dimanche 15 mai 2011

Les pyramides étaient probablement, selon Jacob Bryant (XVIIIe s.), “d’immenses rochers” qui furent aménagés et revêtus de grands blocs de pierre

C’est en faisant appel à une cascade de superlatifs que le Britannique Jacob Bryant (1715–1804) décrit les pyramides de Guizeh et les techniques mises en oeuvre par leurs bâtisseurs.
L’ouvrage A new system or an analysis of ancient mythology, vol. V, 1776 (extraits ci-dessous), l’atteste : l’admiration de l’auteur est sans bornes. D’ailleurs, les pyramides n’ont-elles pas été édifiées, selon lui, par les Cushites, présentés comme des Rois Bergers, et plus précisément comme des Titans et des Géants ?
Après avoir pris ses références auprès des Thévenot, Sandys, Greaves et Pococke, Jacob Bryant prend ses aises et se hasarde dans des hypothèses personnelles, sans doute inspirées par son expertise en matière de mythologie. Il affirme ainsi que la “principale” pyramide, autrement dit celle de Khéops, n’a pas été construite pour servir de tombeau. Sinon, pourquoi un “puits” et des couloirs de communication avec l’extérieur ? En réalité, le monument avait uniquement une fonction rituelle : il était un “temple of the Deity”. Ce que l’on considère comme un sarcophage n’a jamais servi à l’ensevelissement de qui ce fût : c’était un “réservoir”, alimenté par le “puits”, utilisé pour les libations en l’honneur de la divinité honorée en ce lieu.
Sur sa lancée, l’auteur poursuit avec une autre conjecture, concernant cette fois-ci la construction des pyramides : il y voit, à l’instar du Sphinx, des masses rocheuses naturelles qui auraient été aménagées, avec des chambres et des couloirs, puis recouvertes de blocs de revêtement de manière à être “symétriques” et “proportionnées”.
On pourra enfin prêter une attention particulière à l’un des traits caractéristiques du tempérament égyptien, tel que perçu par Jacob Bryant et, selon lui, illustré par la pratique des prêtres de l’ancienne Égypte qui exerçaient leur fonction sacrée dans l’obscurité de la pyramide : “Il n’y a aucun peuple sur la terre qui soit aussi enclin à la morosité et à la mélancolie que les Égyptiens.”

cliché de Maria Gonzalez de Quinilla (1920)
“It would be unpardonable, if I were to pass over in silence the mighty works, which this people carried on, and the edifices, which they erected in the different parts, where they settled. All those mounds and causeways, the high roads, and stately structures, which have been attributed to Semiramis of Babylonia, were the works of the ancient Semarim of that country. They formed vast lakes, and carried on canals at a great expence, and opened roads over hills, and through forests, which were before impassable. (...)
Those who were driven to Egypt, and took up their residence in that country, carried on the like works ; many of which remain to this day, and are the wonder of all, who view them. Besides clearing the river, and gaining a most valuable territory, they enriched the upper region with numberless conveniences. The canal, which they carried on from the upper point of Delta to the Red Sea, was an immense operation. They undertook it and, however people may dispute the point, it was finished. This is evident from the abutments of the floodgates, which are still existing between the hills, through which it passed. For they took advantage in conducting it, of an hollow; in the Arabian mountain, and led it through this natural channel. (...)
The stones, of which they made use for the construction of their obelisks, and pyramids, were hewn out of the mountain of Arabia, and some were brought from the quarries in the Thebaïs. Most of these are so large and ponderous that it has been the wonder of the best artists how they could be carried to that degree of elevation, at which they are seen at this day. The obelisks consist of one stone, and are of a great length. Two of them have been brought from Alexandria to Rome, and treatises have been written to show the manner of their conveyance ; and others to describe the means, by which they were afterwards raised. What must have been the original labour, when they were hewn from she rock, and when they were first erected.
The principal pyramid seems at first to have been five hundred feet in perpendicular height, though by the accumulation of sand, it may fall something short of that extent at this day. The vertex was crowned with thirteen great stones, two of which do not now appear. Within are rooms, which are formed of stones equally large. Thevenot speaks of a hall, thirty feet in length, nineteen in height, and sixteen in breadth. He says that the roof is flat, and covered with nine stones, of which seven in the middle are sixteen feet in length. Sandys also speaks of a chamber forty feet in length, and of a great height. The stones were so large that eight floored it ; eight roofed it ; eight flagged the ends ; and sixteen the sides ; all of well-wrought Theban marble. The chamber, to which he alludes, is certainly the center room, but he is mistaken in his mensuration. We have it more accurately described by another of our countrymen, Greaves, who speaks of it as a rich and spacious chamber of most curious workmanship. The stones, says he, which cover this place, are of a strange and stupendous length, like so many huge beams lying flat, and traversing the room ; and withal supporting that infinite mass and weight of the pyramid above. Of these there are nine, which cover the roof.
He makes the room larger than it is posed to be by Thevenot ; for he says that by a most exact measurement he sound it to be something more than thirty-four English feet in length ; seventeen feet 100/1000  in breadth ; and nineteen and an half in height. Pocock takes notice of some prodigious stones, which he met with in these parts. One was found to be twenty-one feet in length, eight broad and four in depth. Another was thirty-three feet long, and five broad.
Many have been the surmises about the people, by whom these stately structures were erected. I have mentioned that they were the work of the Cuthites, those Arab Shepherds who built Heliopolis, who were (...) the Giants and Titans of the first ages. The curious traveller Norden informs us that there is a tradition still current among the people of Egypt, that there were once Giants in that country, and that by them these structures were raised, which have been the astonishment of the world. According to Herodotus, they were built by the Shepherd Philitis, and by a people held in abomination by the Egyptians. (...)

“Persons very ingenious and deeply skilled”
From these accounts, we learn two things : first, that the people, by whom these operations were carried on, were persons of great industry and labour ; and, in the next place, that they must have been very ingenious, and deeply skilled in mechanical powers. For even in these days, among the most knowing, it is matter of difficulty to conceive how these mighty works could be effected. There occur in our own island large stones, which were probably first raised on a religious account. It has been a subject of much inquiry, to find out in what manner they were brought, and by what means erected, where they stand. But in the countries, of which I have been speaking, we see masses of rock of far superior size not resting upon the earth, but carried aloft ; some to an hundred, others to five hundred feet, perpendicular.
Many have looked upon these ancient buildings, especially the pyramids in Egypt, with an air of contempt, as being vast piles without any great symmetry ; and have thought the labour idle, and the expence unnecessary. But it must be considered that they were designed for high altars and temples, and were constructed in honour of the Deity. Though they are rude, and entirely void of every ornament, which more refined ages have introduced, yet the work is stupendous, and the execution amazing, and cannot be viewed without marks of astonishment. And if we once come to think that all cost, which does not seem quite necessary, is culpable, I know not, where we shall stop : for our own churches, and other edifices, though more diversified and embellished, are liable to the same objection. Though they fall far short of the solidity, and extent of the buildings above mentioned, yet less cost might certainly have been applied, and less labour expended.

“Immensity and grandeur”
One great purpose in all eminent and expensive structures is to please the stranger and traveller, and to win their admiration. This is effected sometimes by a mixture of magnificence and beauty ;  at other times solely by immensity and grandeur. The latter seems to have been the object in the erecting of those celebrated buildings in Egypt, and they certainly have answered the design. For not only the vastness of their structure, and the area, which they occupy, but the ages they have endured, and the very uncertainty of their history, which runs so far back into the depths of antiquity, produce altogether a wonderful veneration, to which buildings more exquisite and embellished are seldom entitled.

auteur inconnu (1920)
“a temple of the Deity”
Many have supposed that they were designed for places of sepulture, and it has been affirmed by Herodotus, and other ancient writers. But they spoke by guess, and I have shewn by many instances, how usual it was for the Grecians to mistake temples for tombs. If the chief pyramid were designed for a place of burial, what occasion was there for a well, and for passages of communication, which led to other buildings ?
Near the pyramids are apartments of a wonderful fabric, which extend in length one thousand four hundred feet, and about thirty in depth. They have been cut out of the hard rock, and brought to a perpendicular by the artists chizel ; and through dint of labour fashioned as they now appear. They were undoubtedly designed for the reception of priests ; and consequently were not appendages to a tomb, but to a temple of the Deity.
It is indeed said that a stone coffin is still to be seen in the center room of the chief pyramid, and its shape and dimensions have been accurately taken. It is easy to give a name, and assign a use, to any thing, which comes under our inspection ; but the truth is not determined by our surmises. There is not an instance, I believe, upon record, of any Egyptian being entombed in this manner. The whole practice of the country seems to have been entirely different. I make no doubt but this stone trough was a reservoir for water, which, by means of the well, they drew from the Nile.
The priests of Egypt delighted in obscurity, and they probably came by the subterraneous passages of the building to the dark chambers within, where they performed their lustrations and other nocturnal rites. Many of the ancient temples in this country were caverns in the rock, enlarged by art, and cut out into numberless dreary apartments, for no nation upon earth was so addicted to gloom and melancholy as the Egyptians. From the top of the pyramids, they observed the heavens, and marked the constellations ; and upon the same eminence it is probable that they offered up vows and oblations. (...)

“a vast rock fashioned into an object of beauty and veneration”
The Sphinx seems to have been originally a vast rock of different strata, which from a shapeless mass the Egyptians fashioned into an object of beauty and veneration. I should imagine that the pyramids were constructed in the same manner, at least those which are the principal, and stand opposite to Cairo. They were probably immense rocks, which stood upon the brow of the mountain. The Egyptians availed themselves of what chance offered, and cased them over with large stones, and brought them by these means to a degree of symmetry and proportion. At the same time, they filled up the unnecessary interstices with rubbish and mortar, and made chambers and apartments according as the intervals in the rock permitted, being obliged to humour the indirect turns and openings in the original mass to execute what they purposed. This, I think, may be inferred from the narrowness, and unnecessary sloping of the passages, which are oftentimes very close and steep, and also from the fewness of the rooms in a work of so immense a structure.”

Source : archive.org