Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB
[ocr errors]

in part has crumbled, but for the most part, in that rainless atmosphere, it exhibits broad, smooth masses of masonry. "If Egyptologists are right," says Miss Edwards, “in ascribing the royal title in hieroglyphics over the door to Ouenephes, the fourth king of the first dynasty, “then this is the oldest building in the world. It had been standing five hundred years before the great pyramid of Gizeh was begun. It was over two thousand years old when Abraham was born. One's imagination recoils from the brink of such a gulf of time.” This great field of the dead, where “every step is o'er a nation's

༤ dust," is the most ancient necropolis in the world—all that is left of so much pomp and power and splendour. How true the words of the prophet Hosea : “For, lo, they are gone because of destruction: Egypt shall gather them up, Memphis shall bury them.”

Other pyramids are near, the most interesting of which is that of King Unas, made accessible by Messrs. Thos. Cook & Son, with great expenditure of labour. The interior contains two large cham bers, with lofty, pointed roof and enormous inscriptions. In one of these rooms, lined with oriental alabaster and adorned with bright paintings, lies the sarcophagus of the king, “dating back," says Lepsius, “over three thousand years before Christ.”

Most marvellous of all the discoveries of Sakkara is that of the Serapeum or the mausoleum of Apis, the sacred bull, which had spent its life at the temple of Memphis. The Greek historian, Strabo, states that even in his day an avenue of sphinxes leading to the Serapeum, was almost buried by the sand. Without this clue," says Mariette Bey, “the Serapeum would still be lost beneath the sands.” One day that shrewd explorer perceived the head of a sphinx showing above the drifted desert. With enormous difficulty he excavated this avenue for 600 feet, and found it bordered by an army of sphinxes, one hundred and eighty-one of which were in their original position. The entrance to the Serapeum was seventy feet below the surface.

“ The sand," says Mariette, “was almost as fluid as water, which made it almost impossible to dig."

We rode to the small, rude house in which Mariette lived for four years, and, leaving our donkeys, walked with an Arab guide to this vast mausoleum. On every side heaved and rolled the undulating desert, with no sign of human structure save the pyramids behind us and the rude hut we had just left.

We approached the prison-like door in the side of a deep hollow, and, being furnished with lighted candles, proceeded to explore this vast catacomb. Here Mariette found three thousand monuments, the most important of which, however, are those of the

66

oxen deities of Egypt. The passages have an aggregate length of 380 yards, are about 10 feet wide and 17 feet high, hewn out of the solid rock. On either side are sixty-four Apis vaults, averaging 26 feet high, and roofed with stone. Twenty-four of these chambers still contain the huge sarcophagi in which the

[ocr errors][merged small]

Apis mummies were deposited. These monster coffins average 13 feet in length, 7 feet in width, 11 feet in height, hewn out of solid granite, and weigh no less than sixty-five tons. They were all brought from the quarries of Assouan, in Nubia, nearly six hundred miles away. The solid covers have all been pushed aside for the purpose of rifling the tomb. Four or five persons could easily sit around the small table in one of these sarcophagi.

The cut on page 7 shows one of these Apis tombs which has been dragged into the corridor, in the vain attempt to remove it, upon which the Arabs have, for some unknown purpose, built a mass of masonry.

Marictte, in his account of his discovery of these tombs, states that one chamber which had been walled up in the reign of Rameses II., had escaped the notice of the plunderers of the vault. “I was so fortunate," he says, “as to find it untouched, although 3,700 years had elapsed since it was closed. Everything in the chamber seemed to be precisely in its original position. The finger marks of the Egyptian on the wall built to conceal the doorway, were still visible in the lime. There were still marks of naked feet visible on the sand within. Everything was in its original condition in this chamber, where the embalmed remains of the bull had remained undisturbed for thirty-seven centuries."

One of the inscribed sarcophagi bore the name of the Persian conqueror, Cambyses. Herodotus states that in a fit of rage that conqueror had stabbed the sacred bull of Memphis in the thigh, and that the wounded animal some time after died.

FEEDING GEESE.

REAPING WHEAT.

Mariette being suddenly called to Paris before he could carry away his treasure trove, buried fourteen cases in the sand. The Archduke Maximilian, afterwards the hapless emperor of Mexico, discovered and carried these trophies to Vienna, among them the embalmed bull which showed unmistakable signs of injury and healing-a most extraordinary case of historical record and its corroboration.

We wandered around for some time in these strange, dark vaults, where the air was close and oppressive, and were at length glad to return to the open sky. A hot walk beneath the noon-day sun across the burning sands brought us to the tomb of Ti. Once a structure built above ground in a vast street of tombs, it is now covered with sand, and we scrambled down a steep slope to its doors. Ti was a priest of the fifth dynasty, about 4,500 years ago. He married the granddaughter of a Pharaoh, and erected for himself this magnificent tomb in the great necropolis of Memphis. The walls are com

pletely covered with paintings and low reliefs, describing the whole life of Ti-his domestic and social relations, his games and amusements, his feasts and festivals, and his daily occupations.

Of a number of these we give faithful copies. One represents the sacrifice of cattle. A successful figure is that

of a longhorned bull, whose hind legs man is binding together. A small cut shows a man feeding poultry, apparently just as they are stuffed at Strasburg for epicures of the present day. The harvest scene in the rich Nile valley, over forty centuries ago, is elaborately exhibited. The reaping, and transport of corn, and treading it out by oxen, winnowing, and storing, and putting it in bags, is just as we see it to-day. The figures are full of life and spirit. The inscriptions represent the reaper as saying to the

[graphic]

CARRYING WHEAT.

a

lool

WINNOWING GRAIN.

ears, “ye are seasonable,” or “ye are large." The donkey driver reproves his idle charge with the words, “ People love those who go on quickly, but strike those who are lazy;" and adds sarcastically, “if thou couldest but see thine own conduct!”

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

The above illustration shows a ship-building scene—the hewing of the beams and caulking of the vessels upon the stocks. The rude tools are for all the world like those employed at the present time.

In other pictures we find lists of the domestic animals belonging to the deceased, including oxen, gazelles, deer (then domesti

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

cated), goats, asses, also figures of workmen at different trades, carpenters, glass-blowers, chair-makers, water sellers, a court of justice with judges writing, before whom criminals are dragged and the like.

The second cut on this page is described by the inscription as “an offering of sacrificial drink and food from the villages of the tints without any effort at shading. The figures are always in profile, and the perspective is sometimes quite infantile and imperfect.

These pictures give a wonderful insight into that old Egyptian life of 4,000 years ago. Some of them show a sense of the ridiculous that, it has been said, would do credit to some of the comic papers of to-day. Others show captives toiling in the brickyards, mixing the clay, bearing it on their shoulders, moulding it beneath the lash of the task-master, just as described in the book of Exodus. We see the priest of Memphis with his wife and children listening to music, witnessing dances, sailing in boats. We see him worshipping in the temple as well as overseeing the work of the field, the storehouse and the workshop.

After emerging from this strange home of the dead, pictured with scenes from the life of the living, we took refuge from the intense heat of the desert in a large cave, which was nearly full of yellow sand, and there ate our lunch, looking out on the oldest struc. ture on the earth, that terraced

pyramid which had seen so many generations of men come and go like the drifting sand at its base. Instead of returning by the way we had come, we rode across a fertile plain to the Nile. As we approached the river, a number of veiled women were filling their jars with the sweet Nile water. We were about to ride up to study their picturesque garb and graceful gait, as they walked off erect as a column beneath their heavy water jars, when our dragoman said, “You must not go there," and, indeed, suggested we should not even look at them, as beirg against the etiquetta of the country. Neither would he let us visit a native house, and as we rode through the villages the women would scuttle out of sight, or peep bashfully from behind the house doors, just as

[graphic]

KITCHEN OF NILE BOAT.

« AnteriorContinuar »