présentation n’en prenne pas ombrage, mais son texte appelle, à mon sens, deux précisions. Tout d’abord, Jean-Pierre Houdin exclut scrupuleusement de ses propos le mot “théorie”, pour le remplacer par “reconstitution du chantier de construction” de la pyramide. Quant à cette reconstitution, l’auteur la conçoit, certes, en ayant recours, mais seulement dans un deuxième temps, à la rampe interne : celle-ci vient en complément d’une rampe droite externe qui est utilisée pour le premier tiers de la hauteur de la pyramide, soit les deux tiers de son volume.

L’architecture égyptienne “n’a jamais atteint une certaine perfection dans l’élégance et la grâce” (Giovan Battista Vermiglioli - XVIIIe-XIXe s.)

Dans son ouvrage Lezioni elementari di archeologia, t. 1, 1824, l’archéologue italien Giovan Battista Vermiglioli (1789-1848), fondateur du musée archéologique de l’université de Perugia (Pérouse - Italie), souligne les caractères, à ses yeux distinctifs, de l’archéologie égyptienne : ampleur des formes, sévérité de l’aspect, solidité de la construction..., ces qualités contrastant avec un manque de perfection dans l’élégance et la grâce.
Ce constat s’applique notamment aux pyramides, dont la destination première n’était pas esthétique, mais plutôt fonctionnelle.

Les pyramides en 1920.
Illustration reproduite avec l'aimable autorisation de
Islam A. Taha (Tulipe Noire)
“I principali caratteri dell'egiziana architettura sono l'ampiezza delle forme negli edifici nei quali la figura piramidale ebbe gran voga. Una certa severità di aspetto che impone e insieme rapisce, una straordinaria solidità di costruzione, in cui si adoperarono i copiosissimi marmi della nazione in grandi massi e smisuratissimi tagliati talvolta, ed il soverchio gusto di ricuoprirli ed ornarli di bassirilievi e di pittura eziandio, con que' loro geroglifici, che meglio conosceremo fra poco.

La gravité et la dignité de l’architecture égyptienne
Può rimproverarsi all' Egitto, che ivi l'architettura mentre fece molti lieti progressi, non giunse però mai ad una certa perfezione nella eleganza e nella grazia ; ma dovendo anche essa seguire l' indole ed il carattere della nazione, finché altri popoli non vi avessero miglior gusto recato, non poteva in diverso aspetto mostrarsi : se non che in quest' aspetto medesimo essa è sempre piena di gravità e di una dignità, che desta veramente ammirazione e stupore. (...)

“Les meilleures études sur les pyramides, nous les devons aux hommes de lettres et artistes français”
Dovendo più da vicino conoscere i monumenti della architettura egizia, che in quei vastissimi paesi tuttora rimangono, diremo in primo luogo delle piramidi. Su di esse per altro, anzi intorno agli altri antichi edifici egizi assai poco può dirsi di nuovo dopo quel tanto che ne scrissero i più celebri viaggiatori Pococke, Norden, Lucas, Maillet, Casas (1), Volney, Denon, ed altri. I migliori risultati per altro dopo tanti studi ed esami noi li dobbiamo a que' molti letterati ed artisti francesi, che al cadere del secolo scorso riuniti alla spedizione militare, formarono l'Istituto del Cairo, e produssero la grande Opera Sull’ Antico e Moderno Egitto, dalla quale ci è lecito, più che da qualunque altra conoscere quanto di antico e di grande rimane colà.
Ma perché la copia grande de' monumenti che vi sono, i molti nuovi che tuttavia si scuoprono, non istancano mai i letterati e gli artisti di meglio esaminarli, conoscerli, ed a nuova luce condurli, così la dotta Europa vidde recentemente i pieni risultati del ch. sig. Belzoni viaggiatore italiano e di altri che da un lustro vi rimangono già occupati. I saggi che ne hanno fatto conoscere i giornali e le opere periodiche di Francia e d'Italia, somministrano ampi motivi a più liete speranze.

“Pyramide” signifie “lieu saint”
La piramide è un corpo solido, che diminuendosi regolarmente dalla sua base, s' innalza a punta di cono. L’Egitto antico si distinse in questa maniera di fabbricare e le piramidi, che vi rimangono ancora sono delle tanto celebri meraviglie del mondo la sola superstite ed i viaggiatori non le osservano senza meraviglia. La più antica storia di esse ci viene da Erodoto, il quale ci dice che il primo ad innalzarle fu il Re Cheope, e vi aggiugne tali circostanze in ordine all' immensa quantità di uomini adoperativi, di spese occorse, di anni impiegati, che quella narrazione quasi trascende talvolta l’umana credenza.
Noi non ci fermeremo ad esaminare le varie etimologie prodotte sulla voce piramide, per sé stessa oscurissima, che in parte possono vedersi riferite da Jablonscki. Quella per altro dal dottissimo poliglotto sig. Sacy, ci sembra da non doversi dimenticare. Egli esaminando quella voce sui rapporti e confronti della lingua copta, la quale è da supporre che molte vestigia conservi di antica lingua egizia, viene a concludere, che piramide vuol esprimere luogo santo. Difatti rintracciandone l'uso, noi vedremo che a quello di cose sacre fu destinata.

Des immenses souterrains qui servirent de tombes aux rois et d’habitations aux prêtres
L'interno di smisuratissime moli conteneva sotterranei immensi, che s'innoltravano ampiamente sotto il terreno e la base esterna vi era come un' indizio ed un segnale al passaggiero. Questi sotterranei pertanto, che anche oggi si osservano compartiti e divisi a più quartieri amplissimi, e de'quali parlarono Erodoto e Strabone, servirono principalmente come di magnifiche tombe a quei re nazionali e di pressochè continua abitazione a que'tanti sacerdoti de'quali avea bisogno il superstiziosissimo culto egiziano. In ordine a sepolcri quella forma piramidale potrebbe anche meglio persuaderlo, imperciocchè fino da'tempi remotissimi fu costume d' innalzare sulle spoglie de'morti cumuli di pietre, che naturalmente per sé stesse la forma piramidale prendevano.

Opinions divergentes sur la destination des pyramides
Ma le opinioni sulla destinazione delle piramidi sono varie presso gli eruditi, imperciocchè molti scrissero di monumenti sì celebri, atti veramente a destare l'ammirazione di ognuno. I principali scrittori su di esse incominciando da Greaves con la sua Piramidografia, furono Olao Celsio, David Glchwend (1), Craus (1), Meisterio (1), Paucton ed altri, oltre i ricordati viaggiatori. In tanta varietà di pareri si disse che le piramidi furono osservatori astronomici, gnomoni, magazzini, depositi di pubblici tesori. dimenticando altre opinioni, che nelle piramidi riconobbero simboli ed allegorie religiose, fisiche, e morali.
Attualmente ne rimangono oltre a 40 in Egitto, alcune delle quali si dilatano in uno degli angoli fino oltre alli 600 piedi, innalzandosi fino a 500 e mentre l'interno è a più compartimenti diviso, la mole esterna è formata a tanti gradini, per i quali può giungersi fino alla sommità, ed opportunamente si crede che ciò si facesse onde più comodamente trasportare quei grandissimi massi con cui sono innalzate.
Le molte urne di varie materie con entro spoglie immummite ora umane, ora di animali, formano veramente un nuovo motivo per credere che gli stessi sotterranei servissero di tomba non solo agli uomini, ma a que' molti animali, che come ognun sa, il superstizioso Egitto avea sacri renduti e che amplissima parte nel suo politeismo occupavano.”

(1) Il m’a été impossible d’identifier ces auteurs. Toutes précisions les concernant seront les bienvenues.

mardi 28 décembre 2010

“Les pyramides ne sont pas creuses à l’intérieur” (Bernhard von Breydenbach - XVe siècle)

Bernhard von Breydenbach (1440 ou 1454 ? -1497), riche chanoine de la cathédrale de Mayence, se rendit en pèlerinage en Terre sainte, en 1483-1484, "pour faire pénitence, regrettant une jeunesse passée dans les plaisirs vains". Il relata son périple dans un ouvrage édité en latin et en allemand : Peregrinatio in Terram Sanctam (1486).
Lors de son retour vers l’Allemagne, il fit une halte au Caire qu’il prit le temps de visiter et décrire en détail. Par contre, les pyramides de Guizeh n’eurent droit, sous sa plume, qu’à une très brève et presque insignifiante allusion. Il me semble toutefois intéressant de la reprendre ici, non seulement par souci de compléter l’inventaire de ce blog, mais aussi pour son contenu qui traduit, même très sommairement, la manière dont on pouvait voir et interpréter les pyramides égyptiennes dans la seconde moitié du XVe siècle.

Le texte qui suit est extrait de la traduction en français de l’ouvrage, par Jehan de Hersin, sous le titre Le saint voiage et pelerinage de la cité saincte de Hiérusalem (1489). Source : Gallica
Autre traduction, proposée par le père F. Larrivaz, jésuite :
“Notre vue s’étendait à travers le désert pour ainsi dire jusqu’à la Mer Rouge ; nous apercevions le jardin de baume dont nous avons parlé plus haut. La campagne de Matarieh n’est éloignée que de cinq lieues italiennes ou un peu plus du Caire.
De l’autre côté du Nil, on voyait aussi beaucoup de pyramides : les rois égyptiens les avaient fait élever au-dessus de leurs tombeaux. Le peuple les appelle greniers ou magasins de Joseph ; il les aurait fait bâtir pour garder les blés ; mais c’est manifestement faux, [car] les pyramides ne sont pas creuses à l’intérieur. (1)
Auprès de ces pyramides, la grande idole d’Isis, jadis vénérée par les Égyptiens, semble encore debout. Au-delà, on voit aussi de grandes ruines anciennes ; là se trouvait autrefois la très puissante et très célèbre capitale de l’Égypte, qui avait cent portes : c’est le lieu de naissance de saint Maurice et de la légion thébéenne.”

(1) La traduction de Jehan de Hersin comporte un ajout :”les pyramides sont de grandes aiguilles de pierre aigues par en-haut, mais elles ne sont pas creuses dedans”.
Le texte latin a été établi comme suit par J. Larrivaz : “... de quibus vulgo dicit quod sunt granarie sive horrea quondam ab Joseph ibi pro frumentorum repositione edificate etc. quod falsum liquet quia pyramides iste ab intra non sunt cavate.”

dimanche 26 décembre 2010

La “prodigieuse antiquité des pyramides et leurs mystères encore non résolus”, selon Edward Joy Morris (XIXe s.)

Dans son ouvrage Notes of a tour through Turkey, Greece, Egypt, and Arabia Petraea, to the Holy Land, édité en 1847, l’homme politique et diplomate américain Edward Joy Morris (1815-1881) commence le récit de sa découverte des pyramides de Guizeh sur des impressions somme toute très banales, en dépit, bien sûr, de la majesté des lieux : ascension de la Grande Pyramide (le “must”, à une certaine époque, de tout voyage touristique en Égypte), extase devant le panorama qui se découvre au sommet du monument, référence obligée à Hérodote...
La relation devient par contre plus personnelle, voire mystique, lorsque l’on apprend que l’auteur a tenu à passer une nuit entière sur la plate-forme qui couronne la pyramide, pour mieux s’imprégner de l’histoire et de la densité émotionnelle du site.
Poursuivant sa visite à l’intérieur du monument, il se livre alors à des conjectures sur ses éléments stucturels, notamment sur l’existence supposée ou probable d’espaces jusqu’alors inexplorés : autres “appartements” communiquant avec la chambre du Roi, galeries souterraines et cavernes donnant sur la grande “avenue” en pierres conduisant au Nil...
Une fois encore, la Grande Pyramide se manifeste, aux regards attentifs au moindre détail, sous deux niveaux de lecture : d’une part, ses structures immédiatement visibles à tout un chacun, et, d’autre part, des espaces dont l’existence, au moins supposée ou probable, est déduite d’une certaine logique “architecturale”. C’est le cas, entre autres, de l’”entrée” (entrance) de la chambre du Roi qui, différente de celle qu’empruntent actuellement tous les visiteurs, communiquerait avec d’”autres appartements” :”Pour autant qu’elle existe, cette entrée est hermétiquement fermée, et rien, si ce n’est un tremblement de terre, ne pourrait l’ouvrir.”

Cliché Edgar Brothers (source : Jon Bodsworth)
“On landing at Gizeh, the pyramids, though several miles distant, appeared to be directly before us. In three hours, after a ride across the intervening plain, we arrived at the base of the rocky elevation on which the pyramids are erected. Here begins the desert, the pyramids marking the limit of cultivable land. A number of Bedouins, who live around the pyramids, came running to us and offering their services as guides.
Ascending the rocky foundation of the pyramids, we stood at their base, and here for the first time, we had some idea of their mass and size. Standing at the base of the great pyramid of Cheops, and looking up its sides, it seemed to lean against the sky ; we were too eager to scale the summit to stand long at the base. We ascended at one of the corners ; a Bedouin, mounted upon the stone above, extended his hand to the person ascending, while another aided him with a lift of his shoulder from below.
The pyramids being built with receding layers of stone, a ledge of about three feet in width is left upon each layer, which affords a secure landing-place. In this manner the ascent was easily made in fifteen minutes. Instead of an apex hardly wide enough to stand upon, we found the apex of the pyramid of Cheops a flat square at least fifteen feet broad. A large stone is in the centre, indicating that the original sharp apex of the pyramid has been destroyed, which, of course, has diminished its height.
According to Herodotus, the pyramids were originally covered with a smooth coat of cement, which rendered it impossible to ascend them. The broken, jagged sides of the pyramids show that several attempts have been made to destroy them, a labour which one of the Arabian caliphs found a task equal only to the power of those who built them.
The view from the top of the pyramids extends over the whole breadth of the valley of the Nile, from the Mokattam mountains back to Cairo, to the Lybian desert. While we were on the pyramids the sun went down. My companions descended to sleep in tents at some distance on the plain, while I remained on the top of the pyramid, having resolved to pass the night there. I retained the shiek of the Bedouins and two of his men, and sent down another to bring up the pipes and coffee I had brought from Cairo. The promise of a backsheesh silenced their protestations and fears. The Bedouins kindled a fire with charcoal under the lee of the stone, and made us some excellent coffee, after their manner. Washing the coffee down with a bumper of claret to the memory of old Cheops, we lit our pipes, the Bedouins leaving me to contemplate the darkening landscape, while they, gathered in a group, indulged in suspicious surmises as to my object in sleeping on the pyramids. The last ray of light was gradually fading from the horizon, and the landscape was every moment becoming darker and darker.(...)

Un intéressant “débat” avec Hérodote
The solitude was as profound as that which reigned within the chambers of the pyramid beneath us. Across the plain, as day declined, the villages were indicated only by flitting lights and the baying of dogs. By midnight the moon was in the zenith, and the heavens presented a brilliant host of planets and stars, such as the old astronomers had probably gazed upon from this very spot. The Bedouins were all asleep, so burying myself in the folds of a Greek capote, I turned my back against the stone and fell asleep. The bull Apis, Cheops, the transmigration of souls, with speculation on Egyptian theology and oxology, occupied my dreams, and I was engaged in a very interesting dispute with Herodotus, touching the architects of the pyramids, when the Bedouin sheik awoke me, and told me the sun was rising. The earth was yet robed in the twilight of morning. The horizon in the quarter of the sun was streaked with pencilings of light, while the rest of the heavens were almost perfectly dark. As the sun approached the edge of the horizon, light shot around it ; in a moment more the top of the sun's orb was visible, and instantaneously afterwards he wheeled up with a majestic bound, and poured a flood of light over heaven and earth. It was as magnificent as the first sun that rose upon the first morning, when " God said let there be light, and there was light."
Immediately afterwards I descended, and rejoined my companions with no other unpleasant effects from my night's sleep on the top of the pyramids than a purse enlightened by a liberal backsheesh, and a rather uneasy appetite.

Cliché Edgar Brothers (source : Jon Bodsworth)

L’intérieur de la Grande Pyramide et ses “autres appartements”
Having made the ascent of the pyramid of Cheops, we next turned our attention to the interior. This pyramid stands on a platform of rock a hundred and fifty feet above the surrounding desert, and near fifty more above the valley of the Nile. We found the entrance in the centre of the north side. Several Arabs accompanied us as guides. We clambered up to it, about thirty feet above the base. We proceeded down the passage, (...) groping our way along, each preceded by a guide holding a taper. Haying descended this passage to some depth, we struck another passage which ascends into the body of the pyramid at a rather sharp angle. We followed this until our way was obstructed by a rock, which overhangs the mouth of the well. Climbing over this impediment, we came to the point whence a long horizontal gallery branches off to the Queen's chamber. We continued our way however up the passage, leading with a gentle inclination to the King's chamber. After considerable toil, we arrived at the great chamber of the pyramid. The guides had brought with them a large quantity of tapers, but their united illumination gave us but a faint idea of the size and appearance of the chamber. We could see, however, that the ceiling and walls, like the passages we had just traversed, were lined with immense slabs of Syene granite, and porphyry polished to an extraordinary brilliancy. They were so compactly joined together, as to present a surface of uniform smoothness, having the appearance of one entire block of stone. The chamber being in the centre of the pyramid, is supposed to communicate with other apartments. The entrance, if there be any, is hermetically closed, and nothing less than an earthquake will ever rend it open.
In the middle of the apartment we observed the sarcophagus, broken and mutilated. This apartment is thirty-seven feet two inches long, seventeen feet two inches wide, and nearly twenty feet in height. One of the Arabs discharged a pistol while we were in it. The reverberation was deafening. The sound seemed to gather force as it rolled through the many chambers of the pyramid ; echo followed echo, until the din became appalling, now lulling, then again breaking forth into a louder roar, as it rushed into some new chamber. At last, with one explosive peal of thunder, it burst its way out and ceased. These multiplied echoes indicate that there are other chambers in this pyramid not yet discovered.

Chambre de la Reine, chambres de décharge, puits, chambre souterraine
The Queen's chamber, which is directly beneath the one we had just visited, is of smaller dimensions, but finished with the same compact masonry, and polished granite, as that of the King's. These were the only chambers we entered, the access to even these being attended with much difficulty. We were obliged to grope our way along in the dark, on our hands and feet, half choked with the dust which our progress excited, not knowing whither we were going, but following blindly at the heels of our Bedouin guides.
A new chamber was discovered several years ago, directly above the King's, of small dimensions, by Mr. Davidson, the British consul at Cairo. And, in 1836, Caviglia opened three new chambers directly above this, the largest of which is more than thirty-eight feet long. The chambers, as far as opened in this pyramid, are directly above each other, the object of which succession Colonel Vyse supposes to have been to lessen the superincumbent weight of one upon the other.
The well, the mouth of which we crossed at the termination of one of the galleries, has been descended to the depth of one hundred and fifty-five feet, without attaining the bottom. Caviglia found a shaft which conducted towards the foundation of the pyramid, where he entered a large chamber sixty feet long. This chamber is in the centre of the pyramid, directly beneath the upper chambers. In it is the mouth of a well, which has been opened, but it is supposed to lead below the level of the Nile, to subterranean passages, or probably to some canal which is connected with the Nile, and served as an auxiliary in the religious solemnities enacted in these subterranean caverns. Caviglia found many passages leading from this chamber, in different directions, sealed up however, at some distance from the opening, by blocks of stone. Should a perfect exploration ever take place of the wells of the pyramid, and these lateral passages, it would be found that they communicate with the adjoining pyramid of Cepheres ; and as there are the same kind of subterranean galleries in that pyramid of an equally intricate labyrinthine course, it is not unreasonable to conjecture that they communicate with the neighbouring pyramid of Mycerinus.

 Illustration de 1882

Les trois fonctions de la pyramide
The whole rock beneath the pyramid is excavated into subterranean galleries and caverns, which once, probably, opened upon the great avenue of stone which conducted to the Nile, at the head of which stood the Sphynx.
We know enough to conclude that the pyramids were erected for a triple object, as mausolea for the kings, astronomical observatories, and for the celebration of religious mysteries ; and in my humble opinion, their founders had in view the combination of these three objects. A few facts are sufficient to sustain this hypothesis. The sarcophagi found in them are evidence of their destination as royal sepulchres. The exact position of the four corners of the pyramids with reference to the four cardinal points of the compass, the uniform angle of 26° of the sloping channels of entrance, and the observation made by Caviglia, that the polar star, during his exploration of the pyramid of Cheops, was to be seen from the bottom of the first galley, and that it passed over it during his stay at the pyramid, all these facts indubitably prove the adaption of the pyramids to astronomical purposes. That they were in some manner connected with the religion of the Egyptians it is reasonable to conjecture, from the mysterious nature of that religion, its dark and secret ceremonies, secluded from the eye of the vulgar in gloomy temples, and hidden caves, and the perfect adaptation of the subterranean chambers, vaults, and galleries, beneath the pyramids, to its rites and ceremonies.

Selon Caviglia, des galeries souterraines relient les différentes pyramides
The pyramid of Cephrenes is several hundred feet distant from the great pyramid. This pyramid was opened by Belzoni. It contains several chambers of great beauty. It is better preserved than the pyramid of Cheops, part of the original cement on the outside still remaining.
Beyond this again, on the same level, is another pyramid, and several miles distant, nearly in a line with the pyramids of Gizeh, on the edge of the desert, are the pyramids of Sakkarah and Abousir. The pyramids of Sakkarah are quite inferior structures to those of Gizeh, being loosely built of small stones, and of very meagre dimensions in height and extent. The pyramid of Cheops towers above all, while the others gradually diminish in height, as they recede from the great pyramid. Caviglia is of the opinion that all these pyramids are connected by subterranean galleries. The hollow sound which the earth gives back to the footstep, between these pyramids, would seem to give a show of plausibility to such an opinion. This underground communication would traverse a distance of nearly ten miles ! Connect this reasonable hypothesis, and the time and labour necessary for the excavation of such immense works beneath the earth, with the absence of hieroglyphics, or any signs of writing in the pyramids, and you may have some idea of the prodigious antiquity of the pyramids and their yet undeveloped mysteries.

Illustration de W.H. Bartlett

Le sourire du Sphinx
In the midst of all this mystery and contusion sits the gigantic figure of the Sphynx, smiling placidly and benignly, and seeming to exult in the baffled curiosity of the bewildered traveller. The head and neck alone remain above the sand, a height of about thirty feet. (...) The outlines of the face indicate it to be a sculpture of much merit, though it may be justly doubted whether it ever possessed so much beauty and expression as is ascribed to it by the ancient authors. With the aid of a ladder, we ascended to the head, where four of us sat down together to breakfast. The whole figure of the Sphynx was cleared of the sand which now surrounds it by Belzoni. Between the legs he found a tablet and altar, which appeared to be stained with the blood of sacrifices. On one of the paws of the legs, which stretched out fifty feet from the body, he found a temple. This gigantic figure, when thus fully exposed to view, must have been very imposing. A doorway is said to have anciently existed between the legs of the Sphynx, which gave entrance to the subterranean vault beneath, which formed part of the labyrinthine chambers and galleries that traverse the earth between the pyramids.”