mercredi 9 août 2017

“Ni à la Grande Pyramide, ni nulle part ailleurs en Égypte, nous ne disposons de la moindre preuve que les anciens Égyptiens, à n'importe quelle époque de leur histoire, ont utilisé des appareils mécaniques autres que le levier, le rouleau et le plan incliné” (James Baikie - XIXe-XXe s.)

Extraits de Egyptian antiquities in the Nile Valley, 1932, de James Baikie (1866–1931). Nous ne disposons d’aucune information sur cet auteur, notamment sur ses compétences en matière d’archéologie. Il est simplement précisé qu’il fut particulièrement prolifique sur des sujets tels que l’astronomie, la Bible ou l’histoire ancienne.

Casing Stone of the Great Pyramid - Creator: Harry Pollard [1925-1926]
“The pyramids may be reckoned, along with the Great Sphinx and the obelisks, as the most characteristic examples of the work of the Ancient Egyptians as they are certainly those whose memory remains longest in the minds of those who have seen them. But by ‘the pyramids' the average visitor to Egypt usually means nothing more than the group of the famous three at Giza and thereby he carries away an entirely inadequate idea of the whole conception, nature, and function of the pyramid, and runs the risk of leaving his mind as fallow ground on which the germ of Great Pyramiditis may be sown, to bear in due course its usual crop of thistles and tares. 

The Great Pyramid, in particular, is absolutely unique
To see no pyramids but those of the Giza group, with nearly all the attention concentrated (rightly enough from the sightseer's point of view) on the Great Pyramid alone, means almost inevitably to produce in the mind the idea that this group of three pyramids is something entirely exceptional in Egyptian thought and practice, and that the Great Pyramid, in particular, is absolutely unique as to render the commonplace theory of its having been merely a tomb very difficult of acceptance.
What ought to be realized, therefore, first of all, with regard to the pyramids is that the Giza group, far from being exceptional, is only one group out of many which still exist in Egypt, and many more which once existed but have now perished ; that groups of pyramids once stretched, and still stretch, though with gaps now in the line, from Abu Rawash, five miles north of Giza, to Meroë, deep in the Sudan, between the Fifth Cataract and the Sixth, and within a short distance of Khartum ; that every single one of these pyramid groups is part of a necropolis, of which usually the centre ; and that every one of the pyramids had in its time a temple attached to it which offerings were made and regular ritual gone through with on behalf of the dead person whom the pyramid commemorated and whose resting-place it was. It will then be understood that the pyramids, whereever they may be found, and whatever their size, were nothing more or less than tombs, and that all the efforts of the ingenious individuals who have striven, with labour almost as vast as that which built the pyramids themselves, to show that the Great Pyramid is a divinely inspired compendium of everything that man has known, may know, or ought to know, as repository of all sorts of standard measures, an observatory (surely the most cumbrous and clumsy ever constructed), and a prophecy of all that has happened since it was built and all that will happen till it tumbles down, are simply ‘vanity and a striving after wind'. 

The Great Pyramid itself is simply the culmination of the series
The Great Pyramid itself, vast as are its dimensions, is no exception in the regular series of pyramids ; it is simply the culmination of the series. Somewhere or other, and some time or other, there was bound to be a biggest specimen of the universal pyramid tomb of royalty. The somewhere and some time came in the reign of Cheops of the IVth Dynasty, who was neither the first Pharaoh nor the last to build a great pyramid ; and it came at Giza, because Giza was the most convenient place for the purpose at the time. Cheops's pyramid is certainly the biggest, by a good margin, of all extant pyramids ; but Chephren's comes in a good second ; while Sneferu's pyramid at Meydum, did the later monster at Giza not exist, would have proved quite as good a subject as its successor for the paradoxers to exercise their misplaced ingenuity upon. (...)

The Herodotus' account
There remains the question of how the Great Pyramid was built, and whether in its construction the Egyptian architects and builders used any mechanical appliances the secret of which has since been lost - a position which is frequently maintained.
The first account of the process, and still one of the best, is that of Herodotus, whose account of the inscriptions on the pyramid we have already quoted. Briefly, he tells us that there were 100.000 men employed upon the work, that they first made a road for the transport of the stone from the Nile bank to the plateau, that this road was 1,017 yards long, 60 feet broad, and 48 feet high, and took ten years to build. The construction of the pyramid itself, he says, occupied twenty years (ten of which, of course, might possibly run concurrently with the work on the causeway). The stones were raised from step to step of the structure by means of what he calls machines made of short beams, which appear to have been simply systems levers ; and the top of the pyramid was finished first. The army of men employed worked, he says, during three months of every year. 

Other accounts
Some modern students are of opinion that the number of men employed could have done the work quite well in the twenty years, working three months a year, as he says ; but this has been questioned by others, notably by Mr. Engelbach.

Petrie has pointed out that the work would go on only during the months when the water of the inundation was out over the land and when field-work was at an enforced standstill. With this explanation of the system, a new complexion has been put upon Cheops's previously bad reputation. It was Herodotus who began the job of miscalling Cheops as a sacrilegious tyrant who closed all the temples in his land, and forced the whole nation to toil at his gigantic tomb ; fortunately it is Herodotus also who has provided the antidote to his own charges by his statement that the labourers only worked three months a year.
Now that this statement has been put in its true relation to the fact of the inundation, opinion with regard to the character of Cheops has largely veered round, and that forceful Pharaoh is now reverently hailed as the author of the first scheme for the relief of unemployment, which seems also to have been one of the greatest of such schemes. But what these theorists will not, or are unable to appreciate is the fearful expenditure of copper for dressing the blocks, of costly imported wood for levers and sleds, the pressing into service (for surely it must have been so) of every available transport-barge in the country for a perfectly useless object. What Cheops may have thought of it all is another matter. Probably he was neither a tyrant nor a social service enthusiast born out of due time, but merely a Pharaoh who believed that he would have a better chance in the next world if his body was kept intact in this, and did his best, having the power, to secure that desirable end. 

Various dodges which never existed save in the brains of those who have drawn them
As to the question of means and implements, it may suffice to say that neither at the Great Pyramid nor anywhere else in Egypt has the least shred of evidence been found that the Ancient Egyptians ever, at any period of their history, used any mechanic appliances except the lever, roller, and the inclined plane. The various dodges which have been attributed to them and confidently sketched in plan and elevation never existed save in the brains of those who have drawn them, and would not have been of any good if they had. On the other hand, Petrie found ample evidence of the use of long copper saws, at least nine feet in length, which were probably used to cut the great blocks of stone employed, and of tubular drills, which were used for hollowing out, for example, such stones as the granite block of Khufu's sarcophagus. It may be a comfort to those who are disappointed at the Egyptians' failure to anticipate the miracles of modern engineering science to learn that while, as we have seen, they could make bad mistakes in using both their saws and their drills, their work with them in general was amazingly good. ‘Truth to tell, modern drill cores cannot hold a candle to the Egyptians ; by the side of the ancient work they look wretchedly scraped out and irregular.’”