mercredi 13 juillet 2011

Selon Stanley Lane-Poole (XIXe-XXe s.), les pyramides marquent les débuts de l‘art égyptien

L’orientaliste et archéologue britannique Stanley Lane-Poole (1854-1931) a travaillé au British Museum de 1874 à 1892. Puis, de 1897 à 1904, il fut professeur d’études arabes à l’Université de Dublin.
Son ouvrage Egypt, publié en 1881, comporte, dans le chapitre consacré au Caire, un long développement sur les pyramides, où l’auteur introduit sa description des caractéristiques de ces monuments par quelques considérations techniques générales où les pyramides sont classées dans la catégorie des cairns ou tumulus.
Ce texte peut être mis en relation avec celui, postérieur d'une vingtaine d'années, de Clive Holland, extrait de Things seen in Egypt (ouvrage publié en 1908 et présenté dans ce blog inventaire). On ne manquera pas de remarquer de nombreuses similitudes dans les deux textes, parfois au mot ou à la phrase près.
La pratique du copier-coller, nous l’avons noté dans ce blog, fut (et demeure ?) fréquente en matière d’égyptologie, notamment en pyramidologie, comme si un même “communiqué de presse”, émanant de sources dites “autorisées”, était maintes fois repris.
Pour avoir été, en quelques occasions, échaudé et même rudoyé lorsque je me suis risqué à souligner tel ou tel rapprochement entre des théories ou hypothèses présentant de toute évidence des similitudes, je me garde bien désormais, lorsqu’il s’agit d’auteurs contemporains, ne serait-ce que de poser la question de savoir qui copie qui ! Je me contente de juxtaposer les textes, d’ouvrir et de fermer les guillemets, laissant aux spécialistes ou auteurs concernés le soin de s’expliquer entre eux.
Pour le cas présent, je ne pense pas que Clive Holland risque de me chercher noise...

Illustration J.Chesney (1884)
“The largest and oldest burial-ground lies to the west of Cairo and of the river. On the sweep of desert under the Libyan hills, well above the reach of the inundation, are built the long series of massive stone cairns which mark the resting-places of the oldest of the kings of Egypt. Over half a degree, from Abu-Ruweysh to Meydûm, are scattered seventy pyramids, of all heights and stages of completion or dilapidation, and in spite of time and the thefts of modern builders, incredibly massive and indestructible, wonderful in their age and their inviolable endurance. A pyramid is simply a barrow, only it is a heap of stones instead of earth, and the stones are laid regularly and their edges are finished, instead of being roughly thrown together. The principle of
the pyramid is always the same
. A rocky eminence on the desert tract lying between the river and the Libyan hills, above the reach of the inundation, was excavated for the sepulchre of the king, and a sloping passage was cut to it from the surface. Over this, to protect it from the invasion of desert sand and to mark the spot, a large block of stones was built, not quite in the shape of a cube, but tapering somewhat to the top. This was done probably early in the king's reign, and if he died at this point his mummy was inserted into the tomb, a small pyramidal cap was put on the top of the block of stone, and triangular blocks were built at the side, and a small pyramid, hermetically sealing the sepulchre of the king, was then complete. If the king continued to reign he omitted the cap and triangular blocks, and put another quasi-cube above the first, and other blocks round the base, so as to form a second stage, which if the king were now to die could be completed at once by a cap and triangular side-blocks to fill up the outline to the pyramidal form. The longer the king lived the more numerous the stages became, but at the same time the more rough became the masonry ; for it is observed that in the small pyramids, when the masons had plenty of time before them, the blocks are better fitted together and the surface more smoothly polished, than in the largest pyramids when death stood near the king and he had to hasten the completion of his cairn.
There are sometimes other chambers besides the tomb in pyramids, which were probably substitutes for the subterranean tomb in the later stages of the pyramid. In every case the entrance to the tomb itself - generally a steep sloping passage narrow and low -  was carefully concealed, and ingenious devices were resorted to in order to prevent the sarcophagus from being carried away. The material of the pyramids is mostly stone from the neighbouring limestone quarries, with finer blocks brought over the river from Tura and El-Ma’asarah ; but some are of brick.
All the Egyptian pyramids are collected together in one region, with the exception of a few small brick cairns at Thebes and some insignificant and late pyramids in Nubia ; and this region is the necropolis of Memphis, and the pyramids are all tombs of kings and dignitaries of the early Memphite dynasties, who ruled Egypt from about 4000 to 3000 B.C. (according to Brugsch). Of the old royal capital itself nothing remains but a few fragments of colossi, some granite blocks, a few statues (in the Bûlâk Museum), and the huge figure, nearly fifty feet high, of Ramses II., which belongs to the British nation, but has hitherto failed to find a transport to England. But of the necropolis of Memphis there remain not only the long series of royal pyramids but also a large number of subjects tombs.
Of the pyramids, the largest and most remarkable are the three of Gizeh, the Step pyramid of Sakkarah, and the "false pyramid" of Meydûm. They all belong to the oldest dynasties - one may even belong to the first or Thinite -, but the earliest identified is that of Meydûm, which is ascribed to Senoferu, of the third dynasty (B.C. 3766), from whom to the end of the sixth dynasty it is known that every king built a pyramid. 

The three pyramids of Gizeh are the tombs of three kings of the fourth dynasty, Cheops (or Khufu), Chephren (Khafra), and Mycerinus (Menkera). The pyramid of Cheops, known as the Great Pyramid, covers an area the size of Lincoln's Inn Fields, and originally had a height of 480 feet (higher than Strassburg, the tallest spire in Europe), with a cubic content of 3,277,000 cubic yards, weighing about seven million tons. Its base is square, and exactly faces the four cardinal  points. The four sides were originally cased with beautifully fitted polished slabs of limestone, about eight feet by five, on which were apparently engraved many inscriptions, but these slabs have been stolen by more modern builders, whence a slight reduction in the dimensions of the pyramid. The outer stones thus exposed are from two to five feet high, and each recedes about a foot. The sides rise at an angle of about 52°, and at the top is a square level platform about thirty feet square. In ancient times the entrance was entirely undiscoverable in the smooth polished surface, though there seems to have been a movable stone known to the priests ; but now the entrance is opened in the north side, about forty-five feet from the ground, covered with a pent-house roof A passage less than four feet square, and 320 feet long, sloping downwards at an angle of nearly 27°, so straight that the daylight can be seen from the lower end, conducts to the sepulchral chamber (40 + 27 feet, 11 high). Rather less than a quarter of the way, another passage, barred by a granite block which has compelled explorers to force a new way, branches off and ascends at an equal angle for 125 feet, when a horizontal passage diverges to the so-called Queen's Chamber, and a narrow tortuous pit descends more or less perpendicularly to the subterraneous chamber ; the ascending passage then widens into what is called the Great Gallery, 150 feet long and 28 high ; a vestibule is reached, with a granite portcullis, the survivor of four, running in granite grooves ; beyond is the King's Chamber, about 35 feet long and 17 wide, with a height of 19 feet, roofed and walled with granite slabs so exquisitely fitted that it is impossible to introduce a sheet of paper into the joints, and containing a lidless granite sarcophagus, long ago rifled, like most of the pyramid tombs. The King's Chamber is not quite under the apex of the pyramid, and the vertical pressure is further reduced by five low empty chambers over it.
The Second Pyramid, of Khafra, a little to the south-west of the Great Pyramid, to which it is
slightly inferior in size, is remarkable for retaining much of its original casing at the top.
The Third, of Menkera, is less than half the height of the others, but it was once cased with polished red granite, which still remains to the height of thirty feet or so, whence it is known as the Red Pyramid : the British Museum possesses a mummy stolen by some of our archaeological body-snatchers from the lower of its two subterranean tombs.
In front of the Great and at the side of the Third Pyramid, are three little pyramids, with descending passages to subterranean tombs. One of these Herodotus tell us was of Cheops' daughter, and probably all were of the royal family.
In front of each pyramid there was once a temple dedicated to the deified king of the sepulchre, and remains of such temples are to be seen before the second and third pyramids of Gizeh.
The approach to the pyramid platform was guarded by the Sphinx, the symbol of Horus in the horizon, a man-headed lion hewn out of a projecting rock, with a sanctuary between its forelegs, which M. Mariette believes to be older than the Great Pyramid. This mysterious figure, the intent of which has never been clearly understood, is in great part buried in sand, but its enormous head and shoulders rise massively out of its desert shroud, and in spite of the mutilation of the face, the loss of helmet, nose, and beard, it possesses a strangely impressive aspect.
North of Gîzeh is the ruined pyramid of Abu-Ruweysh, and south are the four shapeless dilapidated survivors of the fourteen pyramids of Abu-Sir, chiefly of the fifth dynasty, further south is the second great necropolis of Memphis, the pyramid plateau of Sakkarah, with eleven pyramids, innumerable tombs of all ages adorned with magnificent wall paintings, and the famous Apis mausoleum, the discovery of M. Mariette, wherein all the sacred bulls that were worshipped alive at Memphis, from the eighteenth dynasty to Ptolemaic times, were when dead buried in huge sarcophagi in recesses ranged along galleries, and worshipped in a temple outside, now covered up with sand, from which came some of the sculptures of the Louvre. Of the pyramids, that in six steps, with the angles not filled up, may have been built by Uenephes, of the first dynasty, and, if so, is the oldest monument in the world. It is peculiar in having an oblong instead of square base, in not facing the four points of the compass, and in the number and construction of its passages and chambers. The truncated pyramid attributed to Unas, the last king of the fifth dynasty, called the Mastabat-Faraûn, is also remarkable for its incomplete shape.
Beyond Sakkarah are the two large stone and two brick pyramids of Dahshur ; and still further (outside the actual Memphite necropolis) the so-called "false pyramid" of Meydûm, built by Senoferû, but having the triangular facings of its upper courses demolished, and thus, like the Step Pyramid of Sakkarah, exhibiting clearly the principle of pyramid building. In the tombs near Meydûm were found the oldest sculptures and paintings in the world, now the chief ornaments of the Bûlâk Museum.
The pyramid phase is the earliest in Egyptian art. In speaking of the temples of Thebes we shall have to consider the later style of sepulchral monuments : but at no other period do we find those qualities of imposing vastness and bewildering antiquity which give the pyramids their unequalled fascination.”

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