jeudi 31 mars 2011

Le “Pyramid Code” de Carmen Boulter

Carmen Boulter
Ce documentaire en 5 épisodes (scindés en 25 parties pour la version vidéo) propose une exploration des pyramides et des temples de l’Égypte ancienne, ainsi que de sites mégalithiques répartis dans le monde entier, à la lumière d’indices ayant trait à la “conscience matriarcale”, aux connaissances et à la “technologie sophistiquée” d’un très ancien Âge d’Or.
Pour le réaliser, Carmen Boulter, professeur à l’Université de Calgary (Canada), a effectué, depuis 1977, de nombreux voyages en Égypte et 51 autres pays.
Ce long et ambitieux parcours sur les sentiers de la connaissance se propose d’aborder les questions suivantes :
- Qui étaient les Anciens et quel était leur savoir ?
- Les pyramides ne seraient-elles pas plus âgées que ne le donne à croire l’égyptologie classique ?
- Les Anciens ne possédaient-ils pas un savoir technologique plus avancé que celui d’aujourd’hui ?
- Pourquoi savons-nous si peu des anciens Égyptiens ?
- Sommes-nous réellement la civilisation la plus avancée que la Terre ait jamais portée ?

Ces questions débouchent sur les 5 épisodes du documentaire :
1 - The Band of Peace : “This episode raises questions about the purpose of the pyramids challenging the story traditional Egyptology tells. See rare footage of 6 distinct pyramid sites near the Great Pyramid with evidence of superior technology and sophisticated knowledge of science and the cosmos.”
2 - High Level Technology : “In this episode, evidence that the ancient Egptians used high level technology to construct pyramids and temples is shown. Scientists discuss the source of this power and its applications in the ancient world. Our science is just beginning to grasp what the ancients clearly understood long ago.”
3 - Sacred Cosmology : “Deciphering the meaning of strange symbols in Egyptian art gives insight into the ancient's knowledge of sacred cosmology. A new way of interpreting hieroglyphics is presented, indication that the ancients had sophisticated understanding of physics, biology, and celestial mechanics. A team goes on an expedition into the open desert in search of a remote site of extreme antiquity called Nabta Playa. Here, neolithic stone circles were found marking the motion of the same stars as were tracked in pharonic civilization. The possible connection is discussed.”
4 - The Empowered Human : “... proposes that the pyramid builders were living in a Golden Age, they had more refined senses, experienced higher levels of consciousness which gave them superior abilities than we have today. The sacred feminine was honored and existed in balance with the sacred masculine.”
5 - A New Chronology : “After examining the evidence presented in the series, it seems clear that the dates given by traditional Egyptology do not fit. Carefully considering cycles of time through the Gold, Silver, Bronze, and Iron Ages of Plato's Great Year, a new chronology is emerging that illumines ancient Egypt.”

Le documentaire donne la parole à 13 chercheurs et “experts”, dont Graham Hancock, Robert Bauval, Walter Cruttenden et John Anthony West.
Il évolue dans les sphères de l’égyptologie que nous pourrions qualifier d’ “alternative”, se démarquant très nettement d’une lecture plus “classique” et “traditionnelle” de l’histoire et des acquis de la civilisation égyptienne.

mercredi 30 mars 2011

À la vue des pyramides d’Égypte, “tout saisit à la fois le cœur et l’esprit d’étonnement, de terreur, d’humiliation et de respect” (Émile-Mathieu Campagne - XIXe s.)

Émile-Mathieu Campagne est surtout connu pour son Dictionnaire universel d’éducation et d’enseignement, “à l’usage de la jeunesse des deux sexes, des mères de famille, des instituteurs, des maîtres et maîtresses de pension et des élèves qui se préparent à une épreuve publique quelconque, contenant tout ce qu’il y a de plus essentiel dans les connaissances humaines et de tous les renseignements d’une application journalière en matière d’éducation, d’enseignement primaire, d’enseignement secondaire”.
Son autre ouvrage L’Afrique à vol d’oiseau, 1882 (extraits ci-dessous) est de la même veine, puisqu’il a été édité dans la série Bibliothèque morale de la jeunesse.
Les pyramidologues aguerris n’apprendront évidemment rien de ce bref récit. Celui-ci ne propose qu’un “survol” rapide du site de Guizeh, mettant l’accent sur les sentiments - dont celui d’une humilité étrangement baptisée “humiliation” - que l’on peut éprouver à la vue des majestueuses pyramides.
Mais comment pourrait-on regretter qu’une approche pédagogique de ces monuments soit placée sous le signe de l’“enthousiasme” ?

Photo de 1900 - auteur inconnu
“Une autre merveille de l'Égypte, ce sont les pyramides. La main du temps et plus encore celle des hommes, qui ont ravagé tous les monuments de l'antiquité, n'ont rien pu jusqu'ici contre les pyramides. La solidité de leur construction et l'énormité de leur masse les ont garanties de toute atteinte et semblent leur assurer une durée éternelle. Les voyageurs en parlent tous avec enthousiasme.
On commence à voir ces montagnes factices dix lieues avant d'y arriver ; elles semblent s'éloigner à mesure qu'on s'en approche. On est encore à une lieue, et déjà elles dominent tellement sur la terre, qu'on croit être à leur pied ; enfin l'on y touche, et rien ne peut exprimer la variété des sensations qu'on y éprouve ; la hauteur de leur sommet, la rapidité de leur pente, l'ampleur de leur surface, le poids de leur assiette, la mémoire des temps qu'elles rappellent, le calcul du travail qu'elles ont coûté, l'idée que ces immenses roches sont l'ouvrage de l'homme, si petit et si faible, qui rampe à leurs pieds, tout saisit à la fois le cœur et l'esprit d'étonnement, de terreur, d'humiliation et de respect.
S'il était possible que quelqu'un ignorât quelle est la forme du monument que l'on nomme pyramide, on lui en donnerait une idée en lui disant, avec Volney, de considérer de loin l'hôtel des Invalides, à Paris, et de supposer que de toute la largeur du bâtiment s'élèvent deux côtés inclinés l'un vers l'autre jusqu'au sommet du dôme, avec cette différence que les grandes pyramides sont au moins d'un tiers plus hautes.
On aurait tort de croire qu'il n'y a de pyramides en Égypte qu'en un seul lieu. Il est vrai que celles qui s'aperçoivent d'abord sont celles dont les voyageurs parlent le plus ordinairement ; elles sont près de Gizeh, à l'ouest. D'autres plus au sud, près de Sakara, sont près de l'emplacement qu'occupait autrefois Memphis. On y en compte neuf, et de plus huit petites dont on néglige ordinairement de parler.
Quoique la hauteur des pyramides de Gizeh soit considérable, puisqu'il y en a qui s'élèvent à plus de cent mètres, l'idée de celte élévation est encore augmentée par leur situation, pour le spectateur qui les aperçoit des bords du Nil. Elles sont placées sur un plateau fort élevé, qui tient aux montagnes de la Libye.
La plupart de ceux qui ont parlé des pyramides les ont indiquées comme ayant été destinées à recevoir les cendres de quelques souverains dont elles étaient les magnifiques tombeaux. Leur nombre même est une raison de plus pour le croire ; cependant le docteur Shaw (1) et le savant Langlès (2) pensent qu'elles ont eu primitivement une autre destination et qu'elles avaient été élevées en l'honneur du soleil, sous le nom d'Osiris.”

Source : Gallica

(1) sur cet auteur : voir la note de Pyramidales
(2) sans doute Louis-Mathieu Langlès, orientaliste et bibliothécaire français

mardi 29 mars 2011

“Nous ne savons pas précisément dans quel but les pyramides ont été construites” (Annie et Eliza Keary - XIXe s.)

Les jeunes Britanniques qui, vers la fin du XIXe siècle, s’intéressaient à l’Égypte, et plus particulièrement aux pyramides, eurent beaucoup de chance : deux soeurs, Anna Maria (Annie) Keary (1825 -1879) et Eliza Harriett Keary (1827-1918), spécialistes de l’écriture pour young people, vinrent à leur rencontre, avec leur ouvrage commun Early Egyptian history for the young, édité en 1863, pour accompagner leurs recherches et répondre à leur besoin de savoir.
C’est en effet un exposé assez détaillé, ne se satisfaisant pas d’informations au rabais, que propose cet ouvrage. Certes, les données de référence restent très “classiques”. Mais à la fin du XIXe siècle, qu’avait-on d’autre à se mettre sous la main que le récit d’Hérodote ? Soulignons toutefois qu’Annie et Eliza Keary vont parfois plus loin qu’un simple copier-coller, au point de se poser quelques questions sur la véracité de la relation du Père de l’Histoire.
D’autres points d’interrogation apparaissent également dans cette page d’histoire. La Grande Pyramide ne contiendrait-elle pas d’autres chambres que celles d’ores et déjà connues ? Qui a été enseveli dans la chambre dite “de la Reine” ? À qui attribuer la seconde pyramide ?
Si les réponses se font attendre, l’ouvrage des sœurs Keary a au moins le mérite de poser les bonnes questions.
Rappelons-nous qu'il est destiné à de jeunes lecteurs. On appréciera donc comme il se doit la pertinence d’une telle pédagogie, qui ne craint pas de faire appel à une démonstration strictement historique, au lieu d’avoir recours au délayage du mystérieux et du merveilleux que l’on constate souvent, encore de nos jours, dans de telles publications.

Extrait de Google maps
“After Shure came Shafu, who was the builder of the Great Pyramid. It was not (...) the first Pyramid ever built, there had been probably many others before it.
The first care of an Egyptian king in the old time appears to have been to build himself a Pyramid tomb. He built a small complete one first, and then as his reign was prolonged, he added to it layer upon layer of stone, so that the stupendous size of the building became a monument of the length of his reign. We do not know precisely with what design the Pyramids were erected. It would be pleasant to think that the kings who built them had some other purpose than the selfish one of securing for themselves the grandest possible tomb, to sleep in after they were dead .
There is no doubt that kings were buried in the Pyramids, but perhaps they were designed for other uses as well as that of holding the dust of a king.

Ce que nous apprennent les tombes du Plateau de Guizeh
Some people have thought that they served as watch towers, others as observatories from which the course of the stars through the heavens might be watched and noted. If they were meant simply for very secure tombs, they have not served their purpose. Their very magnificence awoke the cupidity of the Saracen conquerors of Egypt, who caused them to be broken open in search of treasure.
The dust of King Shufu, for whose security a whole nation spent their lives in "piling stones," has probably been blown about the desert for several centuries now. His name the Pyramid has preserved for us ; it is written in hieroglyphic characters on some of the large stones of which the upper chambers are built. There are no pictures in the Pyramid chambers, nothing as in the tombs round, which can give us a clue to the character of the builder, or the manners and customs of the time he lived in. Fortunately the smaller tombs, with their exact pictures and picture writing, tell us more about that very distant time, than we have any right to expect to know.
Dr. Lepsius says that he has deciphered the names and offices of several hundred people who lived at King Shufu's court. Among others he has discovered the tomb of his chief architect, who probably superintended the building of the Pyramid. His name was Merhet, and as he seems to have been a prince, the owner of eight villages and much wealth, Dr. Lepsius conjectures that he was King Shufu's own son. (...)
It appears that Shufu had a brother called Noum Shufu, who seems to have reigned with him fifty years, and taken part in the building of the Pyramid. His name is found inscribed on some of its stones, and it is probable that he was buried in the second chamber, which has been erroneously called the Queen's Chamber. He seems to have survived Shufu, and reigned for some years after his death. Herodotus and several other historians have confounded him with the builder of the second Pyramid.

Cliché Lehnert et Landroc
La référence : Hérodote... avec quelques bémols
I am afraid that I have now told you all that we know certainly about the builders of the Great Pyramid. Herodotus, who visited Egypt nearly 2,000 years after their death, has left us a record of what he was told about them in his time. The elder Shufu he calls Cheops ; and he gives us, I am sorry to say, a very bad character of him. Egypt had been very well governed, he says, till Cheops arose, but as soon as he succeeded to the throne he began to oppress the people, and plunged into all manner of wickedness ; he closed the temples, forbad the Egyptians to sacrifice to the gods, and compelled every one, whether they liked it or not, to work in his service.
The construction of the Great Pyramid was the undertaking at which they were all obliged to labour. Some were employed in quarrying stones in the Arabian hills, on the eastern side of the river ; others had to drag them down to the water and convey them across the hill to the western side ; 100,000 men, he says, worked constantly. The first thing they did was to make a great causeway from the western bank of the river, to the spot where the Pyramid now stands. It took ten years to construct it, to level the top of the rock, and to make the underground chambers over which the Pyramid is built . Herodotus thought the causeway as great a work as the Pyramid itself. When he saw it, it was ornamented with carvings of animals, and built of polished stones.
The remains of this magnificent road still exist, but the outer stones having all been carried away by the Arabs, we have no trace of the carvings of animals or hieroglyphic writing which would now have been so interesting to us. Twenty years were employed in building the Pyramid ; the outer stones which have nearly all been taken away were once polished and perhaps covered with hieroglyphic writing.
Herodotus asked an interpreter to read him one of these inscriptions, and he assures us that it recorded the cost of the radishes, onions, and garlic, consumed by the labourers who constructed the Pyramid. "I perfectly well remember," says the chatty old father of history, " that the money spent in this way was 1,600 talents of silver ; if this, then, is a true record, what a vast sum must have been spent on the iron tools used in this work, and on the feeding and clothing of the labourers."
We cannot help wishing that Herodotus had asked the interpreter to read on a little further, and preserved some other information for us more important than this onion and garlic story. Some people think it so trivial that they cannot believe that any such inscription ever was on the Pyramid ; they think that the interpreter was a cunning fellow, who was making a joke of Herodotus, and reading nonsense to him, to prevent his knowing anything of the sacred writings of the tombs. Sir G. Wilkinson, however, who, without an interpreter, has read many inscriptions on tombs and monuments, and who knows what they are like, thinks it extremely probable that the sentence translated to Herodotus really did form part of an account of the building of the Pyramid written on its walls.

Les diverses pièces de la Grande Pyramide
The Pyramids were built in steps, Herodotus tells us further, and the architects had wooden machines by which they raised the stones from one elevation to another ; the upper part of the Pyramid was finished first, then the middle, and then the lower part. He also speaks of underground chambers and vaults, constructed by Cheops for his own use, before the Pyramid was begun ; he says, too, that they were surrounded by a canal filled with water from the Nile ; no trace of this canal has been found, but Colonel Howard Vyse, who explored the Pyramid more carefully than any one else ever did, discovered a large chamber excavated in the rock, and a kind of grotto, which can only be reached by a very steep and difficult descent.
The grotto and chamber are now again filled up with stones and rubbish ; the steep passage leading to them is called the well, and is sometimes descended by adventurous travellers. These are evidently the underground vaults of which Herodotus speaks ; he has omitted to tell us for what use Cheops designed them, and there was nothing found in the chambers which explains this to us.
Immediately above the excavated chamber, but separated from it by 200 feet of rock and solid stone-work, lies another room of precisely the same size, which has always been called by travellers the Queen's Chamber ; above that again, and situated precisely in the middle of the Pyramid, is the principal chamber, called the King's. Both these chambers are very difficult of access ; to reach them a long, low, very dark passage, which first descends and then ascends, has to be traversed. In one place it is entirely blocked up by an immense granite portcullis, round which explorers have been obliged to cut a narrow path. It terminates in a wide and high gallery, at the entrance to which two other paths open ; a narrow dark path leading to the Queen's Chamber, and the steep descent called the well, which once, as you know, communicated with the underground vaults.
The grand gallery is 6 feet 10 inches wide, and has stone benches along each side ; in these stone benches are oblong holes placed at short distances from each other, whose use no one has been able to guess. At the end of the great gallery lies the chief sepulchral chamber, it is 34 feet long and 17 wide, and is lined with very fine red granite ; within it, in the very centre of the room, is a sarcophagus, made of such a very perfect kind of granite, that when it is struck with any hard substance, it emits a clear ringing sound, like the sound of a bell. It is now empty, and the lid has been removed. There are no hieroglyphics either on the sarcophagus or on the sides of the room.
Great care seems to have been taken to prevent any one from penetrating to this part of the Pyramid. The great gallery was originally blocked up in four different places by granite portcullises, which have now been broken up and carried away, piece by piece, only the grooves into which they fitted remaining to show that they were once there.
Above the King's Chamber are five smaller rooms, all one over the other, like stories in a house ; they are seldom visited, for I believe there is no way of getting to them, but by climbing up the walls of the passage leading to the King's Chamber. In one of these Colonel Howard Vyse found the names of the two kings who built the Pyramid, painted in red on the large stones that form the ceiling, in a rough manner, as if they had been done by workmen before the stones left the quarry, perhaps for marks to show for what purpose they were cut. Those painted letters are the only hieroglyphics in the Pyramid, the only positive evidence they preserve to us of the names of the builders.

Des chambres ignorées dans la Grande Pyramide ?
No other chambers have as yet been discovered, but some people think that there may be a great many more. It has been calculated that there is room in the great Pyramid for 3,700 rooms of the size of the King's Chamber, and for partition walls between them, as thick as the rooms themselves. Think of that ! perhaps there may be many such rooms, the entrances to which are
still closed by granite blocks, like those which once obstructed the Great Gallery. It is said that a traveller once fired a pocket pistol inside the Pyramid, and the echoes were countless, the reverberations going on for an astonishing length of time. Whether we shall ever know more about the inside of the Great Pyramid than we do now, I cannot tell you. We are obliged now to guess at a great deal.

Deux frères qui souhaitaient rester proches, y compris au-delà de la mort
Khephren
In the two large chambers, called the King's and the Queen's, Shufu and Noum Shufu were probably buried. If Herodotus had not given us such a bad character of them, we might have thought of them as two affectionate brothers, who, having reigned peaceably together during a very prosperous life-time, wished to sleep side by side, each secure of finding the other near him when he awoke. Their precautions, however, if they had such a purpose, were of little avail. When the Pyramid chambers were first opened by Europeans, no mummy was found, nothing but an empty stone sarcophagus in the King’s Chamber, the bodies having probably been taken away by the Saracens, who broke into the Pyramid in search of treasure, in the reign of the Caliph Mamoon, A.D. 820, while Egbert was reigning in England.
An Arab writer tells us, that when the sarcophagus in the King's Chamber was opened, a statue in the form of a man was found inside, and within the statue a human body, with a breast-plate of gold and jewels, bearing written characters which no one understood. The statue was no doubt a mummy case, and the jewelled body, the body of Shufu, the Great Pyramid King. This is the last glimpse we shall get of him. You will not, I think, forget his name, or the few facts that I have been able to tell you about him.

La seconde pyramide et le Sphinx
Photo Marc Chartier

We will turn now to the second Pyramid, of whose builder I have but little to say. Herodotus tells us that it was constructed by Cephren, the brother of Cheops, and as Shufu had a brother, called Noum Shufu, this Cephren was for some time identified with him, and to him was given the honour of having built the second Pyramid. This opinion, however, presented some difficulties. It did not seem likely that two such great works should be undertaken in the same reign, and it was equally hard to believe that Noum Shufu could have survived his brother, with whom he reigned fifty years, long enough for him to begin and complete a Pyramid after his death.
A name, much resembling the one which Herodotus gives the second Pyramid builder, has been found in a list of kings of the fourth dynasty, recently discovered in a tomb at Sakkara, the site of the ancient Memphis. It is written Shafre, and as it also occurs frequently on tombs near the Pyramids, coupled with the title "Of the Little Pyramid", it is now clear that the second Pyramid was at all events begun by another Pyramid builder of the fourth dynasty. Perhaps it grew from a little Pyramid to a great one at a later period. I can tell you nothing about its architect, except that he appears to have had a long and prosperous reign, for more names of persons of rank, living in his time, have been found inscribed on tombs near his Pyramid, than of those who lived under any other Memphite king.
M. Mariette has found seven statues of King Shafre, in the recently excavated temple, near the great Sphinx. Five of them are much mutilated, the remaining two are so perfect, that they look as if they had only just left the sculptor's hands. The old king is represented seated on a throne supported by lions, between whose paws are sculptured bunches of papyrus flowers and leaves, the very same symbol of prosperity which adorns the thrones of kings a thousand years later. The face and figure of Shafre are said to be so life-like, that it is impossible to look at them, without concluding the statue to be a true portrait. The face is of the old Egyptian type which you have seen so often, but with less regularity of feature, and more expression than is found in the statues of later kings. The head wears the helmet-like cap, the crown of the lower country: the figure is only covered by an apron, extending from the waist to the knee.
With the exception of the Sphinx, these statues of Shafre are perhaps the oldest in the world that have come down to us ; they are an evidence of the perfection to which the art of sculpture had attained in the age of the Pyramid builders, for they are said not to be inferior in beauty to the finest sculptures of the eighteenth dynasty kings. The circumstance of seven statues of Shafre having been found in the temple of the Sphinx, makes it probable, that the Sphinx itself was a work of his time.

La troisième pyramide
The third Pyramid, though it was much smaller than the other two, was said, by those who saw it in its best days, to surpass the other two in elegance. "Much more elegant", Pliny says it was, "from the Ethiopian stone with which it was cased". Some of these outer stones, of granite of Syene, still remain at the base of the third Pyramid, and prove the truth of Pliny's words. It contains two chambers, which were opened by Colonel Howard Vyse. A stone sarcophagus was found within the largest room, and in one of the passages a wooden mummy case, in which was written in hieroglyphic characters the name of Menkaré, or Mycerinus, the builder of the third Pyramid. Both were sent to England : the stone sarcophagus was unfortunately lost at sea, the wooden case arrived safely, and it now stands in the middle of the Egyptian room at the British Museum. (...)”

lundi 28 mars 2011

Selon James Silk Buckingham (XVIIIe-XIXe s.), “il est possible que les architectes de la seconde pyramide aient évité les erreurs de leur modèle - la Grande Pyramide - pour produire une oeuvre plus parfaite”

James Silk Buckingham

James Silk Buckingham (1786-1855) était un écrivain journaliste anglais. Grand voyageur, il s’installa en Inde, où il fonda le Calcutta Journal en 1818, puis en fut expulsé en 1823 pour avoir critiqué la East India Company. De retour en Angleterre, il créa en 1824 la Oriental Herald and Colonial Review, qui sera éditée jusqu’en 1829.
C’est du vol. XIII de cette publication (1827) que j’ai extrait un texte relatant la visite de l’auteur au site de Guizeh.
Cette relation sort de la banalité à laquelle nous ont habitués de nombreux récits de “voyageurs”. On y retrouve, certes, la mention de l’exploit que représentaient, à l’époque, la montée au sommet de la Grande Pyramide et la visite risquée de l’intérieur de ce même monument (on y pénétrait armé !). Mais plusieurs points du récit méritent une attention particulière :
- la “communication”, à des fins rituelles, entre le puits de la Grande Pyramide et le Sphinx ;
- les détails architecturaux de la Grande Galerie ;
- l’interrogation face à l’existence ou non de “nombreux autres sarcophages” à l’intérieur de la Grande Pyramide ;
- les “deux petites niches” de la Chambre du Roi, qui ne ressemblent pas plus à des ouvertures que la Grande Pyramide à un palace ;
- la non-ouverture de la seconde pyramide (Belzoni y interviendra l'année même de parution de l'ouvrage) ;
- l’allusion, moyennant des analyses chimiques préalables, à l’”art de fabriquer des pierres” (art of making stones of any magnitude from paste or plaster) ;
- la plus grande perfection de la seconde pyramide, comparativement à la Grande Pyramide ;
- la stupidité que représente le fait de voir dans les pyramides des temples ou des observatoires, et non des tombes.

James Silk Buckingham et son épouse Elizabeth (1825)
peinture de Henry William Pickersgillin (Wikimédia commons)
“ The optical deception which the pyramidal form occasions is almost incredible. From the first view I caught of the pyramids, when sailing up the Rosetta branch of the Nile, they appeared like mountains ; the magnitude of which did not sensibly increase by a nearer approach of several leagues. At Cairo, from whence they do not seem more than three or four miles off, their appearance is nearly the same ; and, after advancing towards them for as many leagues more, they really seem to retire as one approaches, and even, at a hundred paces distant, had not that immensity of size which expectation attaches to them. But, seated actually at their base, and looking upward to their summits, they surpass in enormity the anticipation of the most sanguine minds. Instead of finding an edifice, such as one would imagine to have been the grandest production of human labour, the eye beholds a towering mountain built of rocks, the gigantic features of whose minutest parts fill the imagination with an awe and wonder that must be felt to be conceived. The space occupied by one of the stones which had been removed from the base formed a sort of cavern in which we breakfasted ; and as the exterior of the angles were much injured by time and forcible violations, smaller fragments of those masses were scattered round in every direction ; but, even amidst these, the straggling Arabs whom we saw, and the individuals of our party, looked rather like puppets than men, so diminutive were they in the scale of comparison. [Suit une description de l’ascension au sommet de la Grande Pyramide]
After breathing a thousand regrets at the necessity of quitting this eminence so soon, and gazing again upon the scene as though I wished to carry away with me an impression never to be erased, we came down by the north-eastern angle, which, though much more perfect than its opposite one, is still difficult to descend. Where the work was uninjured the closeness of the jointures was admirable ; these giants in art appeared to have united the greatest masses with much more skill and perfection than their degenerate descendants can now build up their cottage walls.

Précautions prises pour la visite de l’intérieur de la Grande Pyramide
After reposing for a few minutes from the fatigue of our descent, we assembled on the hill of sand that has accumulated about the base of the Great Pyramid, and, placing the Janissaries to guard the mouth of the first channel, we left our clothes at the entrance, and descended the sloping passages, wearing only a shirt, night-cap, and drawers, each with a pistol in one hand, and a lighted torch in the other, precautions which are all necessary, because the Bedouins have been known both to conceal themselves in the interior, and to enter after visitors, as well as to block up the passage in order to prevent their return, with a view to the robbery of their persons.

L’intérieur de la Pyramide
This entrance, now level with the sand, was, in the time of Strabo, about midway between the base and summit, so much has this moving soil gained upon the building. The passage itself is about five feet square, built of a yellowish marble, exquisitely joined and highly polished, inclining in a gentle angle towards its centre and base, but so filled with rubbish and sand, as to render it necessary literally to crawl on the hands and knees in several places. It extended for about a hundred feet in length, when we met with an immense block which seemed to close the entrance. On digging out the sand and stones, however, from underneath it, we worked ourselves through with great difficulty, like serpents, losing the skin in several places about the shoulders, knees, and elbows. Here we found ourselves in a sort of cavern, with a passage winding to the right, which had been cut through immense masses of granite, and at length discontinued.
Denon's plan, which I retained perfectly in my memory, taught me to search for the ascending gallery in another direction ; but I was so deceived by the immensity of the scale, that instead of finding mere blocks of granite, as I expected from his description, they were literally rocks and caves.

Le puits
We climbed over these without much difficulty, and ascending the first gallery, came to the well which is on the right-hand of the landing-place as we entered. The depth of this has been much spoken of, and traditions prevail of persons having gone into it without ever returning, the truth of which it is now impossible to ascertain ; but on throwing down several stones it was easy to distinguish by their sounds that the passage was serpentine, and of great depth, as the noise of them did not suddenly cease, but diminished gradually by distance. Of all the conjectures which have been urged relative to the use of this channel, none appears to me so probable as that which assigns it to a communication with the Sphinx, by which the ancient Egyptian priests descended to inclose themselves in the body of that monster, and deliver their oracles to the admiring multitude. Who knows but that it was by some such stratagem as this that they acquired sufficient ascendancy over the minds of the people to induce their perseverance in this gigantic task, under the deceptive persuasion that this oracle repeated to their ears the commands of the Deity ?


Photo Edgar Brothers

La Chambre de la Reine, la Grande Galerie
Pursuing the horizontal gallery, we reached the apartment called the Queen's chamber, now nearly filled with rubbish, and the abode of bats. As it offered nothing curious beyond the massiveness and perfect unity of its construction, we returned by the same passage, and ascended the grand gallery which leads to the royal chamber of the Sarcophagus. It would be difficult to explain the nature of this gallery by a drawing, and still more so by a written description. The angle of its ascent is about 45°; its whole breadth from six to eight feet, and its height from twenty-five to thirty feet. Its chief peculiarity is that the walls close in toward the top in an inverted pyramidal form, the layers of stone, instead of retiring behind each other as they ascend, each projecting over the range below it, in the same proportion, and consequently rendering the passage an oblong pyramid of space, which is very imperfectly indicated by straight lines in all the plans I have seen.

La Chambre royale du Sarcophage
On each side of the entrance to the royal chamber, are flutings, cut perpendicularly in the granite, the only species of sculpture or ornament to be seen throughout the building ; and here the perfection of architecture, as it regards closeness of union and solidity, seems to have been displayed, in conformity to the rigorous inviolability which the ancients studied in their sepulchral retreats. This apartment is about thirty feet long, fifteen wide, and nearly the same height. The sarcophagus, which lies at the western end of it, is about the dimensions of a well grown man ; but I knew not what to think of the veracity of travellers, when I remembered that M. Maillet, who, according to Savary, visited it forty times with all the care imaginable, supposes (and hopes, too, that all persons of sense will approve his judgment) that this hall contained many other sarcophagi besides that of the king ; above all, of the persons who were shut up with him alive in this tomb, “pour leur tenir en quelque sorte compagnie” ; and all this, founded on the important discovery of two small niches, through which he supposes they received their supplies of air and food, but which have no more resemblance to apertures of that description than the pyramid itself to a palace. When I remembered this, with the host of other conjectures that were fresh in my memory, and contrasted it with the positive assertion of Volney, that this chamber is so obscure and narrow that it never can have contained more than one dead body ; I was more convinced than ever that it is as necessary to gee as to judge for one's self, and that books are in general but imperfect guides compared with actual observation.
Plans and dimensions of the interior of this pyramid had been so frequently taken, that I despaired of rendering any service to future visitors by repeating them ; and to convey an adequate idea of this colossal monument to the student in his closet, I candidly confess my perfect inability. Denon has said but little, yet that little has the merit of fidelity. Savary, joining his own observations to those of Maillet, has given a strange medley of fact and falsehood, certainty and conjecture ; while Volney has expressed a volume, when he simply says : “All travellers speak of them with enthusiasm, and enthusiasm they may well inspire.”

Plaisir et mélancolie
Recovering from the labyrinth of reflections into which my mind had wandered, as I sat within the sarcophagus, in which I had lain down with a view to ascertain its adaptation to the human form, and admiring the grandeur of the motive, detesting the tyranny of the means, envying the skill of the masters, despising the servility of the slaves, applauding the ambition of rivalling eternity, yet smiling at the secret justice of that destiny which had dispersed in air the scattered atoms of a heart (...), and made the destruction of its organic being still more complete than the monument which once entombed it was enormous, I quited this gloomy sanctuary with regret at the necessity of our departure, for there was a pleasure even in the melancholy it inspired, which I would willingly have prolonged. (...)

Seconde pyramide
From this we went to observe the second Pyramid, situated at a very short distance only from the first. This, never having been opened, is more perfect in its exterior ; and the celebrated marble plaster, which originally filled up all the inequalities of the surface, and induced Herodotus and Diodorus Siculus to suppose them to be built of that stone, still remains about the summit, for one-eighth of the depth, presenting a smooth polished surface impossible to be surmounted. Whether time, or the hand of man, has destroyed the remainder, cannot now be ascertained ; but an analysis, by some skillful chemist, of this marble cement, as well as of the red granite plaster which lines the channels of the opened pyramid, would be likely to throw great light on a number of questions suggested by a view of Ancient architecture ; and if it led to the discovery of so important and useful an art as that of making stones of any magnitude from paste or plaster, one can imagine no research that would so certainly spread the fame of the discoverer, or be more favourable to architectural labours than this.
The second pyramid, though not quite so large as the first, is much more perfect in its proportions. Its angles are just, and the eye reposes with pleasure upon a uniformity of base and perpendicular ; while the excess of length, by which the ground line of the other exceeds the height, renders the angle too obtuse to please a taste of mathematical precision, or to combine lightness and beauty with massiveness and strength, characteristics by which the second pyramid is eminently distinguished. Taking the authority of Herodotus, than which we have none more generally accurate, that this was the tomb of Cephrenes, brother to his predecessor, Cheops, who had employed a hundred thousand men for twenty years in building the first of these colossal monuments, it is possible that the architects of the second, perceiving the defects adverted to, had avoided the errors of their model, and produced a more perfect work.

Troisième pyramide
The third pyramid, sinking into insignificance by a comparison with the two neighbouring masses, is yet nearly three hundred feet square, and would, in any other situation than its present one, be regarded as a surprising effort of human labour ; but when we view it as the price of prostitution, exacted by a father for the violation of his child, it is even more repugnant to nature, more horrible in a parental eye, than the tyrannizing despotism which loaded a nation with chains, and forced from their groaning subjects these eternal monuments of pride and cruelty, of despotic power on the one hand, and abject slavery on the other.


Le Sphinx
The Sphinx, which is situated a little to the southward of the first pyramid, was the next object of our attention ; and I was charmed with an inspection of it. How much did I regret the haste of the enthusiastic Denon's visit, and the impossibility of his making a perfect drawing of it on the spot, for, independently of his merit as an artist, he seems to have caught all the impressions requisite for such a task. (...)
Though its proportions are colossal, the outline is pure and graceful, the expression of the head is mild, gracious, and tranquil ; the character is African, but the mouth, the lips of which are thick, has a softness and delicacy of execution truly admirable ; it seems real life and flesh. Art must have been at a high pitch when this monument was executed ; for, if the head wants what is called style, that is to say, the straight and bold lines which give expression to the figures, under which the Greeks have designated their deities, yet sufficient justice has been rendered to the fine simplicity and character of nature which is displayed in this figure.
As far as we could trace it, the statue of the Sphinx is hewn out of one solid rock, the body being covered with the sand of the Desert, level with its back, on which we walked. Lines of rod paint are still visible about the hair, which, from the complicated, sculpture, appears to have been highly ornamented ; but the features are at this moment much mutilated, the superstition of the Mohammedans teaching them to despise all representations of animal life, and the Bedouins having a traditional hatred of Pharoah, whose tomb they believe the pyramid to have been, and this his image. The conjecture, that this union of the virgin's beauty and the lion's strength was hieroglyphically emblematic of the inundation of the Nile, at a certain astronomical period, appears extremely happy, and is borne out by the universality of that ornament on all their temples and public buildings. Without the Nile, Egypt would have been an uninhabitable desert ; but, watered by its prolific stream, it becomes a second Eden ; and if ever a superstition is pardonable, it is so when attaching divine virtues to that which is the source of life, fertility, and happiness, erecting statues to its honour, and lavishing the arts to record the gratitude of mankind.
I walked round the twenty or thirty fragments of pyramidical edifices, which are still found in the neighbourhood of the three great ones ; compared the quality of the stones with that of the Lybian rock on which they are built, examined the tomb excavated in the rock itself, the positions of those buildings, their distances, and a thousand other particulars, the result of all which made me feel the full force of Volney's reasoning, when he labours to prove, first, that the assertion of Herodotus as to the materials being brought from Upper Egypt, was more than plausible ; and secondly, that the idea of the pyramids having been temples or observatories, instead of tombs, was worse than stupid, and must have been suggested by a genius as dark as these chambers of the dead which they contain.”