lundi 5 septembre 2011

“Dans toutes les pyramides, une grande ingéniosité a été mise en oeuvre pour cacher la chambre sépulcrale” (R.G. Murison - XXe s.)

L’Histoire de l’Égypte (History of Egypt, 1900) de Ross George Murison, enseignant en langues orientales à l’University College de Toronto, se contente d’un bref développement consacré aux pyramides, basé sur les relations d’Hérodote et de Petrie. Rien que de très banal en somme, si ce n’est que l’auteur ne manque pas de relever un détail sur la technique de construction des monuments (par degrés, avant que les façades ne soient nivelées, puis “polies”).
Quant à la qualité de la “maçonnerie”, elle est présentée comme “insurpassable” dans la Chambre de la Reine, alors que, contrairement à une logique plutôt consensuelle, la Chambre du Roi est privée des honneurs de la première place au tableau d’honneur du travail accompli.
Je ne sais qui a inspiré à Ross George Murison cet étrange classement. Rien n’indique en tout cas qu’il ait été établi suite à des observations personnelles.

Chambre de la Reine - photo Edgar Brothers
“The pyramids are rightly considered one of the wonders of the world, and taking into account
the purpose for which they were built they might almost be regarded as the greatest. The largest, that of Khufu, is at the present time 451 feet in height, with 568 feet as the length of the sloping face, and each base 750 feet in length. Originally the measurements were somewhat greater, as it now lacks the outer layer.
It covers about thirteen acres of ground, and is calculated to contain 6,800,000 tons of stone,

probably more stone than has ever been put into any one other building. The limestone of which it is composed came from the quarries on the opposite side of the river, and the granite with
which it was finished came from Aswan five hundred miles up the Nile. Herodotus was informed that a million men were employed three months annually for twenty years in erecting it, and Petrie thinks this number working for the three months of the inundation when other work could not be done would be sufficient, if there was besides them a large permanent corps of stone-cutters.
The people of later times execrated the memory of the pyramid builders because of their cruel oppression : a tradition in which there is likely too much truth.
The pyramids were first built in steps, then levelled off by great blocks of dressed stone, after which the whole pyramid was carefully polished. On the great pyramid none of this facing now remains, so that it is easy of ascent by means of the steps. The workmanship in this pyramid varies greatly in quality. In the queen's chamber the jointing of the granite blocks which line it is "an unsurpassable marvel of skilful masonry". The work is so well done that the joints can scarcely be distinguished, "neither hair nor needle can be inserted", an old Arab writer says. How such exact stone-cutting could be done at that time is as yet unknown, though it has been suggested that they used drills fitted with jewel points.
In the king's chamber above, which is reached by the Great Hall, the work is very much inferior.
The measurements of
the second pyramid are : height 450 feet, slope 566 ¾ feet, and base 694 ½ feet, and of the third, height 204 feet, slope 263 ¾ feet, base 356 ½ feet. Each side of the pyramid is carefully placed facing one of the four cardinal points of the compass.
In all the pyramids, of which there are about seventy, great ingenuity was displayed in hiding the sepulchral chamber, which was generally underground. The passage was closed with great stones, and numerous false passages were built to deceive and discourage any who might seek to rob the dead.
The pyramids and
the Sphinx are closely associated in the popular mind as the two great wonders of Egypt. The Sphinx is a knoll of rock running out to a promontory from the pyramid plateau. This headland has been in some age carved to resemble the human head, and the rock behind it has been given the semblance of a recumbent lion. It may be that a natural likeness suggested this figure. The head is now much mutilated, but it is still very impressive, not only from its gigantic proportions, but from its air of "impassive dignity".
By some the Sphinx is regarded as pre-historic, but this is improbable. It belongs to some time
later than the fourth dynasty and earlier than the eighteenth. From a fancied resemblance some
conclude that it was made by Amenemhat of the Twelfth. Near the Sphinx is the granite temple,
sometimes wrongly called the Temple of the Sphinx, one of the finest examples of Egyptian
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