|La flotille des invités du vice-roi passant non loin des Pyramides de Guizeh |
en novembre 1869
“From Ghizeh the road runs straight to the Pyramids on a broad, firm embankment, crossing the bright green cultivated land annually flooded by the fertilizing Nile waters. On the right and left the half-naked peasants are seen working on the land, with their primitive-looking implements, irrigating, ploughing, etc. (...). At length the visitor passes beyond the line of vegetation, and reaches the great ocean of desert sand, on the shore of which stand in desolation the colossal Pyramids.
Upon a rocky plateau of limestone, about forty feet above the surrounding plain, are situated the three Great Pyramids, several smaller ones, many ancient tombs, and the colossal Sphinx.
From the vast immensity of the desert landscape, and the absence of objects for comparison, the Pyramids seem scarcely larger on approaching them than when seen two or three miles off ; but when actually reached, a sense of their immensity comes over the mind with almost appalling effect. The best way to get an idea of their immense magnitude, as Zincke points out, is to stand in the centre of one side, and look up to the summit. "The eye thus travels over all the courses of stone from the very bottom to the apex, which appears literally to pierce the blue vault above. This way of looking at the Great Pyramid, perhaps, is a way which exaggerates to the eye its magnitude unfairly - makes it look Alpine in height, while it produces the strange effect just noticed.''
Un revêtement “recouvert de sculptures et d’inscriptions”
The usual process in Egyptian Pyramid building seems to have been to leave a nucleus of solid rock, and enclose it in a series of steps, formed of huge blocks of stone. Fresh series of steps were added to the outside, till the requisite dimensions were obtained. Then the steps were filled up with smooth polished stone, covered with sculptures and inscriptions. The interior chambers and passages were then used on the occasion of the sepulture of the illustrious builder, and the entrance hermetically sealed. From most of the Pvramids the outer polished stones have been removed, to furnish materials for the edifices of the Mahomedan epoch. So that now there remains in most cases the series of colossal steps up which visitors climb to the summit. Anciently each Pyramid had a temple near the base, in which divine honours were paid to the deified monarch for whom the pile was reared.
At the summit of the Pyramid is a platform about thirty feet square, from which a fine view is obtained. "There is something unutterably impressive," says a recent visitor, "steals over one's mind as one stands upon the top of that wonderful monument of ancient greatness and power. The long line of vegetation that separates the fruitful valley of the Nile from the arid desert can be traced and defined as distinctly, as far as the eye can reach (...). Along the line of this sea of sand, stretching into the far distance, a number of minor Pyramids are seen, past Old Cairo, and the site of Heliopolis, the 'city of the sun', the city called on in the 45th verse of the 41st chapter of Genesis. (...)
Intérieur de la Grande Pyramide
The Interior of the Great Pyramid was forcibly opened to view by the Caliph-el-Mamoon, a thousand years ago, in 820 A.d. He was the son of the well-known friend of our schooldays, Haroun-el-Raschid, and was incited by the hope of discovering treasure. The passage made by his workmen through the solid masonry, and leading to the true entrance to the Pyramid, is now choked up with rubbish.
At the present day the visitor enters at about forty feet from the base of the northern side, and descends by a massive vaulted gallery to a subterranean chamber, 347 feet from the entrance, and about 90 feet below the base of the Pyramid. This chamber measures 46 feet by 27 feet, and is about 11 feet in height. Mariette Bey argues that the builders of the Pyramid intended this chamber to be mistaken for the principal chamber of the Pyramid, and so serve to conceal the real resting-place of the royal mummy.
At rather more than sixty feet from the entrance, an upward passage, once carefully closed with an immense block of stone, leads towards the centre of the Pyramid. At a distance of 125 feet, it reaches what is called the Great Gallery.
At this point is the opening to what is called the Well, 191 ft. deep (communicating with the subterranean chamber above described), which was probably used for communication with various parts by the workmen in constructing the Pyramid.
Before ascending the Great Gallery, a horizontal passage is seen, 110 feet in length, leading to a chamber 18 feet by 17 feet, and 20 feet high, known as the Queen's Chamber. Mariette Bey supposes that the entrance to the Great Gallery was once hermetically sealed ; so that if successful in reaching the chamber now under notice, explorers might be led to suppose that the whole secret of the Pyramid was revealed.
But the Great Gallery, 151 feet long, 7 feet wide, and 28 feet high, with a surface of smooth polished stone, leads upwards to a vestibule once closed with immense granite portcullises.
Beyond is the King's Chamber, the chief chamber of the Pyramid, 34 feet 3 inches in length, 17 feet 1 inch broad, and 19 feet 1 inch in height. It contains the remains of a lidless sarcophagus of red granite. If the mummy of King Cheops ever rested in it, and the Pyramid was really built to guard that mummy, it cannot be said that the idea has been successfully worked out. The Pyramid is there, but the great king's remains have disappeared - how or when, none can say.
Piazzi Smith, and others who unite in his views, assert that the so-called sarcophagus is really a " coffer," designed to perpetuate a standard measure of capacity to all time, and exactly equivalent to the laver of the Hebrews, or four quarters of English measure.
Above the King's Chamber are two or three other rooms, apparently only constructed to lessen the immense weight of the upper part of the Pyramid.
What the Pyramids really were intended for, and who built them, are questions over which there has been an immense amount of argument and conjecture. Egyptologists are generally agreed that they are royal tombs, reared by successive stages, as above described, in the lifetime of the monarch, and at his death cased over with polished stone, and closed up. The Great Pyramid is assigned to Cheops by Herodotus, who tells a long story about the making of the causeway for the transfer of materials in ten years, and the building of the Pyramid in twenty more, 100,000 men being employed, and relieved at intervals of three months. Diodorus, Pliny, and others tell similar stories, but all written record of the Great Pyramid is, to say the least, doubtful. Cheops is considered to be identical with Shoofoo, third monarch of the fourth dynasty, who reigned over Egypt between twenty-four and forty-two centuries before the Christian era. The visitor must remember that the different schools of Egyptologists differ at least twenty centuries from each other in their chronological statements.
The Second Pyramid is assigned by Herodotus to Cephrenes, the brother of Cheops. Cephrenes is considered identical with the Shafra whose name is often found on monuments. This Pyramid is 447 feet high, and has a base line of 690 feet. This Pyramid is very difficult to ascend, as towards the top the ancient polished casing still exists. If the visitor cares to see the feat, one of the Arabs will run down from the top of the Great Pyramid, and across to the Second, and ascend to its summit, all in less than ten minutes, for a trifling gratuity. The interior gallery and chamber of this Pyramid were discovered by Belzoni in 1816, but had been previously opened by Sultan Othman six centuries before.
The Third Pyramid, that of Mycerinus, is only 203 feet in height, its base line being 333 feet. A wooden mummy case and mummy from this Pyramid are now in the British Museum. A sarcophagus, also found here, was lost at sea with the vessel that was transporting it.
The ancient story of the fair Egyptian princess, who was said to have reared this Pyramid with the fortunes of her lovers, and whose voluptuous life was celebrated by Sappho, and also the story of Rhodope, related by Strabo, are, of course, not to be taken as historic truth. Rhodope was a beautiful Greek girl, who, whilst bathing in the Nile, attracted the very birds of the air with her beauty. An eagle flew away with one of her slippers, but let it fall over Memphis. It was seen by Pharaoh, the owner was sought out, and, as the story goes, she became Queen of Egypt, and was buried in this Pyramid.
The Causeways by which the materials were brought for the construction of the First and Third Pyramids still exist, though in diminished proportions. That leading to the Great Pyramid is 83 feet in height and 32 feet broad. It was by these causeways, the smooth stones forming the outer casing of the Pyramids, were retransported by the Caliphs and Sultans in order to erect their Mosques and Palaces."