תמונות בעמוד
[blocks in formation]


about one-fourth of an inch in the stone, the other appearing in alto relievo; the former were painted, and the colours of many remain most perfect, although it is acknowledged that these tombs must have been formed 2500 year ago at least. The ascent to the entrance of these tombs is very steep, and formed of the sand, stones, and rubbish leading to the top of the range of rock which here faces the west.

Were the present entrances the original ones ?-And is the under tier of chambers but a story, in one vast hypogea carved in the side of the rock, to which there was an entrance below, several openings to the different sets of apartments ? Analogy of other rock-carved sepulchres, as at Petra and Telmessus, and on a small scale in the side of the valley of Jehoshaphat, would lead me to suppose, that were the sand that now forms the enormous mass of the descent cleared away, the front of this range of rock would be found to present the openings of many hundreds of tombs, equal in extent and beauty to that we now visited. It is to be regretted, that enterprising travellers have not, instead of rushing on to Thebes and Upper Egypt, spent some time, and examined more carefully the catacombs of Sackara, to our knowledge of which little has been added since the days of Pococke and Dr. Shaw. It is even now the great mine or reservoir from whence the Arabs get the quantities of minor antiquities that supply the Cairo market ; but they are fearful of revealing the place of their treasure, as its exposé might deprive them of its profit.




Visit to one of the pyramids of Sackara-Its entrance-Chambers-- Roof-Remarks upon the

pyramid-Buckshese— Tomb of Beer-dor-etho—The plain of Memphis-Inquiry concerning the probable site of that city-Opinions of authors--Reflections on its destruction-Scene in a tomb-Mooslim ablutions— Mummy pits-Difficulty of exploring-Urns of the Ibis-Desert grouse-Hyenas - Approach to the great pyramids—The sphynx-A pic-nic at the pyramidsAscent of that of Chephrenes— Its construction-Difficulties of the ascent-Coating-Description of Herodotus—Dangerous position-View from the summit-Mode of descent-Pyramid of Cheops—The king's chamber-Acoustic tubes—A picture-Upper chambers—Their use and construction--Crystaline incrustation-Colonel Vyse-Interior of Belzoni's or Chephrenes' pyramid-Return to Alexandria-Inspection of the catacombs-Description of the excavations -Their probable date-Lake Mareotis-Shells.

My next visit was to the neighbouring pyramid, which is about one-fourth of a mile distant; the intervening ground being burrowed like a rabbit warren, similar to that near Aboosier, and the sand and rubbish mixed with the fragments of mummies, bits of blue porcelain, linen, and great quantities of agates.

This pyramid, although formed on the type of those at Geza, is somewhat different in external appearance, being apparently constructed in steps, five of which appear above the sands, each step being upwards 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 now 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. This pyramid is seldom entered, 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, stones, and rubbish. As considerable difficulty is experienced in passing this aperture, the Arabs stripped themselves to the mere loin cloths, and Alee taking the lights with him, contrived to insinuate 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 one of the inferior animals peeping out of its hole, 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, 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 rendering the attempt exceedingly difficult and 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 those in 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 in any other of the pyramids. This is the only one which wood enters into the construction of; 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 carried there from excavations made by some one in the eastern side. The roof of this chamber is worthy of note; it 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 Mycenæ, 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, from 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, merely as a hint to future explorers, who would do well to examine it more carefully than my time permitted. 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 there is 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.” From this hall the guides led me through 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 every respect to those 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 have in several places been pulled down in search of 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 pure 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 belonged to an era different from the great pyramids of Geza. Besides differing in external construction, internally, its first chamber differs in the architecture of its roof; 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 a very 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 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 hieroglyphic or sacred writing, * he was therefore unable to have such in his monument, as the Egyptian writings, said to be on the outside of the coating, and detailing the account of the work, are believed by Larcher and other learned commentators to have been common, not hieroglyphic characters. Herodotus tells us they had two sorts of letters, the one appropriated to sacred subjects, the other allowed for common purposes. Thus it appears to me 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 then retraced my steps to the tombs, where I took up my night's bivouac. The donkeyboys had arranged my pallet in one corner, with the lid of a mummy-case for my pillow, and the under part of the coffin serving as a corn-trough for the asses to feed out of. I found several visitors on my return; wild, savage creatures, each bringing some trifling bit of crockery-ware, or small blue idol, and crying out, “Antique, antique-Buckshese, bucksheseInglese, a buckshese.” Odious word! How it yet echoes in my hearing. The cunning and finesse of these people was beyond any thing I could have imagined ; and were it not for their annoying importunity, it would have been ridiculous and amusing.

* Hieroglyph from roos sacred, and gavpw to carve.

« הקודםהמשך »