jeudi 13 janvier 2011

“L’exploration des pyramides vient juste de commencer” (Harriett Martineau - XIXe s.)

La Britannique Harriett Martineau (1802-1876) était journaliste et sociologue, traductrice d’Auguste Comte.
En 1846, en compagnie de quelques amis, elle effectua un voyage en Égypte, Palestine et Syrie, dont elle relata les principales étapes dans son ouvrage, en trois volumes, Eastern Life, Present and Past (1848). Le texte ci-dessous est extrait du vol. 2.
L’auteur, bien que n’affichant pas de compétences particulières en archéologie, se pose à l’évidence les bonnes questions sur la configuration interne de la Grande Pyramide : qu’y a-t-il sous la niche de la chambre de la Reine ? ou encore derrière les blocs obturant les couloirs ? quelle est la fonction réelle des “structures souterraines” ?
Cette dernière question entraîne d’ailleurs un commentaire de Harriett Martineau, dont les pyramidologues contemporains comprendront la pertinence : “ Il n’est pas satisfaisant, à mon sens, de supposer que les ‘structures souterraines’ avaient pour simple fonction de permettre aux ouvriers de sortir de la pyramide, une fois le passage supérieur fermé par les herses en granit.”
Harriett Martineau (Wikimedia commons)
“I was surprised to find myself disappointed in the Pyramids now, when it had been precisely the reverse at a distance. Instead of their growing larger as we approached, they became less and less wonderful, till at last they exactly met one's preconception, except in being rougher, and of a brighter tint. The platform on which the largest stands is higher than our reading had given us to suppose ; and the Second Pyramid, which at a distance looks as large as the other, here sinks surprisingly. This was to me the strongest evidence of the magnitude of the Great Pyramid.(...)

La chambre du Roi : art et grandeur
I have spent the greater part of two days in the Mammoth Cave of Kentucky (*) ; a place generally considered awful enough : but compared with this [the King’s Chamber], it was like a drawing-room to a cellar. The fantastic character of its walls and roofs takes off from the impression of its vastness and gloom. Here, the symmetry and finish so deepen the gloom as to make this seem like a fit prison-house for fallen angels. Notwithstanding the plain view we obtained in the chamber of the enormous longitudinal blocks of the ceiling, the impression was less tremendous than in the descending passage, from the inferior vastness. There is nothing but the structure itself to be seen, except the sarcophagus near one end. It is sadly broken : but it still rings like a bell, when struck on the side.
The granite is blackened by time; but its grain is seen where it has been chipped by those who were in search of the air-holes.
The prodigious portcullises of granite in the passage were more visible to us in going down than in ascending : and how they came there was an oppressive speculation in itself. It must be remembered that this structure, with its wonderful art and bewildering grandeur, was the work of the men of five thousand years ago. It dates from the earlier part of the First Period, and is the oldest monument known to exist in the world. If this is, to us, the beginning of the Arts, this, which manifests the existence of so many appliances of art unknown to us now, how are we to speculate on what went before ? and how completely do we find ourselves thrown out in all our notions of the duration of the human race ! (...)

Le “creux” sous la niche de la chambre de la Reine reste à explorer
The chief interest about the Queen's Chamber is from its being under the apex of the Pyramid ; which the King's is not. Its ceiling is on this account pointed, like the great entrance. There are also five small, rough chambers above it, evidently put there to lessen the superincumbent weight. Though this chamber is smaller than the King's, it seems to be distinguished by being under the apex ; and also by a niche, rather elaborately wrought. A pit has been opened below this niche, by searchers, and the rubbish thrown into a corner. Sir G. Wilkinson wishes that, if further search is made here for the king's body, it should be by looking under this niche. My great desire would be to have the Pyramid explored down to the lowest part where any traces of works could be found. Works carried down so low must have some purpose ; and it might be well worth our while to discover what. It is not satisfactory to my mind to suppose the "subterranean structures" intended merely to let the workmen out, after they had closed the upper passage with its granite portcullis.

Une “merveilleuse manière” de boucher les couloirs de la pyramide... Mais qu’y a-t-il derrière les blocs de fermeture ?
The great difficulty, in exploring the Pyramid, after the expense and toil of getting to work at all, is from the wonderful way in which these ancient builders closed the passages. Their huge granite portcullises, blocking up the way, are almost insuperable. It is hard to distinguish them from other blocks, and to guess when there is a passage behind ; and then it is very hard to get round them.
I have a strong impression myself that, after all the wonders our pains-taking and disinterested antiquarian travellers have laid open, there is much more behind, and that the exploration of the Pyramid is only just begun. If it be true that some one fired a pocket-pistol within the Pyramid, and that the echoes were countless, the reverberation going on for an astonishing length of time, it seems as if the edifice might be honey-combed with chambers. But for these unmanageable granite portcullises, what might we not learn ! (...)

Références à Hérodote et ‘Abd al-Latîf... mais rien ne saurait remplacer l’ “étonnement” ressenti personnellement
I suppose every one knows the account given by Herodotus of the building of this pyramid. (...) All this narrative (...) is known to every body who cares about Egypt ; and every body has no doubt been struck by this testimony to the use of iron tools, and the existence of polished stones, machinery, writing and engraving, between five and six thousand years ago. But every body may not know what evidence we have of the solidity and extraordinary vastness of these works, in the impossibility which has been found of taking them to pieces.
I fear that all such descriptions [l’auteur a cité de longs extraits de la relation d’Abd al-Latîf] are thrown away, in regard to the object of giving to the readers of them any idea of what the Pyramids are. They are useful as records, however, and extremely interesting to travellers in going over the ground. As for the impression, there is nothing like the momentary sensation of seeing the blue daylight at the top of the entrance passage, when one is on one's way out. More real astonishment is felt at that moment than from reading all the descriptions of all authors.”

(*) Cette grotte “est de loin le plus grand réseau souterrain au monde, avec près de 600 kilomètres explorés de galeries. L'origine du nom de la grotte, qui date du XVIIIe siècle, provient donc de sa taille importante et ne possède aucun rapport avec l'animal préhistorique.” (source : Wikipédia)

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