Images de page
PDF
ePub

and the concluding paragraph exposes his ignorance in a matter in which he ought to have better informed himself, before he attempted to strip another of the laurels so justly his due. “The subterraneous temple of Ipsambul,' says the critic, which M. Belzoni imagines himself to have discovered, had already been visited by many Europeans, particularly by Mr. Thomas Legh. It happens that M. Belzoni, so far from pretending to have discovered it, merely says, “I went to Nubia to examine the temple of Ipsambul; and the only merit which he claims is that of having, by dint of patience and courage, after twenty-two days persevering labour, had the pleasure of finding himself in the temple of Ipsambul, wbere no European had ever before entered.' But it also happens that Mr. Thomas Legh not only did not visit Ipsambul, but was not within a day and a half's journey of it, and never once mentions its name, we would therefore recommend M. Jomard to do justice to M. Belzoni, by frankly avowing that the first time he ever heard the name of Ipsambul was in that gentleman's letter to M. Visconti; for we are quite sure that he knows nothing of the discoveries made there by the late Sheik Ibrahim and Mr. Bankes, the only Europeans we believe, who have proceeded so far up the Nile in the present century.*

But the most brilliant of M. Belzoni's labours, and perhaps the most arduous and extraordinary, is the opening of the second pyramid of Ghiza, known by the name of Cephrenes. Herodotus was informed that this pyramid had no subterraneous chambers, and his information, being found in latter ages to be generally correct, may be supposed to have operated in preventing that curiosity which prompted the opening of the great pyramid of Cheops. M. Belzoni, however, perceived certain indications of sufficient weight to induce him to make the attempt, the account of which we are enabled to give in his own words : but first we shall quote Mr. Salt's observation on this most wonderful undertaking, from a letter which now lies before us. The opening of this pyramid had long been considered an object of so hopeless a nature that it is difficult to conceive how any person could be found sanguine enough to make the attempt; and even after the discovery with great labour of the forced entrance, it required great perseverance in Belzoni, and confidence in his own views, to induce him to continue the operation, when it became evident that the extensive labours of his predecessors in the enterprize had so completely failed. He himself has pointed out in some degree his motives for trying the particular point where he came upon the true entrance, otherwise, on examining it, nothing can present a more hopeless prospect. The direct manner in which he dug down upon the door affords, however, the most incontestible proof that chance had nothing do to with the discovery. Of the discovery itself, M. Belzoni has given a very clear description, and his drawings present a perfect idea of the channels, chambers, and entrances. Of the labours of the undertaking, no one can form an idea. Notwithstanding the masses of stone which he had to remove, and the hardness of the materials which impeded bis progress, the whole was effected entirely at his own risk and expense.'

* The government of France was at no one period more jealous of the power of England, than the members of the French Institute are at this moment of her progress in science and the arts; an instance of it occurred at one of its recent sittings, which appeared to us (for we happened to be present) quite ludicrous. An officer of naval engineers, of the name of Dupin, having procured access to our dock-yards and laboratories, as well as to all the great manufactories of private individuals, presented to the In. stitute, on his return,' An Essay on the Progress of Gunnery, Engineering, &c. in Great Britain,' in which he particularly dwelt on the grandeur, magnificence, and convenient arrangement of the arsenal of Woolwich. During the reading of this report by the Duc de Raguse, the whole Institute sighed most deeply; and when he spoke of the high degree of perfection to which the English bad carried the steam-engine, the hydraulic press, and the different combinations of those two machines--adding that by the first the effect was produced of two or three hundred horses, without noise and without confusion, and that by means of the latter the transport of provisions and forage became so easy as to supply in the greatest abundance the army of Portugal, in presence of an adversary who was destitute of every thing—when these and the many advantages which England derived from the excellence of her machinery were enumerating, nothing was heard but groans from every corner of the room.—But when the reporter desired that it might be recollected that it was to a Frenchman the steam-engine owed its origin; that the hydraulic press was a French invention ; that the mechanic Brunel was a Frencbman, and that he is at this moment charged with the principal works carrying on in England-and, in fact, that there is nothing which the genius of Frenchmen has not been able to produce-- the groans ceased, the clouds were dispelled, and all became calm, cheerful, and serene.(Rapport de l'Institut. Essai sur les Progrès de l'Artillerie, fc. Mars, 1818.)

The following is M. Belzoni's own account of his operations in penetrating to the centre of the pyramid of Cephrenes, which will the more readily be understood by a reference to the annexed diagram.

[merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small]

14

13

[ocr errors]

i On

According to M. Belzoni, the base of this pyramid is 684 feet, and the perpendicular 456, which is considerably more than the French made it; but it may be doubted whether any one before him worked down to the foundation,

[ocr errors][merged small][merged small]
[ocr errors]

On my return to Cairo, I again went to visit the celebrated pyramids of Ghiza; and on viewing that of Cephrenes, I could not help reflecting how many travellers of different nations, who had visited this spot, contented themselves with looking at the outside of this pyramid, and went away without inquiring whether any,

and what chambers, exist within it; satisfied perhaps with the report of the Egyptian priests, “ that the pyramid of Cheops only contained chambers in its interior.” I then began to consider about the possibility of opening this pyramid; the attempt was perhaps presumptuous ; and the risk of undertaking such an immense work without success deterred me in some degree from the enterprize. I am not certain whether love for antiquity, an ardent euriosity, or ambition, spurred me on most in spite of every obstacle, but I determined at length to commence the operation. I soon discovered the same indications which had led to the development of the six tombs of the kings in Thebes, and which induced me to begin the operation on the north side. It is true, the situations of the tombs at Thebes, their form and epoques are so very different from those of the pyramids, that many points of observation made with regard to the former, could not apply to the latter; yet, I perceived enough to urge me to the enterprize. I accordingly set out from Cairo on the 6th of February, 1918, under pretence of going in quest of some antiquities at a village not far off, in order that I might not be disturbed in my work by the people of Cairo. I then repaired to the Kaiya Bey, and asked permission to work at the pyramid of Ghiza in search of antiquities. He made no objection, but said that he wished to know if there was any ground about the pyramid fit for tillage; I informed him that it was all stones, and at a considerable distance from any tilled ground. He nevertheless persisted in inquiring of the Caschief of the province, if there was any good ground near the pyramids; and, after receiving the necessary information, granted my request.

Having thus acquired permission, I began my labours on the 10th of February, at a point on the north side in a vertical section at right angles to that side of the base. I saw many reasons against my beginning there, but certain indications told me that there was an entrance at that spot. I employed sixty labouring men, and began to cut through the mass of stones and cement which had fallen from the upper part of the pyramid, but it was so hard joined together, that the men spoiled several of their hatchets in the operation; the stones which had fallen down along with the cement having formed themselves into one solid and almost impenetrable mass. I succeeded, however, in making an opening of fifteen feet wide, and continued working downwards in uncovering the face of the pyramid; this work took up several days, without the least prospect of

meeting

[ocr errors]

meeting with any thing interesting. Meantime, I began to fear that some of the Europeans residing at Cairo might pay a visit to the pyramids, which they do very often, and thus discover my retreat, and interrupt my proceedings.

• On the 17th of the same month we bad made a considerable advance downwards, when an Arab workman called out, making a great noise, and saying that he had found the entrance. He had discovered a hole in the pyramid into which he could just thrust his arm and a djerid of six feet long. Towards the evening we discovered a larger aperture, about three feet square, which had been closed in irregularly, by a hewn stone; this stone I caused to be removed, and then came to an opening larger than the preceding, but filled up with loose stones and sand. This satisfied me that it was not the real but a forced passage, which I found to lead inwards and towards the south;—the next day we succeeded in entering fifteen feet from the outside, when we reached a place where the sand and stones began to fall from above. I caused the rubbish to be taken out, but it still continued to fall in great quantities; at last, after some days labour, I discovered an upper forced entrance, (2), communicating with the outside from above, and which had evidently been cut by some one who was in search of the true passage. Having cleared this passage, I perceived another opening (S) below, which apparently ran towards the centre of the pyramid. In a few hours I was able to enter this passage, and found it to be a continuation of the lower forced passage (1), which runs horizontally towards the centre of the pyramid, nearly all choked up with stones and sand. These obstructions I caused to be taken out; and at half-way from the entrance I found a descent, (sx), which also had been forced; and which ended at the distance of forty feet. I afterwards continued the work in the horizontal passage above, in hopes that it might lead to the centre; but I was disappointed, and at last was convinced that it ended there, (x 0), and that, to attempt to advance in that way would only incur the risk of sacrificing some of my workmen; as it was really astonishing to see how the stones hung suspended over their heads, resting, perhaps, by a single point. Indeed one of these stones did fall, and had nearly killed one of the men. I therefore retired from the forced passage,

with great regret and disappointment.

Notwithstanding the discouragements I met with, I recommenced my researches on the following day, depending upon my indications. I directed the ground to be cleared away to the eastward of the false entrance; the stones, encrusted and bound together with cement, were equally hard as the former, and we had as many large stones to remove as before. By this time my retreat

« PrécédentContinuer »