Le texte qui suit est extrait de Travels in Turkey, Asia-Minor, Syria and across the desert into Egypt during the years 1799, 1800 and 1801, in company with the Turkish army, and the British military mission, 1803, de William Wittman, qui était membre du Collège Royal des chirurgiens de Londres, chirurgien de l’armée britannique.
J’y relève deux remarques particulières de l’auteur :
- la première, que j’ai choisie pour le titre de cette note, et qui aurait nécessité ne serait-ce qu’un minimum d’argumentation ;
- la seconde, qui a trait aux furrows (entailles, sillons) observés sur plusieurs blocs de pierre. William Wittman y voit la trace d’emplacements pour des arceaux ou des liens métalliques assemblant plusieurs blocs. Avec le temps, pour cause de corrosion et d’humidité, ces liens auraient été cassés, rendant aux blocs leur “liberté” et provoquant ainsi leur chute. S’agit-il d’une interprétation purement intuitive ? Ou bien de la reprise d’une interprétation antérieure ? Mais, dans ce second cas, à quelle source est-il fait référence ? L’auteur ne le précise pas.
“About this period I made an excursion, with a party, to the pyramids of Giza, of which the three principal are in a tolerable state of preservation. Several of a smaller size are situated very near to each other, in a direction from east to west, behind the former. One of the latter, however, built of a soft calcareous stone, was, when I saw them, rapidly falling to decay.
Of the three great pyramids one is of an extraordinary bulk ; the second is but little inferior to it in size ; and the third comparatively small, but the proportions of it would be considered as very great, if it was placed in an isolated state from the others. This smaller of the three principal pyramids appears to have been finished with infinite pains and labour, the earth which surrounds it being covered on all sides with immense blocks of beautiful red granite and porphyry, with which it is highly probable it was originally coated. On several of the blocks there are deep furrows, from which it would seem that they had been anciently connected together by metallic hoops or fastenings, which having been corroded by time, by the occasional moisture of the atmosphere, and by other causes, the blocks had been set at liberty, and had successively fallen to the ground.
The whole of these stupendous monuments of antiquity, which, if they cannot boast of any particular elegance of structure, are notwithstanding very extraordinary efforts of human enterprise and labour, are built of a calcareous substance, some parts of which are hard, and others of a softer texture. On the larger of the pyramids I engraved my name near to the entrance without any difficulty ; and in so doing followed the example of thousands of persons who had thus commemorated their visit to this celebrated spot. In entering within I ascended but a small distance, contenting myself with barely penetrating into the narrow passage. My companions were, however, in general, more adventurous, and supplied me with a variety of interesting facts and observations.
The pyramids of Giza are situated about ten miles to the southwest of Cairo, on an elevated and rocky ground, the surface of which is covered with white sands, forming the ridge of the Lybian mountains by which the inundation of the Nile is bounded to the westward. Their planes are directed towards the four quarters of the globe.
The external dimensions of the great pyramid have been the subject of much dispute : neither of its sides being level with the others, it was difficult to find the true horizontal base ; but the length of the supposed base has been variously estimated at from six to eight hundred English feet. According to the measurement lately taken by the French, however, the height of the great pyramid is six hundred feet, and its base seven hundred. Above the great chamber withinside, in which the sarcophagus or coffer is deposited, there is a smaller chamber about eighteen feet in length and in width. The first passage by which the visitor descends into the pyramid is more than an hundred feet in length. That which leads to the great chamber is nearly of the same extent ; and the main gallery is in length an hundred and fifty feet. I have been favoured by a British officer of engineers with the following measurement, taken with the utmost precision, both of the great chamber and of the sarcophagus. It is as follows :
At the time of our visit the heat was extremely oppressive. I collected several fragments of the calcareous stone employed in the construction of the pyramids, together with several detached pieces of granite.
At the distance of about two hundred yards to the east of the great pyramid is the Sphynx, a sculptured head of an enormous size hewn out of the solid rock, though it seems by the veins in the stones to be composed of several stones laid upon another, and supported by several large blocks of stone which form the lower part of the bust, and which have been somewhat decayed by time.
The features of this stupendous figure (about twenty-five feet in height, and fifteen from the ear to the chin) are tolerably preserved, with the exception of the nose, which has been wantonly mutilated. It was formerly conjectured that the head of the Sphynx was connected with a body of proportionate dimensions ; but the French, by digging away the sand round its foundations, have demonstrated the erroneousness of this opinion. The features of this, enormous bust are feminine, and in some degree resemble the Ethiopian or Nubian race.”