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406

BELZONI'S PYRAMID.

constructed for the
purpose of lessening the

superincumbent weight on the king's chamber; the principal cavity to which all the others seem subservient. But at the same time, as I before stated, they may have served some secondary purpose in the rites observed in this place, which, taking for granted that it was a tomb, (the most general opinion at present,) does not at all lèssen the character and importance of such buildings. Certain it is they could not have had any thing to do with the astronomical purposes assigned to the pyramids.

Our time not permitting us to descend into the well, we passed out, and proceeded to explore the second pyramid, now rendered much more easy of access since Colonel Vyse has raised up the stone portcullis to the whole height of the passage, which Belzoni had left just high enough for persons to pass under. This passage was sufficiently wide and high for walking in without much inconvenience. We spent some time examining this chamber, and saw the name of its celebrated but ill-treated discoverer, with the date on which it was opened, printed in Italian on the wall opposite the entrance ; and numberless names, in many different characters and languages, have been since scratched upon every square inch of its walls. The roof is different from that of Cheops, as the blocks of which it is formed do not go across but meet at an angle in the centre. No doubt other chambers remain yet to be discovered in the upper part of this monument also.

DEPARTURE FROM THE PYRAMIDS.

407

A hasty glance at the third pyramid lately opened by the enterprising and spirited English antiquary I before alluded to, and a peep into some of the tombs in the vicinity brought us at the close of a day of most exciting interest to the chamber from which we had set out some hours before, where a few flasks of Champagne were quaffed, as we parted from our pleasant companions, among whom was my friend, Mr. E. B. Cullen and Mr. Bell, to whose kindness we

we were much indebted during our stay at Cairo; and who from their knowledge of the manners of the people saved us from much annoyance and imposition. After filling my case with specimens of the nummulite limestone of the rocks, from which the under part of the pyramids were cut, we remounted our donkeys, and set forward to the Nile, where a boat waited to take us aboard a large Kanghia at Boolack, in which our luggage was already stowed, and every thing ready for our instant departure for Alexandria.

Often and anon did we stop, glad of the slightest excuse to linger on the road, and gaze upon the scene we had just quitted, for the sun was setting behind the pyramids, and the radii of his extending rays seemed to spring upwards from around the summit of the glory of Egypt; the dark outline of which was deeply defined on the roseate tint that smiled

away the god of day. But were I longer to dwell upon the splendours of that evening I fear the mind of my reader would be as much wearied as

408

RETURN TO ALEXANDRIA.

was my own body with the fatigues of this day, the memory of which must for ever form an epoch in my

life. Those who visit Egypt, as

Egypt, as we did, seeking health as well as amusement, will not be much benefitted by proceeding at this season further into this land of wonders; and the daily increasing cold and the privations that would necessarily be experienced in journeying to Thebes, &c. for the present prohibits my visiting scenes I hope to live to see, and to describe.

Arrived at Alexandria on the 4th. All here, both natives and foreign residents, were complaining of cold and damp, and said they never recollected such severe weather. Influenza had just appeared, and as this was its first visit to any part of Egypt, it caused a great sensation among the Mooslims, but although very general in its attacks, few deaths occurred.

I suffered from a slight attack, but on the 6th was well enough to visit the last remaining object within my reach-the catacombs, situated on the shore along the S. W. side of the harbour, about two miles from the town. They consist of a vast number of connected chambers, of greater magnitude than any I had yet seen, and all excavated out of the soft grey sand-stone rock on which the peninsula stands. Paulo made me bring a coil of line to act as a clue, fearing that we should lose our way in this extensive labyrinth, but the guides

VISIT TO THE CATACOMBS.

409

are now too well acquainted with all its windings to require any such assistance. The examination of this necropolis has little in it to gratify the ordinary traveller, except its extent, and the labour that must have been expended on its construction. To those, however, who are interested in studying the forms of tombs and the modes of burial of different nations, these have many remarkable peculiarities, and exhibit the type of buildings on a large scale, which will be found in all the rock-carved sepulchres, both throughout Egypt and in all the countries which derived their customs, arts, and architecture from her.

In a large outer hall, now used as a donkey stable, and filled with dust and rubbish, we lighted our tapers, and were conducted through chamber after chamber, in most of which the sand and dirt had accumulated to within about two feet of the roof. Some of these apartments are square, others round; but in all there was a soros or crypt opposite the door, and one on either side, for depositing the bodies ; and several of them had a chimneylike aperture at the top, communicating with the open air above. In the farthest recesses of these cham bers, I found holes cut in the sides through the solid stone, and leading upwards, but to what place I had no means of determining. In shape and situation they exactly resemble the air-holes in the chambers of the pyramids that I before noticed. It is surprising that a knowledge of this circumstance

410

THEIR PROBABLE DATE.

did not sooner lead by analogy to some reasonable explanation for the apertures in the pyramids. There was one room of great size, which struck me as remarkable ; it was circular, the doorway adorned with Doric pilasters; the roof slightly domed ; and in its sides were three minor spaces, shaped like crosses, with three niches in each space for bodies, as exhibited in the plans of Dr. Clarke. In one of the distant rooms we were pointed out a narrow hole, which barely admitted the body; this we were told led into another series of tombs, but Paulo endeavouring to creep through it, stuck fast, and as he could neither proceed nor retreat, we had to pull him out by the feet, which fortunately were within our reach.

The absence of hieroglyphics, the comparatively modern appearance of the work, the traces of Grecian architecture upon it, and there being no remains of bodies, sarcophagi, or mummy cloths, to be found in or about them, leave little doubt that these catacombs are of a more recent date than has been usually assigned to them. They have been most accurately detailed by the enterprising traveller whom I have already mentioned; but from the fatigue, bruises, and the coating of dirt and mud, with which I had become covered, in endeavouring to find out something new or remarkable; which I did not, (with the exception of the air-holes, and the similarity of the ground plan to other tombs to be mentioned hereafter,) I was, I

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