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THE PYRAMIDS OF SACKARA.
wards of twenty-five feet high ; what the real elevation of this pyramid was it is difficult to say, as the entrance'which, like all the rest, is on the north side, and was very likely about the centre of the mass, is row several feet below the level of the surrounding ground. The sand must have covered up the greater part of it, as even in Pocock's time there were six ranges of steps, and that which was above ground in his day, is now far below the surface ; either this monument has never been finished, or much more than the coating has been torn off. The entrance to this pyramid is seldom made, and the hole to which our Arab guide Alee pointed had very much the look of a fox earth, and was nearly choked with sand, stone, and rubbish. As considerable difficulty is experienced in passing this aperture, the Arabs commenced stripping themselves to the mere loin cloth, and Alee taking the lights with him contrived to get his thin sinewy body into the hole, where he remained with his head out, and the sand again closing round his neck, and as he grinned to me to follow, his bright eyes, swarthy cunning face, and shaven pate, partook more of the appearance of some of the inferior animals peeping out of their holes than the human face divine. I wished Paulo to accompany us, but the calculating Maltese having but little of Egyptian enthusiasm in him, stated his willingness to remain outside, as he very seriously informed me, to prevent hyenas or other wild beasts from rushing in upon us during
our stay; so taking off my hat, coat and shoes, I prepared to follow, which I had to do, not on all fours, but backwards, and a la serpent ; the sand and dust getting into my mouth, and the heat and closeness of the passage was most annoying. As I was quite unused to the movement, and made but little way, my friend Alee gave me an occasional pull by the feet which considerably assisted my ingress through this exceeding narrow passage, which is at an angle of 27°, similar to the rest of the pyramids. We are now in the first chamber, and the Arabs having struck a light, which they do very adroitly with a piece of the dried pith of the palm branch, and the usual flint and steel, it enabled us to see that we were in a very extensive hall, domed, and of greater comparative height than that of any other of the
ругаmids. This is the only one in which wood enters into the composition, it is used in the roof, the floor and sides of the hall being cut out of the solid rock, similar to those at Geza. Toward the side opposite the entrance, and to the right hand, is a large sarcophagus of polished sonorous granite, but the floor of this apartment is now covered, for some feet, with stones and dirt, which have been taken from excavations made by some one in the eastern side. The roof of this chamber is worthy of noteit is not flat and formed of large blocks of stone laid cross-wise, as in all the larger pyramids, but is constructed in the manner of a bee-hive dome similar to that of the tomb of Agamemnon at My
PECULIAR FORM OF
cene, and the tumulus of New Grange, in Ireland ; where the arch is formed of large stones laid flat, each one projecting beyond that underneath, and the whole crowned by one large flag at top; here, however, although the type is retained, it is somewhat different by wood being used, not so much to support as to close in the centre. It requires a considerable quantity of light to examine this carefully, and I am inclined to think that the beams of timber still seen in the top of this apartment may have been used but for the purpose of scaffolding or a temporary support, and not to keep up the roof, as no wood could be sufficiently strong to sustain such a vast weight as the upper part of this enormous mass. I throw this out, however, more as a hint to future explorers, who would do well to examine it more carefully than my time permitted.* From this hall the guides led me to a low narrow gallery, that descended at an angle greater than that of the external passage to three small chambers, the doorways of which were beautifully adorned with flowers and other ornaments, and the walls covered with hieroglyphics. Those chambers' were cut out of the solid rock, and faced with stones similar in
* The observant Dr. Pococke remarked a similar form of roof in the great pyramid of Dashour, called by him El Herem Elkebere-El-Barieh, or the great pyramid to the north. He says, “at the height of ten feet six inches a tier of stones set in on each side five inches, and in the same manner twelve tiers, one over another, so as that the top either ends in a point, or, as I rather conjecture, it may be a foot broad.”
REMARKS UPON THE PYRAMID.
every respect to that I have already described in the adjacent tombs. They must be at least 100 feet below the level of the ground outside, and are of exceeding elegance of design and execution, but they are now nearly choked up with stones and rubbish, and their walls and roofs in several places pulled down in search for treasure, &c. the Arabs say by the French some time ago. The passage leading to them was the most difficult to get through I ever experienced, as my torn clothes and bruised person could attest; and when I had seen every thing, and crept every where I could, and was once 'more in the light of day, I do not think I ever felt the refreshment of a drink of bad water, and the delights of fresh air so much as after that hour's work.
From the examination I afterwards made of the other pyramids, I am inclined to believe that this one is of a different era from the great pyramids of Geza. Besides differing in external construction, internally its first chamber differs in the architecture of its roof, as I before observed; it has also a second passage leading from its principal hall, and in it are found hieroglyphics. Were I to offer a conjecture as to its date, I should say,
, that it was constructed prior to the pyramids of Geza. Its roof shows an early form of architecture, and there being no hieroglyphics in those of Cheops and Chephrenes may be thus accounted for. Cheops, who, Herodotus informs us, constructed
PROBABLE ANTIQUITY OF THIS PYRAMID.
the great pyramid of Geza, may have been one of the race of shepherd kings, who were an abomination to the Egyptians. He was particularly disliked on account of his despising their religion, forbidding sacrifices, and shutting up their temples; and as he would naturally be held in disrepute by the priests, who were, in all probability, the only persons acquainted with the hieroglyphics, or sacred writing, * he was therefore unable to have such in his work, as the Egyptian characters said to be on the outside of the coating, and detailing the accounts of the work, are believed by Larcher, and other learned commentators, to have been common, not hieroglyphic characters.† Thus, it appears that the finding of hieroglyphics in this pyramid, is a decided proof of its antiquity, as the very
oldest edifices in Egypt are those whereon we find such writing. I trust some future visitor will inquire into this pyramid more accurately.
As it was very late, and I felt so much exhausted, I sent some of the Arabs to the mummy pits to bring me a few of the pots containing the embalmed ibises, and retraced my steps to the tombs, where I took up my night's bivouac. The donkey-boys had arranged my pallet in one corner, with the lid of a mummy-case for my
* Hieroglyph from legos sacred, and yupw to carve.
+ Herodotus tells us, they have two sorts of letters, the one appropriated to sacred subjects, the other allowed for common purposes.