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THE EXTERNAL COATING.
The heat was most intense, and the stones so hot, that it became unpleasant to sit on them very long, and it would be rather too daring an experiment to attempt standing. The descent was, as might be expected, much more dangerous, though not so difficult. The guides, however, tied a long sash under my arms, and so let me slide down from course to course of these covering stones, which are of a yellowish lime-stone, somewhat different from the material of which the steps are composed, and totally distinct from the rock of the base, or the coating of the passages. The elevation of this pyramid is about 450 feet, with a base, according to Belzoni, of 684 feet; but I am of opinion, as all will be who examine it, that the sand has accumulated to a great height up its sides. The smooth coating on the upper 140 feet, is part of that spoken of by Herodotus, and was what the olden authors styled marble—a term applied by them to all polished stones. The Halicarnassian historian likewise informs us, that these stones were raised by small pieces of wood, and the coating commenced from the top! This has been denied; but an examination on the spot will, I think, convince any observant inquirer of its truth, and that, in fact, it was the easiest and perhaps the only way in which the pyramids could be so finished.
The accompanying wood-cut shows the shape of these stones, and how they were placed ; and as the pyramid was first completed, except the casing, it explains to us this apparently difficult problem.
The upper part of this design shows the coating, and the lower the steps : the upper left-hand figure gives the shape of one
INTERIOR OF THE GREAT PYRAMID.
of the casing stones, and the lower that used at the corners. It was easy, by the pieces of wood, (which I consider were used as levers, and not pulleys,) to raise each of these stones, from step to step, to the summit, and so carry it on to the top, as each step was sufficient to support a range of the coping-stone. But had the work been commenced from the bottom, it is plain, either that an enormous scaffolding and apparatus must have been used to raise these great blocks as the work proceeded, or the earth heaped up, as was supposed by Strabo, round each course, and so an inclined plane formed—to erect and remove which would have been a work little inferior to the construction of the pyramid itself.*
On my descent I rejoined my party, and we entered the great pyramid, for the improvement of the entrance to which, as well as the clearing away of much of the sand from its base, we are indebted to the real and liberality of Colonel Vyse, and the labours of the enthusiastic and indefatigable Caviglia. The different chambers, wells, and passages of this pyramid have been so frequently and accurately described in works treating expressly of the antiquities of Egypt, that I can do little more than draw a brief outline, and conduct the reader in a few minutes over the ground I spent some hours in examining.
The Arab guides, who amounted to about half a dozen for each of our party, conducted us down the first low, narrow, and sloping passage, to another which led up to the queen's, and afterwards to that denominated the king's chamber. This latter
* In the 829th number of the “ Athenæum,” (Sept. 19th, 1843,) we read, that at a meeting of the Egyptian Society held in Cairo, the German antiquary, Dr. Lepsius, gave an exposition of the mode of constructing pyramids, in which he puts forward the very views which I advocated in the foregoing text in the year 1840; and in that article will be found a section or diagram of the architectural structure of the outer casing, precisely similar in principle to that exhibited in the illustration on the previous page. It may, however, be possible that Dr. Lepsius had not seen, or was not aware of my explanation. He stated, “ that he was indebted to Mr. I. Wild, architect, for this suggestion, and it agrees with and explains the account given by Herodotus, who states that machines were placed upon the steps, and the stones raised from one step to another.” See also an article on the same subject, by Mr. Perring, in the "Athenæum” for March 9, 1843.
A SCENE IN CHEOPS.
is an oblong apartment, the sides of which are formed of enormous blocks of granite reaching from the floor to the roof; similar stones span the whole extent of the ceiling, and at the distant extremity of the chamber is the sarcophagus, seven feet six inches in length, of polished granite, which rung loudly when we struck it with any metallic substance. In the walls of this apartment are several small apertures, which proceed upwards through the pyramid. These may have been made for the purpose of admitting air from without; or to be more Egyptian in our speculations, they may have been used as acoustic tubes during the mysteries that were here enacted. The natives informed me that some time before, water which had been carried up and spilled on the outside, found its way into this chamber through these channels. In the ascending gallery are grooves cut in the sides, in order to let down a massive stone portcullis, which, in all probability, closed up the passage, (like to that raised by Belzoni, in the second pyramid,) after the body and sarcophagus had been placed within.
A pistol having been discharged in the chamber, the echo it produced was deafening, and by its repetition fully verified the conjecture that there were many other yet undiscovered apartments and cavities in this vast pile. The noise of its report was most stunning, and the reverberation that followed tremendous ; in the vaults above, in the wells and depths beneath, and around on all sides of us, it was continued for almost a minute. When the smoke, which nearly filled the chamber, had partly escaped, the grouping of our party afforded a picture of great interesteach standing in an attitude of deep attention, intently listening, to catch the last retreating sound as it sped its way into those mysterious recesses, which it alone was permitted to visit—some eight or ten wild, bearded, and half-naked Arabs holding the lights--and the Europeans in their various costumes, motionless, and with the expression of amazement and anxious curiosity strongly pictured on their countenances, afforded a subject worthy the pencil of a Salvator Rosa.
Owing to the industry of Colonel Campbell, a ladder has been formed of pieces of wood fitted into the stones that line the passage leading to Davison's chamber, an apartment of about the same length and breadth, but much lower than the king's, over which it is placed, and barely admitting us to stand upright
REMARKABLE SALINE INCRUSTATION.
within it. From this chamber the same perpendicular aperture is continued to a second room of a similar kind, occupying the same relation to it that the other does to the king's. A few of us contrived to clamber into a third and fourth in succession ; and indeed it was a work of much toil and difficulty; for the passage, which greatly resembles a narrow chimney, admitting but one at a time, can only be ascended sweep-wise, by pressing the back against one side, and the feet and knees against the other-a slow and very uncomfortable operation, owing to the heat and dust that it creates.
The stones forming the floor of each of these apartments roof the one below it ; their upper surface is slightly convex; and the whole of them are coated with a remarkable incrustation of a shining white, curly, and crystaline substance, not unlike the moss called ursnea barbata, which I before described as covering some of the trees at Madeira. It is found in little bunches on the roof, more abundantly in the upper than the lower chambers, and as it has not, that I am aware of, been yet accurately described, and is generally supposed to be nitrate of potash, or saltpetre, I submitted it to the chemical analysis of my friend, Professor Kane, and he found it to be common salt (chloride of sodium), and states that “its occurrence in this form is of considerable interest, as it illustrates the manner in which some species of the alum family assume the curious fibrous and contorted figure of these specimens.” A question of exceeding interest here presents itself-how did it get into and crystalize on the sides of those chambers? Three modes of solving this problem have occurred to me-either that the granite itself was filled with this substance in its original bed, and that it oozed out and crystalized in this curious form afterwards; or that the atmosphere from the desert, where salt is found, as it is in the neighbourhood,) becoming impregnated with fine and impalpable saline particles, and getting into the interior of the pyramids, thus encrusted it, although we know that for centuries there was no apparent inlet for it; or thirdly, that it was used in some of the mystic rites that were of old practised in the lower chambers, and being carried up in the form of vapour, cooled and crystalized in the upper apartments. But at the same time I must acknowledge, that none of these modes completely satisfy me as to the way in which the salt is formed. I have never heard of its being
hitherto discovered in this very remarkable form, and it is one well worthy the attention of the learned.
The three uppermost chambers, recently discovered by Caviglia and Colonel Vyse, have the names of Wellington, Nelson, and Campbell painted on them. As yet we must bow to the opinion of Colonel Vyse, that these chambers appear to have been constructed for the purpose of lessening the superincumbent weight on the king's chamber, the principal cavity, to which all the others seem subservient. At the same time, as I before stated, they may have served some secondary purpose in the rites observed in this structure, which, taking it for granted that it was a tomb, (the most general opinion at present,) does not at all lessen the character and importance of these chambers. Certain it is, that they could not have 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 creep under. This passage was sufficiently wide and high for walking in without much inconvenience. We spent some time in 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.
A hasty glance at the third pyramid, lately opened by the enterprising and spirited English antiquary, Colonel Vyse, 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 were my friends, Mr. E. B. Cullen and Mr. Bell, to whose kindness we were much indebted during our stay at Cairo, and who by their knowledge of the manners of the people saved us from much annoyance and imposition.