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THE SACRED BEETLE.
this ancient people. The more I consider the habits and manners of animals, the more am I convinced that it was an accurate observation of their natural history and instincts that attracted the attention of the ancients, and on which was formed much of their mythological system and hieroglyphic character. This was not peculiar to the Egyptians, for we find the car of Bacchus drawn by tigers, evidently alluding to the conquest of a country to which those animals were peculiar; and in like manner are represented the conquests of Alexander, not expressed in words or by any written character, but shown forth by the representations of the animals peculiar to each region, as depicted in the mosaic pavement at Præneste.
These little creatures, the scarabæi, which are possessed of amazing strength and perseverance, form balls of clay and camel's dung, which they mix up into a kind of mortar, very like that used by swallows to construct their nests ; in these they deposit their eggs, and thus it forms a crust or shell to the larvæ within ; they then roll these balls, when sufficiently dried, over the sand in a truly remarkable manner. The male is provided with two projections in the form of horns on the head, and uses them as a lever to raise and push the ball forward from behind, while the female mounting before keeps it revolving onward by drawing it down with her fore feet, as in the annexed representation.
Sometimes three or four will gather about one ball, either for the mere sake of work, or to get it over any impediment. Others again propel them with their hind legs, and will sometimes assume the most grotesque attitudes, literally standing on their heads, and pushing at them with their hind feet. So far as I am able to judge, they keep rolling these balls about over the
THE SACKING OF THE TOMBS.
sand for the whole day, and do not place them at once in holes, like other coleopterous insects. I have watched them at evening, and as soon as the sun had set they invariably deserted their charge, and returned to their holes, and what is more remarkable, if the day became suddenly clouded, off they waddled, and left the ball till a gleam of returning sunshine called them again to work with renewed vigour. It appears to me, from the manner they rolled these balls, that they intended the sun should act equally on all sides of them, and thus secure a certain tempera. ture in the process of incubation. It may, however, be but for the purpose of drying the surface. The sexes of these beetles are well known to the Arabs, one of whom, who could just speak a word or two of English, pointed out the difference in the forms of the “men” and the “women” scarabæi.
Scarabæi, in every shape and attitude, and of all sizes, are figured on the Egyptian monuments, are used in the hieroglyphics, and models of them are generally found on the breasts of mummies; besides, many of a smaller size form part of the necklaces worn by such. In these two latter positions they may have been used as amulets. Others are carved in different stones and gems, as signets, having the names of the various Egyptian kings cut in hieroglyphics on the face. It was the emblem of creative power, of the earth, and of the sun, in which latter case the ball alone is often used.*
I now passed the pyramids of Aboosier, but without time to do more than just look at them. They are apparently less carefully constructed than either those of Geza or Sackara, and are much dilapidated. The whole of the ground I rode over presented a most extraordinary spectacle ; for miles it is literally strewn over with the sacking of the tombs, consisting of quantities of linen, pieces of broken mummy-cases, and bits of blue crockery-ware, with remains of human bones, and also those of the inferior animals, which, since their exposure to light and air, have become intensely white, but excessively friable, crumbling in the fingers. The whole plain is covered with heaps of rubbish, like mole-hills, thrown up from the tombs, which have been opened by the Arabs for the sake of their contents. These
* Appendix, L.
tombs consist of square apertures in the ground, faced with stone, or cut in the sand-stone rock, but now nearly choked with rubbish. I was well inclined to spend some time in examining the bones of the different animals on which my donkey trode at every step, but Paulo hurried me onward, as the day was wearing, and we had yet to make some preparation for our night's sojourn in the tombs.
We arrived at the village of Sackara about three or four o'clock, but could hear nothing of the third donkey which had been sent round by the plain ; it was to have met us here, and as it was the bearer of the provender, and the wretched place we were in could afford us little or nothing, our situation was any thing but enviable. Paulo was for applying to the sheykh, and threatening him with the inevitable displeasure of Mohammad Alee unless we were instantly supplied-however, we soon spied our sumpter ass creeping slowly towards us. We then retraced our steps to the tombs, which are situate in the great wall of rock to the northwest of the village. Arrived thither, we found some Arab guides whom a Frenchman had the day before employed to raise a mummy for him, and which he had just then deserted, leaving the case and the different broken parts of the body strewn about in one of the large chambers, having had it removed from a pit in the neighbourhood for the mere purpose of seeing it opened, and for the sake of the ornaments it might contain.
This wasteful proceeding is one too often resorted to by travellers ; it had, however, its use, as the very fragments he threw aside as useless, were to me some of the most interesting objects I could have discovered.
The mummy-case itself was one of great beauty and perfection, and evidently belonged to a person of distinction. The head, chest, and arms, having been stripped of their coverings, were flung into a corner of the chamber, and on examination I found that the arms of the body, which appeared to be that of a young man, presented an appearance so truly abnormal, and so different from any thing the effect of disease, or any known congenital malformation, that I carried them away with me, and the drawing upon the next page represents the left humerus or arm-bone of this most remarkably deformed human subject.
The person from whose thorax I removed these upper extremities, appeared to be a man of about twenty-five years of age, and from the adornment of the sarcophagus, and the care exhibited
A DEFORMED MUMMY.
in the bandages and mummy-cloths, was evidently a person above the lower class; the fore-arms were crossed upon the breast; but as the body had been very much mutilated by the Arabs and some Frenchmen, before I saw it, I was unable to discover whether the lower extremities were likewise affected.
The bone is about six inches long, or not quite double the size of the engraving, and so completely different from the natural appearance, that it has a very great resemblance to a corresponding bone in some of the lower animals. The trochlea, or inferior articulating surface, is bent so much forward, that the radius and ulna could not have been brought into the same line when the arm was extended, as in the normal condition ; the radius could have enjoyed but very little flexion or extension, as the articulation surface for it on the humerus is not one-third the natural size-both it and the ulna are much less altered than the humerus, and are also larger. The bones are light, but hard, and it appears to be more the effect of original malformation, than rickets, or any disease subsequent to birth. Both arnis, which are precisely similar in every respect, and also the hand of one of them, are in my possession; the latter is small but wellformed. The shaft of this bone is not much altered from its natural line, but around the upper portion of it a number of unusual rugged protuberances are thrown out, and the attachment of the latissimus dorsi muscle is marked by a large projecting elevation. Being an anomalous form of congenital malformation, it may not be uninteresting to the pathologist. Wilkinson gives the figure of a dwarf and a deformed person, from the sculptures at Beni Hassan ; the former is remarkable for the shortness of the arms, and is one of the date of Osirtasen, now more than 3500 years ago.
I determined to take up my abode in the outer chamber of
THE TOMBS OF SACKARA.
one of these sepulchres for the night, and so placed my blanket and provisions in one corner, while the donkey-men provided for themselves and their animals in another, and set about lighting a fire.
Numbers of the Arabs, several of whom are Bedawees, reside in these tombs; their principal livelihood is obtained either in searching for antiquities, raising mummies, or acting as guides. They are the wildest and most ferocious-looking set of people I think I ever saw, and seem to despise the cultivating Egyptians of the neighbouring village with the greatest cordiality.
The moment it was known that a Frank wished to see the mbs and pyramids, I was beset by a whole bevy of them, and although I chose one who appeared the most intelligent and least vociferous of the party, yet the rest were determined to come along with us for the sake of a chance piaster, though warned of their uselessness, and the slight hopes of reward.
The entrance to the catacombs, which extend for near a mile long here, is very close to the top of the ledge of rock which just peeps above the surface of the sand; this opening is exceedingly narrow, and nearly choked
with rubbish. One of these tombs, to which the Arabs gave the name of Bergámi, is one of vast extent, and matchless elegance of design and finish, all carved with the greatest precision out of the solid rock. Its outer hall is of great size, and adorned with massive pillars on either hand. Off the sides of this portion of the tomb are a series of small chambers, their walls covered with hieroglyphics ; in form they are for the most part square, and have in general three niches for the bodies-one opposite the door, and one on either side. Two square wells lead down to a great depth into a lower tier of sepulchral chambers, similarly coated with phonetic writing. These characters are not, I find, carved in the actual walls, but on slabs of stone about six or eight inches thick, with which all the minor apartments are coated, and connected with such accuracy, that the joining is with great difficulty discerned. The cement used was lime, which still retains its power of effervescence; it resembles close-ground pumicestone, of a pinkish grey colour, is of excessive hardness, and adheres with the greatest tenacity to the smooth surface of the slabs, which are a kind of sand-stone, not unlike Portland stone, and very easily worked. The hieroglyphics are of two sorts, one cut