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THE EMBALMED IBIS.
enchanted place, so much as when led by this sinewy child of the desert through the dark winding passages, and lonely vaults of this immense mausoleum.
At length we arrived at a place where we could stand upright, and creeping over a vast pile of pots, and sinking in the dust of thousands of animals, we came to where we felt the urns still undisturbed, and piled up in rows with the larger end or lid pointing outwards. How extensive this hypogeum may be I cannot possibly say, but from the echo it must be very great indeed.
Thousands upon thousands of the urns have been removed and broken, either in the cave or outside, where they form an immense heap, yet thousands still remain. With great labour we succeeded in removing six of these, and having them eventually conveyed to England. So fatigued was I, that on reaching the aperture it was with the greatest difficulty I could gain the top, where I lay insensible for some minutes ; on recovering, I found I had been carried out into the open air, and Paulo, not seeing me awake so soon as he thought I ought, was on the point of taking vengeance on poor Alee for some injury which he supposed I had received while so long under ground ;-but a short rest restored me, aided by the thought that I was setting forward to visit the pyramids of Geza.
So very much has been written upon the sacred attributes and natural history of the Sacred Ibis, that I have little to add to the description of others; and to attempt the history of it, either religious, fabulous, or authentic, would form a chapter in itself. Bruce has confirmed the account of Herodotus, by establishing the fact, that the Abou Hannes of Ethiopia, and the Sacred Ibis, are the same. In the museum of the school of medicine at Cairo, I had an opportunity of seeing and comparing both the black and the white ibis with the bones of those found in the mummy-pits at Sackara, and can add my testimony as to their identity; but as far as I have been able to discover, the black ibis is the one found most frequently embalmed. Great heat must have been employed in the preparation of these mummies, as the majority of them are so much roasted, as to crumble to dust on being opened. The black ibis sometimes visits Greece
in company with the Tantalus. There is one preserved in the collection at Athens that was shot near Napoli di Romania.*
Numbers of desert partridges (Pterocles Alchata) sometimes called the pin-tailed sand-grouse, ran in flocks before us, and though pursued, seldom or never took wing; they trust more to their exceeding swiftness, and their similarity of colour to the desert for escape or protection, than to any power of flight. A trivial circumstance took place concerning a covey of these birds, that speaks more for the honesty of the Arabs than we are willing to assign to them. Seeing a number of birds start from our feet among the tombs, Alee requested the gun and some ammunition to have a shot; the experiment was a trying one, and Paulo advised me not to give it, but trusting in the poor fellow's face, I gave the gun, and off he darted like an arrow. After some minutes I lost sight of him, and an hour elapsed before I saw any thing of Alee, who, I was beginning to have strong suspicions, had decamped, as he easily might, with the gun, but he met us on the way, bringing some birds.
Hyenas frequently started up from our path, but always kept out of shot; they are plenty in this part of the country, particularly about the ruined pyramids of Aboosier ; they sometimes make excursions to the neighbouring villages, and are frequently taken in traps by the fellahs, who appear to entertain particular aversion to the animal, probably from its so frequently disinterring and devouring the dead bodies, even when in a state of extreme putrefaction. At last we are at the pyramids.
We experienced the usual deception mentioned by travellers approaching these monuments, of their appearing to recede as we drew towards them; for hour after hour passed, and still they were far distant.
Persons can have no possible conception of the vastness of those structures without standing beside them, looking from their bases to their summits; measuring with the eye of sight their huge dimensions, and with the eye of mind measuring back
* For a particular description of the embalmed Sacred Ibis, see “Pettigrew on Egyptian Mummies.”
† The plumage of this bird is lighter in those I procured in Egypt than the ones figured in most zoological works.
APPROACH TO THE PYRAMIDS.
the ages upon ages they have there remained. No noisy rapturous expression of surprise or wonder breaks from the traveller ; no hastening forward to rush into the interior ; with me, at least, it was a calm, subdued, speechless, but elevated and lasting feeling of awe and admiration, which took possession of my very soul. Could I embody all the overwhelming thoughts that rushed across my mind, I would say that the uppermost was that of time—time, standing as a particle of eternity, is written on these edifices, the greatest human industry ever reared, or human pride or vanity can boast of.
A line of camels slowly pacing across the dreary waste on which they stand, or a Bedawee careering his horse beside the base of one of them, give, by the comparison, some faint idea of their stupendous size ; and an Arab pirouetting his charger on the sphinx* afforded me the desired contrast, at the same time that it showed me what was the magnitude of that emblem of Egyptian reverence and superstition.
I found my friends from Cairo had arrived early in the morning, and had just returned from the ascent of the larger pyramid of Cheops, and were now waiting for me to join their pic-nic, one
* The sand has again accumulated so much on the back of the sphinx, that it is easy to ride to the top.
of the pleasantest and most exciting I ever partook of. Our table was spread in the façade of one of the rock-tombs, at the foot of the great pyramid, commanding a prospect of the lovely verdant country beneath, and shadowed by the mass of masonry some four hundred and fifty feet above us. Several foreigners, travellers like ourselves, or residents at Cairo, had accompanied us; and in the variety of their costumes, and the diversity of their languages, formed as motley a group as ever visited the sepulchres of the ancient kings of Egypt, or made these vaults resound with the toasts and songs of their native lands. How time rolls, and spins from its distaff ;—this sepulchre was once the scene of some priestly mystery ; the habitation of some noble body, perhaps that of the progenitor of kings in times long, long before the countries, its present occupants acknowledged, were ever heard of.
While my friends remained to rest themselves, I engaged two of the Arabs to conduct me to the summit of the pyramid. My object was explained to them by an interpreter ; but whether from not understanding it, or their supposing that I had formed one of the party, which had been already on the top of the more accessible one of Cheops, and wished to attempt the second, I know not, but off we set, the men leading towards the second pyramid, and crying out “Hareem Belzoni," at the foot of which, near the eastern corner, we presently stood. This pyramid, supposed to have been erected by Chephrenes, it will be recollected, was originally somewhat lower than the neighbouring one of Cheops ; but it is now nearly of the same height, as it stood upon higher ground; and the coating, or outer layer of stones, is perfect for about one hundred and forty feet below the top, which is nearly as complete now as when it originally ended in an
of a single stone. I was totally unaware of the difficulty and danger of this ascent, and of its having been undertaken by but five or six travellers of late years; the natives themselves never scaling it but for some reward. Had I been acquainted with the difficulties to be encountered, I much doubt whether my enthusiasm would have induced me to venture up.
This, like the others, was first built in steps, or courses of enormous stones, each row placed the breadth of itself within the course beneath. Some stones in the base of this pyramid are larger than those of Cheops, and from four to five feet in depth,
A PERILOUS POSITION.
so that we had to clamber over them on our hands; but in this, I was assisted by the guides, one an old man, the other aged about forty, and both of a mould, which, for combination of strength and agility, I do not think I ever saw surpassed. We soon turned to the north, and finally reached the outer casing on the west side. All this was very laborious to be sure, though not very dangerous; but here was an obstacle that I knew not how they themselves could surmount, much less how I could possibly master ; for above our heads jutted out like an eave, or coping, the lower stones of the coating which still remain, and retain a smooth polished surface. As considerable precaution was necessary, the men made me take off my hat, coat, and shoes at this place; the younger then placed his raised and extended hands against the projecting edge of the lower stone, which reached to above his chin; and the elder, taking me in his arms, as I would a child, placed my feet on the other's shoulder, and my body flat on the smooth surface of the stone ; in this position we formed an angle with each other, and here I remained for upwards of two minutes, till the older man went round, and by some other means contrived to get over the projection, when creeping along the line of junction of the casing, he took my hands, drew me up to where he was above me, and then letting down his girdle, assisted to mount up
but less active, and less daring climber of the two. We then proceeded much as follows :-One of them got on the shoulders of the other, and so gained the joining of the stone above, which was often five feet from that beneath ; the upper man then helped me in a similar action, while the lower pushed me up by the feet. Having gained this row, we had often to creep for some way along the joining, to where another opportunity of ascending was afforded. In this way we proceeded to the summit, and some idea may be formed of my feelings, when it is recollected, that all these stones of such a span are highly polished, are set at an angle less than 45', and that the places we had to grip with our hands and feet, were often not two inches wide, and their height above the ground upwards of four hundred feet! a single slip of the foot, or a slight gust of wind, and, from our position, we must all three have been dashed to atoms, long before reaching the ground. On gaining the top my guides gave vent to sundry demonstrations of satisfaction, clapping me on the back, patting my head, kissing my hands, and