vendredi 3 juin 2011

“Les pyramides [d’Égypte] étaient des tombes et rien d’autre” (E.A. Wallis Budge -XIXe-XXe s.)

Wallis Budge
L’égyptologue anglais Sir Ernest Alfred Thompson Wallis Budge (1857-1934) était “keeper” (conservateur) des Antiquités égyptiennes et assyriennes au British Museum.
Il est surtout connu pour avoir effectrué la translittération du LIvre des Morts du papyrus d'Ani.
La description des pyramides de Guizeh qu’il propose dans son ouvrage The Nile : notes for travellers in Egypt , 4th 1895, est somme toute très classique dans la mesure où elle repose sur les écrits d’Hérodote (je n’ai pas repris, dans les extraits ci-dessous, les longues citations de l’historien grec, que l’on retyrouvera par ailleurs dans ce blog), ainsi que sur la théorie de Karl Richard Lepsius (construction de la pyramide à partir d’un noyau central, puis par ajouts successifs). De cet auteur, E.A. Wallis Budge donne l’appréciation suivante dont on appréciera la modération : ”Les explications du Dr. Lepsius peuvent ne pas être correctes, mais au moins, elles répondent de manière satisfaisante à plus d’objections que ne le font en la matière les vues des autres théoriciens.”

“On the western bank of the Nile, from Abu Roash on the north to Medum on the south, is a slightly elevated tract of land, about twenty-five miles long, on the edge of the Libyan desert, on which stand the pyramids of Abu Roash, Gizeh, Zawyet el- 'Aryan, Abusir, Sakkarah, and Dahshur. Other places in Egypt where pyramids are found are El-lahun in the Fayyum, and Kullah near Esneh. The pyramids built by the Ethiopians at Meroe and Gebel Barkal are of a very late date (b.c. 600-100), and are mere copies, in respect of form only, of the pyramids in Egypt.
It is well to state at once that the pyramids were tombs and nothing else. There is no evidence
whatever to show that they were built for purposes of astronomical observations, and the theory that the Great Pyramid was built to serve as a standard of measurement is ingenious but worthless. The significant fact, so ably pointed out by Mariette, that pyramids are only found in cemeteries, is an answer to all such theories.

Tomb-pyramids were built by kings and others until the Xllth dynasty. The ancient writers who have described and treated of the pyramids are given by Pliny (Nat. Hist., xxxvi. 12, 17). If we may believe some of the writers on them during the Middle Ages, their outsides must have been covered with inscriptions ; these were probably of a religious nature. In modern times they have been examined by Shaw (1721), Pococke (1743), Niebuhr (1761), Davison (1763), Bruce (1768), Denon and Jomard (1799), Hamilton (1801), Caviglia (1817), Belzoni (1817), Wilkinson (1831), Howard Vyse and Perring (1837-38), Lepsius (1842-45), and Petrie (1881).

Construction des pyramides : cf. Lepsius
It appears that before the actual building of a pyramid was begun a suitable rocky site was chosen and cleared, a mass of rock if possible being left in the middle of the area to form the core of the building. The chambers and the galleries leading to them were next planned and excavated.
Around the core a truncated pyramid building was made, the angles of which were filled up with blocks of stone. Layer after layer of stone was then built around the work, which grew larger and larger until it was finished.
Dr. Lepsius thought that when a king ascended the throne, he built for himself a small but complete tomb-pyramid, and that a fresh coating of stone was built around it every year that he reigned ; and that when he died the sides of the pyramids were like long flights of steps, which his successor filled up with right-angled triangular blocks of stone. The door of the pyramid was walled up after the body of its builder had been laid in it, and thus remained a finished tomb. The explanation of Dr. Lepsius may not be correct, but at least it answers satisfactorily more objections than do the views of other theorists on this matter. It has been pointed out that near the core of the pyramid the work is more carefully executed than near the exterior, that is to say, as the time for the king's death approached the work was more hurriedly performed.
During the investigations made by Lepsius in and about the pyramid area, he found the remains of about seventy-five pyramids, and noticed that they were always built in groups.
The pyramids of Gizeh were opened by the Persians during the fifth and fourth centuries before Christ ; it is probable that they were also entered by the Romans. Khalif Mamun (a.d. 813-833) entered the Great Pyramid, and found that others had been there before him. The treasure which is said to have been discovered there by him is probably fictitious. Once opened, it must have been evident to every one what splendid quarries the pyramids formed, and very few hundred years after the conquest of Egypt by the Arabs they were laid under contribution for stone to build mosques, etc., in Cairo. Late in the twelfth century Melik el-Kamil made a mad attempt to destroy the third pyramid at Gizeh built by Mycerinus ; but after months of toil he only succeeded in stripping off the covering from one of the sides. It is said that Muhammad 'Ali was advised to undertake the senseless task of destroying them all.

The Great Pyramid
This, the largest of the three pyramids at Gizeh, was built by Chufu, or Cheops, the second king of the IVth dynasty, B.C. 3733 (...). His name was found written in red ink upon the blocks of stone inside it. All four sides measure in greatest length about 755 feet each, but the length of each was originally about 20 feet more ; its height now is 451 feet, but it is said to have been originally about 481 feet. The stone used in the construction of this pyramid was brought from Turra and Mokattam, and the contents amount to 85,000,000 cubic feet. The flat space at the top of the pyramid is about thirty feet square, and the view from it is very fine.
The entrance (A) to this pyramid is, as with all pyramids, on the north side, and is about 45 feet above the ground.
The passage A B C is 320 feet long, 3 ¼ feet high, and 4 feet wide ; at B is a granite door, round which the path at d has been made. The passage at D E is 125 feet long, and the large hall E F is 155 feet long and 28 feet high ; the passage E G leads to the pointed-roofed Queen's Chamber H, which measures about 17 x 19 x 20 feet. The roofing in of this chamber is a beautiful piece of mason's work. From the large hall E F there leads a passage 22 feet long, the ante-chamber in which was originally closed by four granite doors, remains of which are still visible, into the King's Chamber J, which is lined with granite, and measures about 35 x 17 x 19 feet. The five hollow chambers K, L, M, N, O were built above the King's Chamber to lighten the pressure of the superincumbent mass. In chamber the name Chufu was found written. The air shafts P and Q measure 234 feet x 8 inches x 6 inches, and 174 feet x 8 inches x 6 inches respectively. A shaft from E to 5 leads down to the subterranean chamber S, which measures 46 x 27 x 10 ½ feet. The floor of the King's Chamber J is about 140 ft. from the level of the base of the pyramid, and the chamber is a little to the south-east of the line drawn from T to U.

Inside the chamber lies the empty, coverless, broken red granite sarcophagus of Cheops, measuring 7 ½ x 3 ¼ x 3 ½ feet. (...)

The second pyramid
The second pyramid at Gizeh was built by Châ-f-Râ, or Chephren, the third king of the IVth dynasty, B.C. 3666 (...).. His name has not been found inscribed upon any part of it, but the fragment of a marble sphere inscribed with the name of Châ-f-Râ, which was found near the temple, close by this pyramid, confirms the statements of Herodotus and Diodorus Siculus, that
Chephren built it. A statue of this king, now in the Gizeh Museum, was found in the granite temple close by.
This pyramid appears to be larger than the Great Pyramid because it stands upon a higher level of stone foundation ; it was cased with stone originally and polished, but the greater part of the outer casing has disappeared. An ascent of this pyramid can only be made with difficulty. It was first explored in 1816 by Belzoni (born 1778, died 1823), the discoverer of the tomb of Seti I. and of the temple of Rameses II at Abu Simbel.
In the north side of the pyramid are two openings, one at the base and one about 50 feet above it. The upper opening led into a corridor 105 feet long, which descends into a chamber 46 ½ x 16 ⅓ x 22 ½ feet, which held the granite sarcophagus in which Chephren was buried. The lower opening leads into a corridor about 100 feet long, which, first descending and then ascending, ends in the chamber mentioned above, which is usually called Belzoni's Chamber.

The actual height is about 450 feet, and the length of each side at the base about 700 feet. The rock upon which the pyramid stands has been scarped on the north and west sides to make the foundation level. (...)

The third pyramid
The third pyramid at Gizeh was built by Men-kau-Râ, the fourth king of the IVth dynasty, about B.C. 3633 (...). Herodotus and other ancient authors tell us that Men-kau-Râ, or Mycerinus, was buried in this pyramid, but Manetho states that Nitocris, a queen of the VI th dynasty, was the builder.
There can be, however, but little doubt that it was built by Mycerinus, for the sarcophagus and the remains of the inscribed coffin of this king were found in one of its chambers by Howard Vyse in 1837. The sarcophagus, which measured 8 x 3 x 2 ½ feet, was lost through the wreck of the ship in which it was sent to England, but the venerable fragments of the coffin are preserved in the British Museum, and form one of the most valuable objects in the famous collection of that institution. The inscription reads : "Osiris, king of the North and South, Men-kau-Râ, living for ever ! The heavens have produced thee, thou wast engendered by Nut (the sky), thou art the offspring of Seb (the earth). Thmother Nut spreads herself over thee in her form as a divine mystery. She has granted thee to be a god, thou shalt nevermore have enemies, O king of the North and South, Men-kau-Râ, hving for ever." This formula is one which is found upon coffins down to the latest period, but as the date of Mycerinus is known, it is possible to draw some interesting and valuable conclusions from the fact that it is found upon his coffin. It proves that
as far back as 3.600 years before Christ, the Egyptian religion was established on a firm base, that the doctrine of immortality was already deeply rooted in the human mind.
The art of preserving the human body by embalming was also well understood and generally practised at that early date.

The pyramid of Men-kau-Râ, like that of Chephren, is built upon a rock with a sloping surface ; the inequality of the surface in this case has been made level by building up courses of large blocks of stones. Around the lower part the remains of the old granite covering are visible to a depth of from 30 to 40 feet. It is unfortunate that this pyramid has been so much damaged ; its injuries, however, enable the visitor to see exactly how it was built, and it may be concluded that the pyramids of Cheops and Chephren were built in the same manner. The length of each side at the base is about 350 feet, and its height is variously given as 210 and 215 feet. The entrance is on the north side, about thirteen feet above the ground, and a descending corridor about 104 feet long, passing through an ante-chamber, having a series of three granite doors, leads into one chamber about 40 feet long, and a second chamber about 44 long. In this last chamber is a shaft which leads down to the granite-lined chamber about twenty feet below, in which were found the sarcophagus and wooden coffin of Mycerinus, and the remains of a human body. It is thought that, in spite of the body of Mycerinus being buried in this pyramid, it was left unfinished at the death of this king, and that a succeeding ruler of Egypt finished the pyramid and made a second chamber to hold his or her body. At a short distance to the east of this pyramid are the ruins of a temple which was probably used in connexion with the rites performed in honour of the dead king. In A.D. 1196 a deliberate and systematic attempt was made to destroy this pyramid by the command of the Muhammadan ruler of Egypt.”

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