samedi 10 septembre 2011

Construction des pyramides égyptiennes : un travail et un coût qui n’ont servi à rien, selon Philip Sanford Marden (XIXe-XXe s.)

Une précision immédiate, pour compléter le titre de cette note : l’immense chantier des pyramides n’a été d’aucune utilité pour le but initialement recherché. “Khéops et autres pharaons, écrit Philip Sanford Marden (1874-1963) dans Egyptian days (1912), ont érigé pour eux-mêmes des tombeaux qui devaient durer des siècles, et probablement pour l’éternité, mais leurs corps n’y étaient en définitive pas plus en sécurité que s’ils avaient été ensevelis dans les plus humbles des tombes.”
On retiendra par ailleurs ce que l’auteur écrit à propos de l’accrétion, une théorie, selon lui, qui intéresse sans doute encore les étudiants, mais qui présente en réalité des incohérences, au point d’être “hautement improbable”.

“Various theories have been advanced to account for the extraordinary magnitude of the Fourth Dynasty pyramids as contrasted with those of later times. Most interesting of all, though probably fallacious, is the one which holds that these pyramids were matters of accretion - that is to say, that each king began his monument on a modest scale and added to it year after year, so that the resulting pyramid would be directly proportionate to the length of his reign.
The trouble with this is that several kings, whose reigns were of respectable length and fairly comparable to those of Cheops and Khephrên, did not leave pyramids as large as theirs. And moreover, as will be seen by referring to the drawing of the Great Pyramid in section, such an hypothesis seems irreconcilable with the arrangement of the interior passages. True it is that alterations were made in the internal design as the work advanced, but so far as appears, even the original plans called for a pyramid but little smaller than that which was finally built. The point at which the tomb-passage enters the rock of the plateau appears to fix the lower limit of size in the case of the pyramid of Cheops - and it is no modest pile, even then. Therefore, while the accretion theory is by no means dead and still finds a degree of favor among students, it seems highly improbable that it can be relied on to explain the case.
From the indications it seems necessary to assume that Cheops from the first planned a structure very nearly as large as the one he actually completed ; and plausible to account for the subsequent falling-off in size in the other monuments as due to excessive costs or possibly a failure of engineering skill.

The latter factor in the time of Cheops was indeed marvelous, as is revealed by the nicety of measurement and accuracy of orientation. The error in attempting to make the front of the tomb face the true north is practically negligible, and the same is said to be true of the slight errors in placing the four comers. Considering the primitive tools and the configuration of the land, which precluded direct sighting, the results attained were extraordinary, and could not be bettered, even if they could be equaled, by modem engineers. As for the fitted blocks of the exterior casing, while few remain, it is possible to see that their joints were of amazing accuracy, and the work in the casing of the inner hall is frequently compared for minuteness of exactitude to the best work of modem opticians. (...)
A glance at the plan of the pyramid of Cheops will serve to show more of its arrangement than a
visit to its depths. A steeply descending passage leads down to a sepulchral chamber deep in the native rock. That is not shown to visitors. Instead, one takes the ascending passage that leads up to the very centre of the pyramid, part of it spacious and lofty, but most of it abominably cramped and low.
Up this incline it is supposed the body of Cheops was carried on the last day and laid to rest in the huge sarcophagus that still occupies a place in the " King's Chamber". Then the huge plug blocks of granite which had been prepared were let down to bar future entry, the narrower passages were (perhaps) filled with rubble,
the workmen escaped by the roughly vertical shaft to the lower passage in the rock below, the entrance in the outer casing was smoothly closed - and theoretically the grave-robbers were forever foiled ! Practically the tomb was rifled within a few hundred years - possibly even during the period of unrest that closed the Old Kingdom's career in the Ninth and Tenth dynasties. The labor and cost had been all in vain. Cheops and the rest had erected for themselves tombs that would endure for centuries, probably for all time, but their bodies were no more secure at the last than if they had been laid in the humblest grave.”

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