vendredi 26 août 2011

Selon Walter Scott Perry (XIXe s.), les pyramides égyptiennes ont été construites à l’aide l’un plan incliné en terre

Walter Scott Perry fut directeur de I’École des beaux-arts et des arts appliqués au Pratt Institute de Brooklyn (NeyYork), et secrétaire honoraire de la Fondation pour l’Exploration de l’Égypte, créée en 1882 par Amelia Edwards.
Sa description des pyramides égyptiennes, telle que l’on peut la lire dans Egypt, the land of the temple builders, 1898, présente les quelques particularités suivantes :
- mention y est faite des air-shafts (“conduits d’aération”) de la Chambre du Roi, dans la Grande Pyramide ; par contre, on n’y trouve aucune allusion à ceux de la Chambre de la Reine (observation confirmée par le croquis joint au texte) ;
- le transport des blocs de pierre jusqu’au sommet (“till the top”) des monuments a été effectué à l’aide d’un plan incliné de terre (“incline of earth”) ;
- lorsque Joseph fut vendu en Égypte et qu’il y devint intendant de la maison de Pharaon, les pyramides à l’Ouest du Caire avaient plus de 1.000 ans d’existence ;
- l’étude de certains détails architecturaux de l’intérieur de la pyramide de Mykérinos prouve que déjà, à cette époque très reculée, les bâtisseurs avaient imaginé la construction d’un plafond en forme de voûte (“a roof having the appearance of an arch”).
À part ces observations particulières, l’auteur se contente d’une relation très “classique”, sans doute empruntée à des sources qu’il nous faut imaginer dans la mesure où elles ne sont pas mentionnées.

“The sides of the three great pyramids of Gizeh - Cheops, Chephren, and Mycerinus - face the four cardinal points of the compass. Cheops measures, approximately, seven hundred and fifty feet on each of the four sides. It is four hundred and fifty feet, in height and covers an area of nearly thirteen acres. Its estimated weight is about seven million tons. Let one consider any ground-area of thirteen acres of land with which he is familiar, and in imagination pile upon it, in pyramidal order, blocks of stone with an average thickness of three feet, until the apex shall reach a point four hundred and fifty feet from the foundation, and he will then have gained some idea of the colossal dimensions of this silent witness of more than five thousand years of human life and activity.
The first requirement for the actual construction of the pyramid appears to have been the levelling of the rock surface. This was probably followed by the excavation of the subterranean
chambers and the building of a foundation of stone reaching up to the level of the surrounding sands.
This foundation was then covered with a layer of stones about three feet thick. Stones for another similar layer were
rolled up an incline of earth and put in place. Then other layers were added till the top was reached. The incline of earth was raised as needed for each platform and when all were in place the earth was removed. Thus the great pyramids may have reached their gigantic proportions. 
The summit was crowned with a pyramidal stone and the step-like spaces on the surface were filled so as to form a solid mass with four sloping sides. As in due course of time this surface covering has disappeared, the summit is now accessible. But to climb to the top of one of these pyramids, under any circumstances, is no easy matter ; for the true steepness is not measured by the slant of the long lines from the angles of the base to the apex (...), but by the slope of the outline presented by a face view. (...)
Through a study of the ancient Egyptians' belief in the immortality of the soul and the consequent preservation of the body after death, we arrive at the true purpose of the construction of the pyramids situated along the plateau of the great burial-grounds of which the necropolis of Sakkarah is a part.
Even a man of humble origin who had risen to importance might erect, for the reception of his mummy and his portrait-statues, a tomb that should withstand the ages. It behooved a greater man, such as the king of all Egypt, to raise a monument consistent with his rank and power, in the form of a pyramid that should bear testimony to his greatness centuries after he had passed away. And they builded better than they knew, for, when Joseph was sold into Egypt and became ruler over Pharaoh's household, the pyramids west of Cairo had endured for more than a thousand years.
The great pyramid of Cheops, it will be remembered, is seven hundred and fifty feet square at its base and four hundred and fifty feet in height. The entrance was found forty-eight feet above the foundation. The first passageway is four feet in height and a little over three feet in width. It was made to descend a distance of three hundred and twenty feet. This passageway to subterranean vaults was doubtless built in order to lead from the true location of the sarcophagus any who might break into the tomb.
At a distance of sixty feet from the entrance and at a point originally blocked up by huge stones, is the beginning of a long inclined corridor leading to the centre of the pyramid. The first section of this passage is one hundred and twenty-three feet in length, and five and one-half feet in height. A horizontal passageway leads to what is called the "Queen's Chamber," a room eighteen feet square and twenty feet high. The ascending corridor continues for another distance of one hundred and fifty-five feet, and this part is twenty-eight feet in height and of a width varying from three and one-half feet at the lower end to about seven feet at the upper end. At the end of this corridor is another narrow horizontal passage connecting with the "King's Chamber". Nothing was found in this chamber but the remains of a granite sarcophagus.
The "King's Chamber" is thirty-five feet long, seventeen feet wide, and nineteen feet high. The floor is one hundred and forty feet above the foundation. The walls and ceiling of the room are lined with granite. In order to relieve the pressure, five horizontal slabs, with spaces intervening, were placed above the main roof of the hall. In the last space were found inscriptions in red paint upon the stones, with the name of Khufu (Cheops) upon them.
Two small air-shafts were carried obliquely upward to the outside surface of the pyramid ; one being nearly two hundred and forty feet in length. The second pyramid, that of Chephren, although not so large as that of Cheops, contains nearly five million tons of masonry. Its passageways leading into the interior chambers are similar in construction to those in Cheops, but are not so easy of access. The "King's Chamber" is of about the same size as that in the first pyramid. In it was found a sarcophagus that had been ransacked and was filled with debris.
the third pyramid the tomb-chambers are below the foundation, and cut into the solid rock. In one was found a sarcophagus, which, according to the inscription, once contained the body of Mycerinus, its builder. This pyramid is very interesting as furnishing an illustration of the fact, that, even so far back as the time of the pyramid-builders, there was the desire to construct a roof having the appearance of an arch. This was secured in the tomb-chamber by leaning stones one against another at an angle, and cutting away the inner surface so as to produce the appearance of a vault.
As has been said, the remains of sarcophagi found in these pyramids show conclusively the use for which they were constructed, and also illustrate the religious thought regarding the preservation of the body against all possible attempts at annihilation. 

One of the chief objects of interest associated with the pyramids is the Sphinx of the desert.
Hewn out of the solid rock to a height of sixty-six feet and spreading its great length one hundred and forty feet along the ground, it lies like some huge petrified form of prehistoric birth, half buried in the undulating sands. A tablet that has been found records the fact, that as early as the time of Thothmes III., about 1500 B. c, it was still partly covered with sand ; for on this tablet Thothmes makes record of a dream in which he is entreated by the Sphinx to clear away the sand.
To the Egyptians the Sphinx was a symbol of Horus, the early morning sun, the new-born light of morning, which had conquered darkness and overcome death with life. Facing the east, the Sphinx reflects the brilliancy of the sunrise, which illuminates the world after its conflict with the powers of darkness. It was thought that the kings were elected to represent the sun-god upon the earth, and the Sphinx was therefore symbolic of the divine nature of their mission.”

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