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THE GREAT PYRAMID OF SACKARA.
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
CONSTRUCTION OF ITS ROOF.
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
ANTIQUITY OF HIEROGLYPHIC WRITING.
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 118os sacred, and ya upw to carve.
They seemed to study the taste of the purchaser, for at one time seeing me examine some bits of linen, they all rushed out, collected it in armfuls, and coming in one by one, each held out his portion, crying, “Buckshese.”
“ Buckshese.” At another time bones and pieces of mummies were the articles in demand ; and finding that I had no paras, or small copper coin, they brought each article separately, in hopes of obtaining a piaster. I endeavoured by every possible means to get rid of my tormentors, but all to no purpose; they continued to increase to upwards of twenty, and fearful of losing sight of me for a moment, and so giving up even the chance of reward, they sent into the village to get themselves some bread. If I mentioned the name of Mohammad Alee, they all bowed the head, but none stirred to go. If I turned them out by force, it was but to see them in a few minutes come creeping in again by some of the different holes and crannies of this many-chambered sepulchre; and if I walked out myself, or turned suddenly round, some wily Arab whispered in my ear, “Buckshese," and held out some foolish, valueless article for my inspection. This never-ceasing theme of Eastern cupidity is, in ninety-nine cases out of a hundred, the first word a European hears on landing, and it continues to ring in his ears till he leaves the country. If you ask a question, buckshese is demanded; no bargain is concluded without it-nay, the very appearance of an Englishman is enough to make the young children run out and cry “ Buckshese.” I verily believe it is the first word taught in lisping childhood, and, like the obolus of the Roman, it is the last thing in their mouths. They will do any thing for, and nothing without it. An old Arab proverb says, “Give a Turk money with one hand, and he will let you pluck out his eyes with the other.”
This tomb, which is the usual resting place of travellers visiting Sackara, and called by the Arabs Beer-dor-etho, is of great extent, having many series of chambers, with upright niches for the bodies, and also sarcophagi of scienitic granite ; but there are no hieroglyphics in it. Immediately over where I had taken up my abode, there was an elliptic arch, cut in the stone, between two of the upright posts; but that the Egyptians were acquainted with the arch, is now so well known, that I need not dwell upon the circumstance here, as the labours of Wilkinson and Belzoni have put it beyond question.
It was now near sun-down ; I walked forth, and as I sat upon
THE SITE OF MEMPHIS.
one of the adjoining hillocks that crown this range of rock, while Paulo was preparing my coffee, I enjoyed the splendid picture that lay stretched beneath me, and mused upon the days of the past-till fancy conjured up the recollection of far distant eras, and gave shape, form, and life itself to the undulating line of gray sand that occupied the space between me and the glowing, fertile plain of Fayoum. This space, now so lone and desolate, was once crowded with the edifices, and noisy with the people of Memphis.
Notwithstanding the learned descriptions, as to the site of this vast city, by the savans of both ancient and modern times, the unpretending traveller who sits thus, with a view commanding the whole range of country, and the quotations of Herodotus, Diodorus Siculus, and Strabo, fresh in his memory, may be able to advance an opinion as to its probable situation. If we consult the works of the last two centuries we find them disagree, some placing it at Geza; others, and those the most numerous, at Metraheny, a village a few miles further up the Nile than Sackara, and near to the pyramids of Dashour, which were then in sight, and rising like so many huge tents or pavilions out of the desert. It appears. to me that Memphis stood not exactly at either of those two places, but lay along the whole length of the pyramids—extending from Dashour down to Geza, which latter it did not quite reach, as Pliny tells us the pyramids (evidently the large ones) were between Memphis and the Delta, one league from the Nile, two from Memphis, and near the village of Busiris. Herodotus says, that to reach Memphis from Naucratis they had to pass by the pyramids; and Strabo speaks of it as eleven miles from the Delta, and five from the heights on which the pyramids are built.
But whatever discrepancy may occur among writers, the vicinity of these tombs and the pyramids, which most antiquarians are now agreed have had a sepulchral use, ought to decide the question. The French, in their Description de l' Egypt, boast of a great discovery, and will fix the place at Metrahaine, because Citizen Contelle found there the broken wrist of a statue forty-five feet high!! although Denon says“The multitude of pyramids scattered over the district of Sackara, the plain of the monks, and the caves of the ibis, all prove that this territory was the necropolis to the south of Memphis, and that the village opposite to this, in which the pyramids of Geza are situated, was another necropolis, or city of the dead, which