jeudi 9 juin 2011

Les Hyksos ne pouvaient pas avoir été les constructeurs des pyramides” (Moritz Busch - XIXe s.)

Le vade-mecum du publicitaire allemand Julius Hermann Moritz Busch (1821-1899) Guide for travellers in Egypt and adjacent countries, translated from the German by W.C. Wrankmore, 1858, est un excellent exemple du guide du bien voyager en Égypte. Il est à la fois un résumé des connaissances (et erreurs d’interprétation) en égyptologie à l’époque de sa parution et une relation d'observations personnelles effectuées sur place par l’auteur, en bon journaliste qu’il était également.
En complément de renseignements lui permettant de mieux “lire” les monuments qu’il découvrait au cours de sa visite, le “voyageur” était informé des divergences relatives à leur période de construction.
Selon l’auteur, la détermination de cette époque fut faussement appréciée par le peuple égyptien au temps d’Hérodote, du fait d’une confusion entre deux périodes de “souffrance” : celle du chantier proprement dit (des travaux pénibles et inutiles) et celle du despotisme des Philistins.
Décidément, Hérodote fut mal informé ! Mais cela, nous l’avions déjà maintes fois constaté...

“In the distance, the Pyramids appear as prodigious as they really are, but on approaching them to within a quarter of an hour's walk you seem to have been deceived in their size. Close to and upon them, you are again sensible of their stupendous height. (...) The aggregate measurement is estimated at about ninety millions of cubic-feet, the ground-line at 746 feet ; or in other words the Pyramid covers a space of more than 21 Prussian acres, and is at present, without the socle, 421 ½ feet high, and must have been originally, with the socle belonging to the rock and the point that is now fallen away, 480 feet. In trying to throw a stone from the summit to its base, an idea may be formed of its magnitude, as it will be found that the stone will alight on the third or fourth part of the steps, human strength not being able to throw so far.
The socle of the Pyramid, symmetrically cut out of the rock, rises 100 feet above the highest watermark of the Nile. On it rests the first perpendicular layer of stone, and on this the pyramidal erection with its square-stones and steps. According to old writers, the space between the steps was inlaid with slabs of stone, glazed, and fitting accurately into each other ; these, and the stone prisms used to fill up the space along the four edges, gave to the sides the appearance of a smooth surface. At present this surface has fallen off, and each side resembles stairs narrowing to the I summit.
The material of this and most of the other Pyramids, consists, especially in the interior, of nummulite lime-stone, which is common here, or of stone cut out of the mountains on the right side of the Nile, which was conveyed on rafts over the river, and from thence on an immense dam, built of glazed stones, to the place required.

La visite continue par l’intérieur de la pyramide
Descending is easier than ascending, especially for those not subject to giddiness, indeed those only ought to visit the summit. The traveller is then conducted into the interior by the Arabian guides. The entrance is in the centre of the north side, raised several steps above the base of the Pyramid, which is embedded in sand. It is a square shaft about four feet high and three and a half feet broad, slanting downwards and very slippery. Before entering, candles must be lighted to find the way. An enormous block crosses the top of the portal, and on it rest others nearly as large, in form of a gable, to sustain the upper weight. This entrance was once quite covered with the before mentioned facing.
Following the Fellahs you descend nearly to the bottom of the Pyramid, where there is a deep pit that was dug out by workmen employed by an old Caliph to search for treasures. From here a passage leads to the undermost chamber of the rock, which is more than a hundred feet under the base line and six hundred from the summit. You are then pulled and pushed into the second passage, lying in the same angle as the first, but leading upwards into the interior. It is just as low as the other, but smooth and shining from the exactness with which the stones are joined. After a time this passage expands into a large gallery 28 feet high and 5 feet broad. The walls meet at the top by means of easy progressive steps. The direction is the same as that of the passage under it, leading upwards. Here the air is rather cooler and lighter than below, where it is very heavy and close.
Where the large gallery commences, the level passage under it turns off to the so called Queen's Chamber. It is the apartment where the funeral rites were celebrated. This also the guides will not exempt the visitor from visiting, although there is nothing to see but a chamber of granite 14 feet high, 18 feet long, and 16 ½ feet wide ; the smooth sloping ceiling is built of large blocks, in form of a gable. Continuing the gallery upwards we at length enter the high King's Chamber through a low ante-room, and a door only high enough to allow the sarcophagus to be passed through. The walls are of granite, glittering in the light of the candles ; the ceiling is flat on account of another row of low apartments over it, which serve to divide and bear the weight. This King's Chamber is 19 feet high, 34 feet long, 17 feet wide and 138 feet above the base-line. In it the Arabs generally couch down in a circle, singing and beating time with their hands, whilst one or the other fires his gun off.
On the whole, one does not feel very much at ease in the interior of the Pyramid. The apartment contains nothing but the plain and much defaced sarcophagus of King Cheops or rather Chufu, who piled up this mass of stone to preserve his mummy, and so (in accordance to the belief of his time) secure his existence after death. In this he succeeded for a long time, till the before mentioned plunderers entered the Pyramid.
The Caliph who sent them, in the year 820, was Mamun. They found inside the sarcophagus a wooden chest for the mummy, and in it the king's body with a gold breast-plate, on which were unknown characters. But the looked for treasures were not to be found, and it is said the Caliph was obliged to hide a sum of money there to quiet his people, who had begun to murmur at this useless and protracted work.
On descending again through the large gallery, a pit opening at the end of it must not be overlooked. It is of immense depth and shows the clever manner in which the entrance to the sarcophagus was blocked up. The lower end of the narrow passage (a continuation of the before mentioned gallery) was closed from within with blocks of granite. The workmen then came up again to the mouth of the pit, and descended into the narrow opening, only wide enough to admit one person at a time, through a winding passage, which is not now to be distinctly traced, into the lower passage ; this latter leading from the deepest chamber, and passing outside the above described blockade, to the top.

Divergences sur l’âge de la Grande Pyramide
Different statements have been made respecting the age of the largest Pyramid. Wilkinson (*) refers its origin to 2123 B. C, and Max Duncker (**) expresses the opinion (in his work "History of the Ancients") that the building of the Cheops Pyramid was not earlier than the year 2300 B. C. Other writers think the erection of the Pyramids a work of strange races, either of the Ethiopians or Hyksos, and not of the Egyptians, but they are wrong. According to Hebrew tradition, they were built by the children of Israel as Joseph's granaries. Plinius tells us that the erecting of the three Pyramids of Gizeh took 78 years and 4 months, but this statement is not at all authenticated. Herodotus says that the large one was 20 years building, the two largest 106 years, and that no less than four hundred thousand workmen were employed.
The Egyptian tradition, handed down by the same ancient writer, describes Cheops as a wicked tyrant. The Egyptians would not even pronounce the name of the Pyramid-kings, so great was their hatred, and this hatred has continued for nearly two thousand years.
They named the Pyramids after a shepherd, Philitis, who was said to have grazed his cattle near the spot. Here evidently the Philistians are meant, who maybe considered as descendants of those Hyksos, who were the hated foreign oppressors of Egypt, between 1500 and 2000 years B. C. But, as before said, the Hyksos could not have been the builders of the Pyramids, and so it must be concluded, the two periods of suffering in the Egyptian history - that of the time the Pyramids were built, when the people were forced to useless and hard work, and that, when the despotism of the Philistians was over the country - were, at the time Herodotus lived, united into one in the tradition of the people, though more than a thousand years elapsed between.

La seconde pyramide
The second largest pyramid of Gizeh, is that built by king Chephren or Chafra (according to Lepsius ; Chronology, p. 302, Soris of the Kings' lists, the predecessor of Chufu or Suphis). It was opened again by Belloni in 1816, and was once 454, now 447 feet high. It stands rather higher than the first, and the builders were obliged to level the rock, in order to gain room for their work ; but on the north and west side, the rock still remains like a wall 20-30 feet high. The entrance is on the north side at a tolerable height ; it leads through a sloping passage down to the base line, thence proceeding on a level to the chamber, hewn out of the rock, and in which the bodies were deposited. In it was found a sarcophagus of granite which contained nothing but rubbish. The same passage that leads in and out from the base line, branches off, where it ascends to the upper entrance, into a deeper passage, which after passing under the base of the Pyramid, leads up again to the surface, opening under the pavement. As before mentioned, part of the smooth facing still adheres to this Pyramid, and therefore it is very difficult to ascend its summit. A visit to the interior is a somewhat arduous undertaking, as, in most places it is necessary to creep along on the hands and knees.

La troisième pyramide
The third Pyramid, built by Mykerinos or Menkera, and first opened again by Colonel Vyse in 1837, is now 203 feet high, but was originally 218 feet. It stands at a right angle with the second. To build this one, they were obliged not only to cut the rock, that inclines northeastward, but also to form it into a sort of terrace by means of immense blocks. It is also very difficult to enter this Pyramid. A sloping passage, not much raised from the ground, leads down into the rock, and then, for the most part on a level, to the first apartment, the entrance to which was prevented by pit-falls and barricades. From this apartment, a passage, which can be seen at the top of the wall, leads up into the Pyramid, and terminates abruptly. This first apartment was appropriated to the funeral ceremonies ; through its floor a narrow and deep passage leads to the chamber where Menkera's coffin stood. This chamber is hewn in the rock, and inlaid with blocks of granite, which, meeting from two sides, form a vaulted ceiling.”

(*) sur cet auteur : lire la note de Pyramidales ICI
(**) Max Duncker (1811-1886), historien allemand. Pour consulter en ligne le volume 1, consacré à l’Égypte, de The History of Antiquity, cliquer ICI