vendredi 8 juillet 2011

Les pyramides d’Égypte sont révélatrices d’un “stade très avancé de civilisation” (F. Barham Zincke - XIXe s.)

Le pasteur britannique Foster Barham Zincke (1817-1893) était un collaborateur des revues Fraser's Magazine et Quarterly Review. Il visita l’Égypte en 1871, un voyage au terme duquel il publia Egypt of the Pharaohs and of the Kedivé (extraits ci-dessous).
Selon l’auteur, les pyramides elles-mêmes sont “un chapitre de l’histoire de notre race” humaine. Plus éloquentes encore que des pages écrites de cette histoire, elles témoignent, par le simple fait de leur construction et des techniques mises en œuvre pour ce faire, d’un très haut niveau de connaissances et de compétences : “Dans ces grands travaux, nous voyons que rien n’a été ignoré ou négligé. Tout ce qui pouvait survenir était anticipé et calculé avec la plus grande précision.”
On ne pouvait adresser plus bel éloge aux bâtisseurs de pyramides et, plus globalement, à toute la société égyptienne d’alors qui avait donné à son agriculture un niveau de développement tel qu’elle pouvait se permettre de libérer 100.000 de ses paysans pour cette tâche “non productive” qu’était la construction de la Grande Pyramide.

Auteur inconnu (1894)
“That the three great Pyramids of Gizeh were erected by Chufu, Schafra, and Menkeres, the Cheops, Chephren, and Mycerinus of Herodotus, we now know with as much certainty as that the Pantheon was built by Agrippa, and the Coliseum by the Flavian Emperors. We also know with equal certainty that they were built between five and six thousand years ago. From these pyramids to the Faioum extends along the edge of the desert a region of pyramids, and circumjacent necropoleis. Not far from a hundred pyramids have been already noted. These were the tombs of royalty. The uncrowned members of the royal family, the ministers of state, the priests, and the other great men of the dynasties of the Old Monarchy lie buried around. Their tombs, excavated and built in the rock, are innumerable. Some of them reaching seventy feet or more back into the mountain (the tombs of the New Monarchy at Thebes were several times as large), are constructed of enormous pieces of polished granite, most exquisitely fitted together. Some are covered with sculptures and paintings, traced with much freedom and a grand and pleasing simplicity. They describe the offices, occupations, and possessions, and the religious ideas and practices of those for whom they were constructed.
Great was the antiquity of Thebes before European history begins to dawn. It was declining before the foundations of Rome were laid. Its palmy days antedated that event by as long a period as separates us from the first Crusade. But the building of the Great Pyramids of Gizeh preceded the earliest traditions of Thebes by a thousand years.

In this pyramid region, and its necropoleis, we have a chapter in the history of our race, the importance of which every one can comprehend. It is a history which, while in the main it omits events, gives us fuller and more genuine and authentic materials than any written history could give, for a complete understanding of the every-day life and arts of the people. And the time for which it gives us this information is so remote that there is no contemporary history of any other people which we can compare with it, or with which we can in any way bring it into connection. It has nowhere any points of contact. It is a rich stream of history that runs through a barren waste of early time, like the Nile itself through the Libyan Desert, with a complete absence of affluents.
Having, then, made out the position of this epoch with respect to general history, the next point is to ascertain as distinctly as we can what were the arts, the knowledge, the manners, the customs of the period, that is of those who were buried in these pyramids and necropoleis. When they lived, and what they were, give to them their historic interest and importance.
The mere naked fact that this Great Pyramid was built implies that agriculture was so advanced, and, in consequence, so productive, and that society was so thoroughly organized, that the country could maintain for thirty years 100,000 men while occupied in the unproductive labour of cutting and moving the stones employed in its construction. To which we must add the 100,000 men engaged for the ten previous years upon the great causeway which crossed the western plain, from the river to the site of the Pyramid, and over which all the materials for the Pyramid were brought. Modern Egypt could not do this. We should find it an enormous tax upon our resources.
There is also implied in the cutting and dressing of this vast amount of stone, the supply of a corresponding amount of tools ; and as granite was at that time used largely in the construction of some of the tombs and pyramids, it implies that those tools were of the best temper.
It must also be remembered that
some of these pyramids had crossed the Nile. The unwieldy and ponderous stones of which they were constructed had been quarried in the Arabian range, and brought across the river to the African range on which the pyramids stand. How much mechanical contrivance does this imply ! All these great blocks had to be lifted out of the quarry to be brought down to the river, carried across the river, and then again across the cultivated western plain to the first stage of the Libyan hills. They had to be lowered into the boats and lifted out of them. The inclined causeway was made of dressed and polished blocks of black basalt, a kind of stone extremely difficult to work. It was a mile in length. And when the blocks for the Pyramid had at last reached the further end of the causeway they had to be lifted into their place in a building that was carried to a height of 480 feet. Herodotus mentions the succession of machines by which they were elevated from the bottom to the top. Their mechanical arrangements then must have been well planned and executed.
In these great works we see that nothing was overlooked or neglected. Everything that could happen was anticipated and calculated with the utmost nicety, and completely and successfully provided for. This would, in itself alone, imply much accumulated knowledge, and habits of mind which nothing but long ages of civilization can give. No rude people can make nice calculations, can take into consideration all the conditions of a problem, or take precautions against what may happen thousands of years after their time.
If then we take these structures, such as we have them now before our eyes, and work out in our minds the conditions, both contemporary and precedent, involved in the single fact of their having been built, we see distinctly that we are not contemplating one of the earlier stages, but
a very advanced stage of civilization. All traces of the inception of the useful arts, and of social organization, are utterly wanting. We have before us a great community which, when seen for the first time, appears, Minerva-like, full-grown and completely equipped.”
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