Drawn by Faucher-Gudin, from a picture at Beni-Hasan. This picture and those which follow it represent a census in the principality of the Gazelle under the XIIth dynasty as well as the collection of a tax.
The year would have to be a very bad one before the authorities would lower the ordinary rate: the State in ancient times was not more willing to deduct anything from its revenue than the modern State would be.*
* The two decrees of Rosetta and of Canopus, however, mention reductions granted by the Ptolemies after an insufficient rise of the Nile.
The payment of taxes was exacted in wheat, durra, beans, and field produce, which were stored in the granaries of the nome. It would seem that the previous deduction of one-tenth of the gross amount of the harvest could not be a heavy burden, and that the wretched fellah ought to have been in a position on land at a permanent figure, based on the average of good and bad harvests.
It was not so, however, and the same writers who have given us such a lamentable picture of the condition of the workmen in the towns, have painted for us in even darker colours the miseries which overwhelmed the country people. "Dost thou not recall the picture of the farmer, when the tenth of his grain is levied? Worms have destroyed half of the wheat, and the hippopotami have eaten the rest; there are swarms of rats in the fields, the grasshoppers alight there, the cattle devour, the little birds pilfer, and if the farmer lose sight for an instant of what remains upon the ground, it is carried off by robbers;* the thongs, moreover, which bind the iron and the hoe are worn out, and the team has died at the plough. It is then that the scribe steps out of the boat at the landing-place to levy the tithe, and there come the keepers of the doors of the granary with cudgels and the negroes with ribs of palm-leaves, who come crying: 'Come now, corn!' There is none, and they throw the cultivator full length upon the ground; bound, dragged to the canal, they fling him in head first;** his wife is bound with him, his children are put into chains; the neighbours, in the mean time, leave him and fly to save their grain."
* This last danger survives even to the present day. During part of the year the fellahin spend the night in their fields; if they did not see to it, their neighbours would not hesitate to come and cut their wheat before the harvest, or root up their vegetables while still immature.
** The same kind of torture is mentioned in the decree of Harmhabi, in which the lawless soldiery are represented as "running from house to house, dealing blows right and left with their sticks, ducking the fellahin head downwards in the water, and not leaving one of them with a whole skin." This treatment was still resorted to in Egypt not long ago, in order to extract money from those taxpayers whom beatings had failed to bring to reason.
One might be tempted to declare that the picture is too dark a one to be true, did one not know from other sources of the brutal ways of filling the treasury which Egypt has retained even to the present day. In the same way as in the town, the stick facilitated the operations of the tax-collector in the country: it quickly opened the granaries of the rich, it revealed resources to the poor of which he had been ignorant, and it only failed in the case of those who had really nothing to give. Those who were insolvent were not let off even when they had been more than half killed: they and their families were sent to prison, and they had to work out in forced labour the amount which they had failed to pay in current merchandise.*
* This is evident from a passage in the Sallier Papyrus n deg. I, quoted above, in which we see the taxpayer in fetters, dragged out to clean the canals, his whole family, wife and children, accompanying him in bonds.
Drawn by Faucher-Gudin, from a picture on the tomb of Khiti at Beni-Hasan (cf. Champollion, Monuments de l'Egypte, pl. cccxc. 4; Rosellini, Monumenti civili, pl. cxxiv. b).
The collection of the taxes was usually terminated by a rapid revision of the survey. The scribe once more recorded the dimensions and character of the domain lands in order to determine afresh the amount of the tax which should be imposed upon them. It often happened, indeed, that, owing to some freak of the Nile, a tract of ground which had been fertile enough the preceding year would be buried under a gravel bed, or transformed into a marsh. The owners who thus suffered were allowed an equivalent deduction; as for the farmers, no deductions of the burden were permitted in their case, but a tract equalling in value that of the part they had lost was granted to them out of the royal or seignorial domain, and their property was thus made up to its original worth.
Drawn by Faucher-Gudin, from a picture on the tomb of Khiti at Beni-Hasan.
What the collection of the taxes had begun was almost always brought to a climax by the corvees. However numerous the royal and seignorial slaves might have been, they were insufficient for the cultivation of all the lands of the domains, and a part of Egypt must always have lain fallow, had not the number of workers been augmented by the addition of those who were in the position of freemen.
This excess of cultivable land was subdivided into portions of equal dimensions, which were distributed among the inhabitants of neighbouring villages by the officers of a "regent" nominated for that purpose. Those dispensed from agricultural service were—the destitute, soldiers on service and their families, certain employes of the public works, and servitors of the temple;* all other country-folk without exception had to submit to it, and one or more portions were allotted to each, according to his capabilities.** Orders issued at fixed periods called them together, themselves, their servants and their beasts of burden, to dig, sow, keep watch in the fields while the harvest was proceeding, to cut and carry the crops, the whole work being done at their own expense and to the detriment of their own interests.***
* That the scribes, i.e. the employes of the royal or princely government, were exempt from enforced labour, is manifest from the contrast drawn by the letter-writers of the Sallier and Anastasi Papyri between themselves and the peasants, or persons belonging to other professions who were liable to it. The circular of Dorion defines the classes of soldiers who were either temporarily or permanently exempt under the Greek kings.
** Several fragments of the Turin papyri contain memoranda of enforced labour performed on behalf of the temples, and of lists of persons liable to be called on for such labour.
*** All these details are set forth in the Ptolemaic period, in the letter to Dorion which refers to a royal edict. As Signor Lumbroso has well remarked, the Ptolemies merely copied exactly the misdeeds of the old native governments. Indeed, we come across frequent allusions to the enforced labour of men and beasts in inscriptions of the Middle Empire at Beni-Hasan or at Siut; many of the pictures on the Memphite tombs show bands of such labourers at work in the fields of the great landowners or of the king.
As a sort of indemnity, a few allotments were left uncultivated for their benefit; to these they sent their flocks after the subsidence of the inundation, for the pasturage on them was so rich that the sheep were doubly productive in wool and offspring. This was a mere apology for a wage: the forced labour for the irrigation brought them no compensation. The dykes which separate the basins, and the network of canals for distributing the water and irrigating the land, demand continual attention: every year some need strengthening, others re-excavating or cleaning out. The men employed in this work pass whole days standing in the water, scraping up the mud with both hands in order to fill the baskets of platted leaves, which boys and girls lift on to their heads and carry to the top of the bank: the semi-liquid contents ooze through the basket, trickle over their faces and soon coat their bodies with a black shining mess, disgusting even to look at. Sheikhs preside over the work, and urge it on with abuse and blows. When the gangs of workmen had toiled all day, with only an interval of two hours about noon for a siesta and a meagre pittance of food, the poor wretches slept on the spot, in the open air, huddled one against another and but ill protected by their rags from the chilly nights. The task was so hard a one, that malefactors, bankrupts, and prisoners of war were condemned to it; it wore out so many hands that the free peasantry were scarcely ever exempt. Having returned to their homes, they were not called until the next year to any established or periodic corvee, but many an irregular one came and surprised them in the midst of their work, and forced them to abandon all else to attend to the affairs of king or lord. Was a new chamber to be added to some neighbouring temple, were materials wanted to strengthen or rebuild some piece of wall which had been undermined by the inundation, orders were issued to the engineers to go and fetch a stated quantity of limestone or sandstone, and the peasants were commanded to assemble at the nearest quarry to cut the blocks from it, and if needful to ship and convey them to their destination. Or perhaps the sovereign had caused a gigantic statue of himself to be carved, and a few hundred men were requisitioned to haul it to the place where he wished it to be set up. The undertaking ended in a gala, and doubtless in a distribution of food and drink: the unfortunate creatures who had been got together to execute the work could not always have felt fitly compensated for the precious time they had lost, by one day of drunkenness and rejoicing.
We may ask if all these corvees were equally legal? Even if some of them were illegal, the peasant on whom they fell could not have found the means to escape from them, nor could he have demanded legal reparation for the injury which they caused him. Justice, in Egypt and in the whole Oriental world, necessarily emanates from political authority, and is only one branch of the administration amongst others, in the hands of the lord and his representatives. Professional magistrates were unknown—men brought up to the study of law, whose duty it was to ensure the observance of it, apart from any other calling—but the same men who commanded armies, offered sacrifices, and assessed or received taxes, investigated the disputes of ordinary citizens, or settled the differences which arose between them and the representatives of the lords or of the Pharaoh. In every town and village, those who held by birth or favour the position of governor were ex-officio invested with the right of administering justice. For a certain number of days in the month, they sat at the gate of the town or of the building which served as their residence, and all those in the town or neighbourhood possessed of any title, position, or property, the superior priesthood of the temples, scribes who had advanced or grown old in office, those in command of the militia or the police, the heads of divisions or corporations, the "qonbitiu," the "people of the angle," might if they thought fit take their place beside them, and help them to decide ordinary lawsuits. The police were mostly recruited from foreigners and negroes, or Bedouin belonging to the Nubian tribe of the Mazaiu. The litigants appeared at the tribunal, and waited under the superintendence of the police until their turn came to speak: the majority of the questions were decided in a few minutes by a judgment by which there was no appeal; only the more serious cases necessitated a cross-examination and prolonged discussion. All else was carried on before this patriarchal jury as in our own courts of justice, except that the inevitable stick too often elucidated the truth and cut short discussions: the depositions of the witnesses, the speeches on both sides, the examination of the documents, could not proceed without the frequent taking of oaths "by the life of the king" or "by the favour of the gods," in which the truth often suffered severely. Penalties were varied somewhat—the bastinado, imprisonment, additional days of work for the corvee, and, for grave offences, forced labour in the Ethiopian mines, the loss of nose and ears, and finally, death by strangulation, by beheading,* by empalement, and at the stake.
* The only known instance of an execution by hanging is that of Pharaoh's chief baker, in Gen. xl. 19, 22, xli. 13; but in a tomb at Thebes we see two human victims executed by strangulation. The Egyptian hell contains men who have been decapitated, and the block on which the damned were beheaded is frequently mentioned in the texts.
Criminals of high rank obtained permission to carry out on themselves the sentence passed upon them, and thus avoided by suicide the shame of public execution. Before tribunals thus constituted, the fellah who came to appeal against the exactions of which he was the victim had little chance of obtaining a hearing: had not the scribe who had overtaxed him, or who had imposed a fresh corvee upon him, the right to appear among the Judges to whom he addressed himself? Nothing, indeed, prevented him from appealing from the latter to his feudal lord, and from him to Pharaoh, but such an appeal would be for him a mere delusion. When he had left his village and presented his petition, he had many delays to encounter before a solution could be arrived at; and if the adverse party were at all in favour at court, or could command any influence, the sovereign decision would confirm, even if it did not aggravate, the sentence of the previous judges. In the mean while the peasants' land remained uncultivated, his wife and children bewailed their wretchedness, and the last resources of the family were consumed in proceedings and delays: it would have been better for him at the outset to have made up his mind to submit without resistance to a fate from which he could not escape.
In spite of taxes, requisitions, and forced labour, the fellahin came off fairly well, when the chief to whom they belonged proved a kind master, and did not add the exactions of his own personal caprice to those of the State. The inscriptions which princes caused to be devoted to their own glorification, are so many enthusiastic panegyrics dealing only with their uprightness and kindness towards the poor and lowly. Every one of them represents himself as faultless: "the staff of support to the aged, the foster father of the children, the counsellor of the unfortunate, the refuge in which those who suffer from the cold in Thebes may warm themselves, the bread of the afflicted which never failed in the city of the South." Their solicitude embraced everybody and everything: "I have caused no child of tender age to mourn; I have despoiled no widow; I have driven away no tiller of the soil; I have taken no workmen away from their foreman for the public works; none have been unfortunate about me, nor starving in my time. When years of scarcity arose, as I had cultivated all the lands of the nome of the Gazelle to its northern and southern boundaries, causing its inhabitants to live, and creating provisions, none who were hungry were found there, for I gave to the widow as well as to the woman who had a husband, and I made no distinction between high and low in all that I gave. If, on the contrary, there were high Niles, the possessors of lands became rich in all things, for I did not raise the rate of the tax upon the fields." The canals engrossed all the prince's attention; he cleaned them out, enlarged them, and dug fresh ones, which were the means of bringing fertility and plenty into the most remote corners of his property. His serfs had a constant supply of clean water at their door, and were no longer content with such food as durra; they ate wheaten bread daily. His vigilance and severity were such that the brigands dared no longer appear within reach of his arm, and his soldiers kept strict discipline: "When night fell, whoever slept by the roadside blessed me, and was [in safety] as a man in his own house; the fear of my police protected him, the cattle remained in the fields as in the stable; the thief was as the abomination of the god, and he no more fell upon the vassal, so that the latter no more complained, but paid exactly the dues of his domain, for love" of the master who had procured for him this freedom from care. This theme might be pursued at length, for the composers of epitaphs varied it with remarkable cleverness and versatility of imagination. The very zeal which they display in describing the lord's virtues betrays how precarious was the condition of his subjects. There was nothing to hinder the unjust prince or the prevaricating officer from ruining and ill-treating as he chose the people who were under his authority. He had only to give an order, and the corvee fell upon the proprietors of a village, carried off their slaves and obliged them to leave their lands uncultivated; should they declare that they were incapable of paying the contributions laid on them, the prison opened for them and their families. If a dyke were cut, or the course of a channel altered, the nome was deprived of water: prompt and inevitable ruin came upon the unfortunate inhabitants, and their property, confiscated by the treasury in payment of the tax, passed for a small consideration into the hands of the scribe or of the dishonest administrator. Two or three years of neglect were almost enough to destroy a system of irrigation: the canals became filled with mud, the banks crumbled, the inundation either failed to reach the ground, or spread over it too quickly and lay upon it too long. Famine soon followed with its attendant sicknesses: men and animals died by the hundred, and it was the work of nearly a whole generation to restore prosperity to the district.
The lot of the fellah of old was, as we have seen, as hard as that of the fellah of to-day. He himself felt the bitterness of it, and complained at times, or rather the scribes complained for him, when with selfish complacency they contrasted their calling with his. He had to toil the whole year round,—digging, sowing, working the shadouf from morning to night for weeks, hastening at the first requisition to the corvee, paying a heavy and cruel tax,—all without even the certainty of enjoying what remained to him in peace, or of seeing his wife and children profit by it. So great, however, was the elasticity of his temperament that his misery was not sufficient to depress him: those monuments upon which his life is portrayed in all its minutias, represent him as animated with inexhaustible cheerfulness. The summer months ended, the ground again becomes visible, the river retires into its bed, the time of sowing is at hand: the peasant takes his team and his implements with him and goes off to the fields. In many places, the soil, softened by the water, offers no resistance, and the hoe easily turns it up; elsewhere it is hard, and only yields to the plough. While one of the farm-servants, almost bent double, leans his whole weight on the handles to force the ploughshare deep into the soil, his comrade drives the oxen and encourages them by his songs: these are only two or three short sentences, set to an unvarying chant, and with the time beaten on the back of the nearest animal. Now and again he turns round towards his comrade and encourages him: "Lean hard!"—"Hold fast!"
Drawn by Faucher-Gudin, from a photograph.
The sower follows behind and throws handfuls of grain into the furrow: a flock of sheep or goats brings up the rear, and as they walk, they tread the seed into the ground. The herdsmen crack their whips and sing some country song at the top of their voices,—based on the complaint of some fellah seized by the corvee to clean out a canal. "The digger is in the water with the fish,—he talks to the silurus, and exchanges greetings with the oxyrrhynchus:—West! your digger is a digger from the West!"*
* The silurus is the electrical fish of the Nile. The text ironically hints that the digger, up to his waist in water, engaged in dredging the dykes or repairing a bank swept away by an inundation, is liable at any moment to salute, i.e. to meet with a silurus or an oxyrrhynchus ready to attack him; he is doomed to death, and this fact the couplet expresses by the words, "West! your digger is a digger from the West." The West was the region of the tombs; and the digger, owing to the dangers of his calling, was on his way thither.
All this takes place under the vigilant eye of the master: as soon as his attention is relaxed, the work slackens, quarrels arise, and the spirit of idleness and theft gains the ascendency. Two men have unharnessed their team. One of them quickly milks one of the cows, the other holds the animal and impatiently awaits his turn: "Be quick, while the farmer is not there." They run the risk of a beating for a potful of milk. The weeks pass, the corn has ripened, the harvest begins. The fellahin, armed with a short sickle, cut or rather saw the stalks, a handful at a time. As they advance in line, a flute-player plays them captivating tunes, a man joins in with his voice marking the rhythm by clapping his hands, the foreman throwing in now and then a few words of exhortation: "What lad among you, when the season is over, can say: 'It is I who say it, to thee and to my comrades, you are all of you but idlers!'—Who among you can say: 'An active lad for the job am I!'" A servant moves among the gang with a tall jar of beer, offering it to those who wish for it. "Is it not good!" says he; and the one who drinks answers politely: "'Tis true, the master's beer is better than a cake of durra!" The sheaves once bound, are carried to the singing of fresh songs addressed to the donkeys who bear them: "Those who quit the ranks will be tied, those who roll on the ground will be beaten,—Geeho! then." And thus threatened, the ass trots forward. Even when a tragic element enters the scene, and the bastinado is represented, the sculptor, catching the bantering spirit of the people among whom he lives, manages to insinuate a vein of comedy. A peasant, summarily condemned for some misdeed, lies flat upon the ground with bared back: two friends take hold of his arms, and two others his legs, to keep him in the proper position. His wife or his son intercedes for him to the man with the stick: "For mercy's sake strike on the ground!" And as a fact, the bastinado was commonly rather a mere form of chastisement than an actual punishment: the blows, dealt with apparent ferocity, missed their aim and fell upon the earth; the culprit howled loudly, but was let off with only a few bruises.
An Arab writer of the Middle Ages remarks, not without irony, that the Egyptians were perhaps the only people in the world who never kept any stores of provisions by them, but each one went daily to the market to buy the pittance for his family. The improvidence which he laments over in his contemporaries had been handed down from their most remote ancestors. Workmen, fellahin, employes, small townsfolk, all lived from hand to mouth in the Egypt of the Pharaohs. Pay-days were almost everywhere days of rejoicing and extra eating: no one spared either the grain, oil, or beer of the treasury, and copious feasting continued unsparingly, as long as anything was left of their wages. As their resources were almost always exhausted before the day of distribution once more came round, beggary succeeded to fulness of living, and a part of the population was literally starving for several days. This almost constant alternation of abundance and dearth had a reactionary influence on daily work: there were scarcely any seignorial workshops or undertakings which did not come to a standstill every month on account of the exhaustion of the workmen, and help had to be provided for the starving in order to avoid popular seditions. Their improvidence, like their cheerfulness, was perhaps an innate trait in the national character: it was certainly fostered and developed by the system of government adopted by Egypt from the earliest times. What incentive was there for a man of the people to calculate his resources and to lay up for the future, when he knew that his wife, his children, his cattle, his goods, all that belonged to him, and himself to boot, might be carried off at any moment, without his having the right or the power to resent it? He was born, he lived, and he died in the possession of a master.
Drawn by Faucher-Gudin, from a photograph by Emil Brugsch- Bey. The picture is taken from the tomb of Ti.
The lands or houses which his father had left him, were his merely on sufferance, and he enjoyed them only by permission of his lord. Those which he acquired by his own labour went to swell his master's domain. If he married and had sons, they were but servants for the master from the moment they were brought into the world. Whatever he might enjoy to-day, would his master allow him possession of it to-morrow? Even life in the world beyond did not offer him much more security or liberty: he only entered it in his master's service and to do his bidding; he existed in it on tolerance, as he had lived upon this earth, and he found there no rest or freedom unless he provided himself abundantly with "respondents" and charmed statuettes. He therefore concentrated his mind and energies on the present moment, to make the most of it as of almost the only thing which belonged to him: he left to his master the task of anticipating and providing for the future. In truth, his masters were often changed; now the lord of one town, now that of another; now a Pharaoh of the Memphite or Theban dynasties, now a stranger installed by chance upon the throne of Horns. The condition of the people never changed; the burden which crushed them was never lightened, and whatever hand happened to hold the stick, it never fell the less heavily upon their backs.
Volume II., Part B.
THE MEMPHITE EMPIRE
THE ROYAL PYRAMID BUILDERS: KHEOPS, KHEPHREN, MYKERINOS—MEMPHITE LITERATURE AND ART—EXTENSION OF EGYPT TOWARDS THE SOUTH, AND THE CONQUEST OP NUBIA BY THE PHARAOHS.
Snofrui—The desert which separates Africa from Asia: its physical configuration, its inhabitants, their incursions into Egypt, and their relations with the Egyptians—The peninsula of Sinai: the turquoise and copper mines, the mining works of the Pharaohs—The two tombs of Snofrui: the pyramid and the mastabas of Medum, the statues of Bahotpu and his wife Nofrit.
Kheops, Ehephren, and Myherinos—The Great Pyramid: its construction and internal arrangements—The pyramids of Khephren and Myherinos; the rifling of them—Legend about the royal pyramid builders: the impiety of Kheops and Khephren, the piety of Myherinos; the brick pyramid of Asychis—The materials employed in building, and the quarries of Turah; the plans, the worship of the royal "double;" the Arab legends about the guardian genii of the pyramids.
The kings of the fifth dynasty: Usirkaf, Sahuri, Kalciu, and the romance about their advent—The relations of the Delta to the peoples of the North: the shipping and maritime commerce of the Egyptians—Nubia and its tribes: the Uauaiu and the Mazaiu, Puanit, the dwarfs and the Danga—Egyptian literature: the Proverbs of Phtahhotpu—The arts: architecture, statuary and its chief examples, bas-reliefs, painting, industrial art.
The development of Egyptian feudalism, and the advent of the sixth dynasty: Ati, Imhotpa, Teti—Papi I. and his minister Uni: the affair of Queen Amitsi; the wars against the Hiru-Shaitu and the country of Tiba—Metesuphis I. and the second Papi: progress of the Egyptian power in Nubia—the lords of Elephantine; Hirkhuf, Papinakhiti: the way for conquest prepared by their explorations, the occupation of the Oases—The pyramids of Saqqara: Metesuphis the Second—Nitokris and the legend concerning her—Preponderance of the feudal lords, and fall of the Memphite dynasty.
CHAPTER II—THE MEMPHITE EMPIRE
The royal pyramid builders: Kheops, Khephren, Mykerinos—Memphite literature and art—Extension of Egypt towards the South, and the conquest of Nubia by the Pharaohs.
At that time "the Majesty of King Huni died, and the Majesty of King Snofrui arose to be a sovereign benefactor over this whole earth." All that we know of him is contained in one sentence: he fought against the nomads of Sinai, constructed fortresses to protect the eastern frontier of the Delta, and made for himself a tomb in the form of a pyramid.
The almost uninhabited country which connects Africa with Asia is flanked towards the south by two chains of hills which unite at right angles, and together form the so-called Gebel et-Tih. This country is a tableland, gently inclined from south to north, bare, sombre, covered with flint-shingle, and siliceous rocks, and breaking out at frequent intervals into long low chalky hills, seamed with wadys, the largest of which—that of El-Arish—having drained all the others into itself, opens into the Mediterranean halfway between Pelusiam and Gaza. Torrents of rain are not infrequent in winter and spring, but the small quantity of water which they furnish is quickly evaporated, and barely keeps alive the meagre vegetation in the bottom of the valleys. Sometimes, after months of absolute drought, a tempest breaks over the more elevated parts of the desert.*
* In chap. viii. of the Account of the Survey, pp. 226- 228, Mr. Holland describes a sudden rainstorm or "sell" on December 3, 1867, which drowned thirty persons, destroyed droves of camels and asses, flocks of sheep and goats, and swept away, in the Wady Feiran, a thousand palm trees and a grove of tamarisks, two miles in length. Towards 4.30 in the afternoon, a few drops of rain began to fall, but the storm did not break till 5 p.m. At 5.15 it was at its height, and it was not over till 9.30. The torrent, which at 8 p.m. was 10 feet deep, and was about 1000 feet in width, was, at 6 a.m. the next day, reduced to a small streamlet.
The wind rises suddenly in squall-like blasts; thick clouds, borne one knows not whence, are riven by lightning to the incessant accompaniment of thunder; it would seem as if the heavens had broken up and were crashing down upon the mountains. In a few moments streams of muddy water rushing down the ravines, through the gulleys and along the slightest depressions, hurry to the low grounds, and meeting there in a foaming concourse, follow the fall of the land; a few minutes later, and the space between one hillside and the other is occupied by a deep river, flowing with terrible velocity and irresistible force. At the end of eight or ten hours the air becomes clear, the wind falls, the rain ceases; the hastily formed river dwindles, and for lack of supply is exhausted; the inundation comes to an end almost as quickly as it began. In a short time nothing remains of it but some shallow pools scattered in the hollows, or here and there small streamlets which rapidly dry up. The flood, however, accelerated by its acquired velocity, continues to descend towards the sea. The devastated flanks of the hills, their torn and corroded bases, the accumulated masses of shingle left by the eddies, the long lines of rocks and sand, mark its route and bear evidence everywhere of its power. The inhabitants, taught by experience, avoid a sojourn in places where tempests have once occurred. It is in vain that the sky is serene above them and the sun shines overhead; they always fear that at the moment in which danger seems least likely to threaten them, the torrent, taking its origin some twenty leagues off, may be on its headlong way to surprise them. And, indeed, it comes so suddenly and so violently that nothing in its course can escape it: men and beasts, before there is time to fly, often even before they are aware of its approach, are swept away and pitilessly destroyed. The Egyptians applied to the entire country the characteristic epithet of To-Shuit, the land of Emptiness, the land of Aridity.
They divided it into various districts—the upper and lower Tonu, Aia, Kaduma. They called its inhabitants Hiru-Shaitu, the lords of the Sands; Nomiu-Shaitu, the rovers of the Sands; and they associated them with the Amu—that is to say, with a race which we recognize as Semitic. The type of these barbarians, indeed, reminds one of the Semitic massive head, aquiline nose, retreating forehead, long beard, thick and not infrequently crisp hair. They went barefoot, and the monuments represent them as girt with a short kilt, though they also wore the abayah. Their arms were those commonly used by the Egyptians—the bow, lance, club, knife, battle-axe, and shield. They possessed great flocks of goats or sheep, but the horse and camel were unknown to them, as well as to their African neighbours. They lived chiefly upon the milk of their flocks, and the fruit of the date-palm. A section of them tilled the soil: settled around springs or wells, they managed by industrious labour to cultivate moderately sized but fertile fields, flourishing orchards, groups of palms, fig and olive trees, and vines. In spite of all this their resources were insufficient, and their position would have been precarious if they had not been able to supplement their stock of provisions from Egypt or Southern Syria. They bartered at the frontier markets their honey, wool, gums, manna, and small quantities of charcoal, for the products of local manufacture, but especially for wheat, or the cereals of which they stood in need. The sight of the riches gathered together in the eastern plain, from Tanis to Bubastis, excited their pillaging instincts, and awoke in them an irrepressible covetousness. The Egyptian annals make mention of their incursions at the very commencement of history, and they maintained that even the gods had to take steps to protect themselves from them. The Gulf of Suez and the mountainous rampart of Gebel Geneffeh in the south, and the marshes of Pelusium on the north, protected almost completely the eastern boundary of the Delta; but the Wady Tumilat laid open the heart of the country to the invaders. The Pharaohs of the divine dynasties in the first place, and then those of the human dynasties, had fortified this natural opening, some say by a continuous wall, others by a line of military posts, flanked on the one side by the waters of the gulf.*
* The existence of the wall, or of the line of military posts, is of very ancient date, for the name Kim-Oirit is already followed by the hieroglyph of the wall, or by that of a fortified enclosure in the texts of the Pyramids.
Drawn by Faucher-Gudin, from a photograph by Petrie. The original is of the time of Nectanebo, and is at Karnak; I have chosen it for reproduction in preference to the heads of the time of the Ancient Empire, which are more injured, and of which this is only the traditional copy.
Snofrui restored or constructed several castles in this district, which perpetuated his name for a long time after his death. These had the square or rectangular form of the towers, whose ruins are still to be seen on the banks of the Nile. Standing night and day upon the battlements, the sentinels kept a strict look-out over the desert, ready to give alarm at the slightest suspicious movement.
Drawn by Faucher-Gudin, from the vignette by E. H. Palmer, The Desert of the Exodus, p. 317.
The expression Kim-Oirit, "the very black," is applied to the northern part of the Red Sea, in contradistinction to Uaz-Oirit, Uazit-Oirit, "the very green," the Mediterranean; a town, probably built at a short distance from the village of Maghfar, had taken its name from the gulf on which it was situated, and was also called Kim- Oirit.
The marauders took advantage of any inequality in the ground to approach unperceived, and they were often successful in getting through the lines; they scattered themselves over the country, surprised a village or two, bore off such women and children as they could lay their hands on, took possession of herds of animals, and, without carrying their depredations further, hastened to regain their solitudes before information of their exploits could have reached the garrison. If their expeditions became numerous, the general of the Eastern Marches, or the Pharaoh himself, at the head of a small army, started on a campaign of reprisals against them. The marauders did not wait to be attacked, but betook themselves to refuges constructed by them beforehand at certain points in their territory. They erected here and there, on the crest of some steep hill, or at the confluence of several wadys, stone towers put together without mortar, and rounded at the top like so many beehives, in unequal groups of three, ten, or thirty; here they massed themselves as well as they could, and defended the position with the greatest obstinacy, in the hope that their assailants, from the lack of water and provisions, would soon be forced to retreat.*
* The members of the English Commission do not hesitate to attribute the construction of these towers to the remotest antiquity; the Bedouin call them "namus," plur. "nawamis," mosquito-houses, and they say that the children of Israel built them as a shelter during the night from mosquitos at the time of the Exodus. The resemblance of these buildings to the "Talayot" of the Balearic Isles, and to the Scotch beehive-shaped houses, has struck all travellers.
Elsewhere they possessed fortified "duars," where not only their families but also their herds could find a refuge—circular or oval enclosures, surrounded by low walls of massive rough stones crowned by a thick rampart made of branches of acacia interlaced with thorny bushes, the tents or huts being ranged behind, while in the centre was an empty space for the cattle. These primitive fortresses were strong enough to overawe nomads; regular troops made short work of them. The Egyptians took them by assault, overturned them, cut down the fruit trees, burned the crops, and retreated in security, after having destroyed everything in their march. Each of their campaigns, which hardly lasted more than a few days, secured the tranquillity of the frontier for some years.*
* The inscription of Uni (11. 22-32) furnishes us with the invariable type of the Egyptian campaigns against the Hiru- Shaitu: the bas-reliefs of Karnak might serve to illustrate it, as they represent the great raid led by Seti I. into the territory of the Shausus and their allies, between the frontier of Egypt and the town of Hebron.
Drawn by Boudier, from the water-colour drawing published by Lepsius, Denhn., i. 7, No. 2.
To the south of Gebel et-Tih, and cut off from it almost completely by a moat of wadys, a triangular group of mountains known as Sinai thrusts a wedge-shaped spur into the Red Sea, forcing back its waters to the right and left into two narrow gulfs, that of Akabah and that of Suez. Gebel Katherin stands up from the centre and overlooks the whole peninsula. A sinuous chain detaches itself from it and ends at Gebel Serbal, at some distance to the northwest; another trends to the south, and after attaining in Gebel Umm-Shomer an elevation equal to that of Gebel Katherin, gradually diminishes in height, and plunges into the sea at Ras-Mohammed. A complicated system of gorges and valleys—Wady Nasb, Wady Kidd, Wady Hebran, Wady Baba—furrows the country and holds it as in a network of unequal meshes. Wady Feiran contains the most fertile oasis in the peninsula. A never-failing stream waters it for about two or three miles of its length; quite a little forest of palms enlivens both banks—somewhat meagre and thin, it is true, but intermingled with acacias, tamarisks, nabecas, carob trees, and willows. Birds sing amid their branches, sheep wander in the pastures, while the huts of the inhabitants peep out at intervals from among the trees. Valleys and plains, even in some places the slopes of the hills, are sparsely covered with those delicate aromatic herbs which affect a stony soil. Their life is a perpetual struggle against the sun: scorched, dried up, to all appearance dead, and so friable that they crumble to pieces in the fingers when one attempts to gather them, the spring rains annually infuse into them new life, and bestow upon them, almost before one's eyes, a green and perfumed youth of some days' duration. The summits of the hills remain always naked, and no vegetation softens the ruggedness of their outlines, or the glare of their colouring. The core of the peninsula is hewn, as it were, out of a block of granite, in which white, rose-colour, brown, or black predominate, according to the quantities of felspar, quartz, or oxides of iron which the rocks contain. Towards the north, the masses of sandstone which join on to Gebel et-Tih assume all possible shades of red and grey, from a delicate lilac neutral tint to dark purple. The tones of colour, although placed crudely side by side, present nothing jarring nor offensive to the eye; the sun floods all, and blends them in his light. The Sinaitic peninsula is at intervals swept, like the desert to the east of Egypt, by terrible tempests, which denude its mountains and transform its wadys into so many ephemeral torrents. The Monitu who frequented this region from the dawn of history did not differ much from the "Lords of the Sands;" they were of the same type, had the same costume, the same arms, the same nomadic instincts, and in districts where the soil permitted it, made similar brief efforts to cultivate it. They worshipped a god and a goddess whom the Egyptians identified with Horus and Hathor; one of these appeared to represent the light, perhaps the sun, the other the heavens. They had discovered at an early period in the sides of the hills rich metalliferous veins, and strata, bearing precious stones; from these they learned to extract iron, oxides of copper and manganese, and turquoises, which they exported to the Delta. The fame of their riches, carried to the banks of the Nile, excited the cupidity of the Pharaohs; expeditions started from different points of the valley, swept down upon the peninsula, and established themselves by main force in the midst of the districts where the mines lay. These were situated to the north-west, in the region of sandstone, between the western branch of Gebel et-Tih and the Gulf of Suez. They were collectively called Mafkait, the country of turquoises, a fact which accounts for the application of the local epithet, lady of Mafkait, to Hathor. The earliest district explored, that which the Egyptians first attacked, was separated from the coast by a narrow plain and a single range of hills: the produce of the mines could be thence transported to the sea in a few hours without difficulty. Pharaoh's labourers called this region the district of Baifc, the mine par excellence, or of Bebit, the country of grottoes, from the numerous tunnels which their predecessors had made there: the name Wady Maghara, Valley of the Cavern, by which the site is now designated, is simply an Arabic translation of the old Egyptian word.
The Monitu did not accept this usurpation of their rights without a struggle, and the Egyptians who came to work among them had either to purchase their forbearance by a tribute, or to hold themselves always in readiness to repulse the assaults of the Monitu by force of arms. Zosiri had already taken steps to ensure the safety of the turquoise-seekers at their work; Snofrui was not, therefore, the first Pharaoh who passed that way, but none of his predecessors had left so many traces of his presence as he did in this out-of-the-way corner of the empire. There may still be seen, on the north-west slope of the Wady Maghara, the bas-relief which one of his lieutenants engraved there in memory of a victory gained over the Monitu. A Bedouin sheikh fallen on his knees prays for mercy with suppliant gesture, but Pharaoh has already seized him by his long hair, and brandishes above his head a white stone mace to fell him with a single blow.
Plan made by Thuillier, from the sketch by Brugscii, Wanderung nach den Tiirhis Minen, p. 70.
The workmen, partly recruited from the country itself, partly despatched from the banks of the Nile, dwelt in an entrenched camp upon an isolated peak at the confluence of Wady Genneh and Wady Maghara. A zigzag pathway on its smoothest slope ends, about seventeen feet below the summit, at the extremity of a small and slightly inclined tableland, upon which are found the ruins of a large village; this is the High Castle—Hait-Qait of the ancient inscriptions. Two hundred habitations can still be made out here, some round, some rectangular, constructed of sandstone blocks without mortar, and not larger than the huts of the fellahin: in former times a flat roof of wicker-work and puddled clay extended over each. The entrance was not so much a door as a narrow opening, through which a fat man would find it difficult to pass; the interior consisted of a single chamber, except in the case of the chief of the works, whose dwelling contained two.
Drawn by Boudier, from the photograph published in the Ordnance Survey of the Peninsula of Sinai, Photographs, vol. ii. pls. 59, 60.
A rough stone bench from two to two and a half feet high surrounds the plateau on which the village stands; a cheval defrise made of thorny brushwood probably completed the defence, as in the duars of the desert. The position was very strong and easily defended. Watchmen scattered over the neighbouring summits kept an outlook over the distant plain and the defiles of the mountains. Whenever the cries of these sentinels announced the approach of the foe, the workmen immediately deserted the mine and took refuge in their citadel, which a handful of resolute men could successfully hold, as long as hunger and thirst did not enter into the question. As the ordinary springs and wells would not have been sufficient to supply the needs of the colony, they had transformed the bottom of the valley into an artificial lake. A dam thrown across it prevented the escape of the waters, which filled the reservoir more or less completely according to the season. It never became empty, and several species of shellfish flourished in it—among others, a kind of large mussel which the inhabitants generally used as food, which with dates, milk, oil, coarse bread, a few vegetables, and from time to time a fowl or a joint of meat, made up their scanty fare. Other things were of the same primitive character. The tools found in the village are all of flint: knives, scrapers, saws, hammers, and heads of lances and arrows. A few vases brought from Egypt are distinguished by the fineness of the material and the purity of the design; but the pottery in common use was made on the spot from coarse clay without care, and regardless of beauty. As for jewellery, the villagers had beads of glass or blue enamel, and necklaces of strung cowrie-shells. In the mines, as in their own houses, the workmen employed stone tools only, with handles of wood, or of plaited willow twigs, but their chisels or hammers were more than sufficient to cut the yellow sandstone, coarse-grained and very friable as it was, in the midst of which they worked.*
* E. H. Palmer, however, from his observations, is of opinion that the work in the tunnels of the mines was executed entirely by means of bronze chisels and tools; the flint implements serving only to incise the scenes which cover the surfaces of the rocks.
The tunnels running straight into the mountain were low and wide, and were supported at intervals by pillars of sandstone left in situ. These tunnels led into chambers of various sizes, whence they followed the lead of the veins of precious mineral. The turquoise sparkled on every side—on the ceiling and on the walls—and the miners, profiting by the slightest fissures, cut round it, and then with forcible blows detached the blocks, and reduced them to small fragments, which they crushed, and carefully sifted so as not to lose a particle of the gem. The oxides of copper and of manganese which they met with here and elsewhere in moderate quantities, were used in the manufacture of those beautiful blue enamels of various shades which the Egyptians esteemed so highly. The few hundreds of men of which the permanent population was composed, provided for the daily exigencies of industry and commerce. Royal inspectors arrived from time to time to examine into their condition, to rekindle their zeal, and to collect the product of their toil. When Pharaoh had need of a greater quantity than usual of minerals or turquoises, he sent thither one of his officers, with a select body of carriers, mining experts, and stone-dressers. Sometimes as many as two or three thousand men poured suddenly into the peninsula, and remained there one or two months; the work went briskly forward, and advantage was taken of the occasion to extract and transport to Egypt beautiful blocks of diorite, serpentine or granite, to be afterwards manufactured there into sarcophagi or statues. Engraved stelae, to be seen on the sides of the mountains, recorded the names of the principal chiefs, the different bodies of handicraftsmen who had participated in the campaign, the name of the sovereign who had ordered it and often the year of his reign.
It was not one tomb only which Snofrui had caused to be built, but two. He called them "Kha," the Rising, the place where the dead Pharaoh, identified with the sun, is raised above the world for ever. One of these was probably situated near Dahshur; the other, the "Kha risi," the Southern Rising, appears to be identical with the monument of Medum.
Drawn by Faucher-Gudin, from the plans of Flinders Petrie, Medum, pl. ii.
The pyramid, like the mastaba,* represents a tumulus with four sides, in which the earthwork is replaced by a structure of stone or brick. It indicates the place in which lies a prince, chief, or person of rank in his tribe or province. It was built on a base of varying area, and was raised to a greater or less elevation according to the fortune of the deceased or of his family.**
* No satisfactory etymon for the word pyramid, has as yet been proposed: the least far-fetched is that put forward by Cantor-Eisenlohr, according to which pyramid is the Greek form, irupauc, of the compound term "piri-m-uisi," which in Egyptian mathematical phraseology designates the salient angle, the ridge or height of the pyramid.
** The brick pyramids of Abydos were all built for private persons. The word "mirit," which designates a pyramid in the texts, is elsewhere applied to the tombs of nobles and commoners as well as to those of kings.
The fashion of burying in a pyramid was not adopted in the environs of Memphis until tolerably late times, and the Pharaohs of the primitive dynasties were interred, as their subjects were, in sepulchral chambers of mastabas. Zosiri was the only exception, if the step-pyramid of Saqqara, as is probable, served for his tomb.*
* It is difficult to admit that a pyramid of considerable dimensions could have disappeared without leaving any traces behind, especially when we see the enormous masses of masonry which still mark the sites of those which have been most injured; besides, the inscriptions connect none of the predecessors of Snofrui with a pyramid, unless it be Zosiri. The step-pyramid of Saqqara, which is attributed to the latter, belongs to the same type as that of Medum; so does also the pyramid of Rigah, whose occupant is unknown. If we admit that this last-mentioned pyramid served as a tomb to some intermediate Pharaoh between Zosiri and Snofrui—for instance, Huni—the use of pyramids would be merely exceptional for sovereigns anterior to the IVth dynasty.
The motive which determined Snofrui's choice of Medum as a site, is unknown to us: perhaps he dwelt in that city of Heracleopolis, which in course of time frequently became the favourite residence of the kings; perhaps he improvised for himself a city in the plain between El-Wastah and Kafr el-Ayat. His pyramid, at the present time, is composed of three large unequal cubes with slightly inclined sides, arranged in steps one above the other. Some centuries ago five could be still determined, and in ancient times, before ruin had set in, as many as seven. Each block marked a progressive increase of the total mass, and bad its external face polished—a fact which we can still determine by examining the slabs one behind another; a facing of large blocks, of which many of the courses still exist towards the base, covered the whole, at one angle from the apex to the foot, and brought it into conformity with the type of the classic pyramid. The passage had its orifice in the middle of the north face about sixty feet above the ground: it is five feet high, and dips at a tolerably steep angle through the solid masonry. At a depth of a hundred and ninety-seven feet it becomes level, without increasing in aperture, runs for forty feet on this plane, traversing two low and narrow chambers, then making a sharp turn it ascends perpendicularly until it reaches the floor of the vault. The latter is hewn out of the mountain rock, and is small, rough, and devoid of ornament: the ceiling appears to be in three heavy horizontal courses of masonry, which project one beyond the other corbel-wise, and give the impression of a sort of acutely pointed arch. Snofrui slept there for ages; then robbers found a way to him, despoiled and broke up his mummy, scattered the fragments of his coffin upon the ground, and carried off the stone sarcophagus. The apparatus of beams and cords of which they made use for the descent, hung in their place above the mouth of the shaft until ten years ago. The rifling of the tomb took place at a remote date, for from the XXth dynasty onwards the curious were accustomed to penetrate into the passage: two scribes have scrawled their names in ink on the back of the framework in which the stone cover was originally inserted. The sepulchral chapel was built a little in front of the east face; it consisted of two small-sized rooms with bare surfaces, a court whose walls abutted on the pyramid, and in the court, facing the door, a massive table of offerings flanked by two large stelo without inscriptions, as if the death of the king had put a stop to the decoration before the period determined on by the architects. It was still accessible to any one during the XVIIIth dynasty, and people came there to render homage to the memory of Snofrui or his wife Mirisonkhu. Visitors recorded in ink on the walls their enthusiastic, but stereotyped impressions: they compared the "Castle of Snofrui" with the firmament, "when the sun arises in it; the heaven rains incense there and pours out perfumes on the roof." Ramses II., who had little respect for the works of his predecessors, demolished a part of the pyramid in order to procure cheaply the materials necessary for the buildings which he restored to Heracleopolis. His workmen threw down the waste stone and mortar beneath the place where they were working, without troubling themselves as to what might be beneath; the court became choked up, the sand borne by the wind gradually invaded the chambers, the chapel disappeared, and remained buried for more than three thousand years.
The officers of Snofrui, his servants, and the people of his city wished, according to custom, to rest beside him, and thus to form a court for him in the other world as they had done in this. The menials were buried in roughly made trenches, frequently in the ground merely, without coffins or sarcophagi. The body was not laid out its whole length on its back in the attitude of repose: it more frequently rested on its left side, the head to the north, the face to the east, the legs bent, the right arm brought up against the breast, the left following the outline of the chest and legs.*
* W. Fl. Petrie, Medum, pp. 21, 22. Many of these mummies were mutilated, some lacking a leg, others an arm or a hand; these were probably workmen who had fallen victims to an accident during the building of the pyramid. In the majority of cases the detached limb had been carefully placed with the body, doubtless in order that the double might find it in the other world, and complete himself when he pleased for the exigencies of his new existence.
The people who were interred in a posture so different from that with which we are familiar in the case of ordinary mummies, belonged to a foreign race, who had retained in the treatment of their dead the customs of their native country.
Drawn by Faucher-Gudin, from a sketch by Fl. Petrie, Ten Years' Digging in Egypt, p. 141.
The Pharaohs often peopled their royal cities with prisoners of war, captured on the field of battle, or picked up in an expedition through an enemy's country. Snofrui peopled his city with men from the Libyan tribes living on the borders of the Western desert or Monitu captives.*
* Petrie thinks that the people who were interred in a contracted position belonged to the aboriginal race of the valley, reduced to a condition of servitude by a race who had come from Asia, and who had established the kingdom of Egypt. The latter were represented by the mummies disposed at full length (Medum, p. 21).
The body having been placed in the grave, the relatives who had taken part in the mourning heaped together in a neighbouring hole the funerary furniture, flint implements, copper needles, miniature pots and pans made of rough and badly burned clay, bread, dates, and eatables in dishes wrapped up in linen. The nobles ranged their mastabas in a single line to the north of the pyramid; these form fine-looking masses of considerable size, but they are for the most part unfinished and empty. Snofrui having disappeared from the scene, Kheops who succeeded him forsook the place, and his courtiers, abandoning their unfinished tombs, went off to construct for themselves others around that of the new king. We rarely find at Medum finished and occupied sepulchres except that of individuals who had died before or shortly after Snofrui. The mummy of Eanofir, found in one of them, shows how far the Egyptians had carried the art of embalming at this period. His body, though much shrunken, is well preserved: it had been clothed in some fine stuff, then covered over with a layer of resin, which a clever sculptor had modelled in such a manner as to present an image resembling the deceased; it was then rolled in three or four folds of thin and almost transparent gauze.
Of these tombs the most important belonged to the Prince Nofirmait and his wife Atiti: it is decorated with bas-reliefs of a peculiar composition; the figures have been cut in outline in the limestone, and the hollows thus made are filled in with a mosaic of tinted pastes which show the moulding and colour of the parts. Everywhere else the ordinary methods of sculpture have been employed, the bas-reliefs being enhanced by brilliant colouring in a simple and delicate manner.
Drawn by Boudier, from a photograph taken by Einil Brugsch- Bey.
The figures of men and animals are portrayed with a vivacity of manner which is astonishing; and the other objects, even the hieroglyphs, are rendered with an accuracy which does not neglect the smallest detail. The statues of Eahotpu and of the lady Nofrit, discovered in a half-ruined mastaba, have fortunately reached us without having suffered the least damage, almost without losing anything of their original freshness; they are to be seen in the Gizeh Museum just as they were when they left the hands of the workman. Eahotpu was the son of a king, perhaps of Snofrui: but in spite of his high origin, I find something humble and retiring in his physiognomy. Nofrit, on the contrary, has an imposing appearance: an indescribable air of resolution and command invests her whole person, and the sculptor has cleverly given expression to it. She is represented in a robe with a pointed opening in the front: the shoulders, the bosom, the waist, and hips, are shown under the material of the dress with a purity and delicate grace which one does not always find in more modern works of art. The wig, secured on the forehead by a richly embroidered band, frames with its somewhat heavy masses the firm and rather plump face: the eyes are living, the nostrils breathe, the mouth smiles and is about to speak. The art of Egypt has at times been as fully inspired; it has never been more so than on the day in which it produced the statue of Nofrit.
The worship of Snofrui was perpetuated from century to century. After the fall of the Memphite empire it passed through periods of intermittence, during which it ceased to be observed, or was observed only in an irregular way; it reappeared under the Ptolemies for the last time before becoming extinct for ever. Snofrui was probably, therefore, one of the most popular kings of the good old times; but his fame, however great it may have been among the Egyptians, has been eclipsed in our eyes by that of the Pharaohs who immediately followed him—Kheops, Khephren, and Mykerinos. Not that we are really better acquainted with their history. All we know of them is made up of two or three series of facts, always the same, which the contemporaneous monuments teach us concerning these rulers. Khnumu-Khufui,* abbreviated into Khufui, the Kheops** of the Greeks, was probably the son of Snofrui.***
* The existence of the two cartouches Khufui and Khnumu- Khufui on the same monuments has caused much embarrassment to Egyptologists: the majority have been inclined to see here two different kings, the second of whom, according to M. Robiou, would have been the person who bore the pre-nomen of Dadufri. Khnumu-Khufui signifies "the god Khnumu protects me."
** Kheops is the usual form, borrowed from the account of Herodotus; Diodorus writes Khembes or Khemmes, Eratosthenes Saophis, and Manetho Souphis.
*** The story in the "Westcar" papyrus speaks of Snofrui as father of Khufui; but this is a title of honour, and proves nothing. The few records which we have of this period give one, however, the impression that Kheops was the son of Snofrui, and, in spite of the hesitation of de Rouge, this affiliation is adopted by the majority of modern historians.
[175.jpg alabaster statue of kheops]
Drawn by Boudier, from a photograph by Emil Brugsch-Bey.
He reigned twenty-three years, and successfully defended the mines of the Sinaitic peninsula against the Bedouin; he may still be seen on the face of the rocks in the Wady Maghara sacrificing his Asiatic prisoners, now before the jackal Anubis, now before the ibis-headed Thot. The gods reaped advantage from his activity and riches; he restored the temple of Ha-thor at Den-dera, embellished that of Bubastis, built a stone sanctuary to the Isis of the Sphinx, and consecrated there gold, silver, bronze, and wooden statues of Horus, Nephthys, Selkit, Phtah, Sokhit, Osiris, Thot, and Hapis. Scores of other Pharaohs had done as much or more, on whom no one bestowed a thought a century after their death, and Kheops would have succumbed to the same indifference had he not forcibly attracted the continuous attention of posterity by the immensity of his tomb.*
* All the details relating to the Isis of the Sphinx are furnished by a stele of the daughter of Kheops, discovered in the little temple of the XXIst dynasty, situated to the west of the Great Pyramid, and preserved in the Gizeh Museum. It was not a work entirely of the XXIst dynasty, as Mr. Petrie asserts, but the inscription, barely readable, engraved on the face of the plinth, indicates that it was remade by a king of the Saite period, perhaps by Sabaco, in order to replace an ancient stele of the same import which had fallen into decay.
Drawn by Faucher-Gudin, from a photograph published in the Ordnance Survey, Photographs, vol. iii. pl. 5. On the left stands the Pharaoh, and knocks down a Moniti before the Ibis-headed Thot; upon the right the picture is destroyed, and we see the royal titles only, without figures. The statue bears no cartouche, and considerations purely artistic cause me to attribute it to Kheops: it may equally well represent Dadufri, the successor of Kheops, or Shopsiskaf, who followed Mykerinos.
The Egyptians of the Theban period were compelled to form their opinions of the Pharaohs of the Memphite dynasties in the same way as we do, less by the positive evidence of their acts than by the size and number of their monuments: they measured the magnificence of Kheops by the dimensions of his pyramid, and all nations having followed this example, Kheops has continued to be one of the three or four names of former times which sound familiar to our ears. The hills of Gizeh in his time terminated in a bare wind-swept table-land. A few solitary mastabas were scattered here and there on its surface, similar to those whose ruins still crown the hill of Dahshur.* The Sphinx, buried even in ancient times to its shoulders, raised its head half-way down the eastern slope, at its southern angle;** beside him*** the temple of Osiris, lord of the Necropolis, was fast disappearing under the sand; and still further back old abandoned tombs honey-combed the rock.****
* No one has noticed, I believe, that several of the mastabas constructed under Kheops, around the pyramid, contain in the masonry fragments of stone belonging to some more ancient structures. Those which I saw bore carvings of the same style as those on the beautiful mastabas of Dahshur.
** The stele of the Sphinx bears, on line 13, the cartouche of Khephren in the middle of a blank. We have here, I believe, an indication of the clearing of the Sphinx effected under this prince, consequently an almost certain proof that the Sphinx was already buried in sand in the time of Kheops and his predecessors.
*** Mariette identifies the temple which he discovered to the south of the Sphinx with that of Osiris, lord of the Necropolis, which is mentioned in the inscription of the daughter of Kheops. This temple is so placed that it must have been sanded up at the same time as the Sphinx; I believe, therefore, that the restoration effected by Kheops, according to the inscription, was merely a clearing away of the sand from the Sphinx analogous to that accomplished by Khephren.
**** These sepulchral chambers are not decorated in the majority of instances. The careful scrutiny to which I subjected them in 1885-86 causes me to believe that many of them must be almost contemporaneous with the Sphinx; that is to say, that they had been hollowed out and occupied a considerable time before the period of the IVth dynasty.
Kheops chose a site for his Pyramid on the northern edge of the plateau, whence a view of the city of the White Wall, and at the same time of the holy city of Heliopolis, could be obtained.
Drawn by Boudier, from a photograph by Emil Brugsch-Bey. The temple of the Sphinx is in the foreground, covered with sand up to the top of the walls. The second of the little pyramids below the large one is that whose construction is attributed to Honitsonu, the daughter of Kheops, and with regard to which the dragomans of the Saite period told such strange stories to Herodotus.
A small mound which commanded this prospect was roughly squared, and incorporated into the masonry; the rest of the site was levelled to receive the first course of stones. The pyramid when completed had a height of 476 feet on a base 764 feet square; but the decaying influence of time has reduced these dimensions to 450 and 730 feet respectively. It possessed, up to the Arab conquest, its polished facing, coloured by age, and so subtily jointed that one would have said that it was a single slab from top to bottom.* The work of facing the pyramid began at the top; that of the point was first placed in position, then the courses were successively covered until the bottom was reached.**
* The blocks which still exist are of white limestone. Letronne, after having asserted in his youth (Recherches sur Dicuil, p. 107), on the authority of a fragment attributed to Philo of Byzantium, that the facing was formed of polychromatic zones of granite, of green breccia and other different kinds of stone, renounced this view owing to the evidence of Vyse. Perrot and Chipiez have revived it, with some hesitation.
** Herodotus, ii. 125, the word "point" should not be taken literally. The Great Pyramid terminated, like its neighbour, in a platform, of which each side measured nine English feet (six cubits, according to Diodorus Siculus, i. 63), and which has become larger in the process of time, especially since the destruction of the facing. The summit viewed from below must have appeared as a sharp point. "Having regard to the size of the monument, a platform of three metres square would have been a more pointed extremity than that which terminates the obelisks" (Letronne).
In the interior every device had been employed to conceal the exact position of the sarcophagus, and to discourage the excavators whom chance or persistent search might have put upon the right track. Their first difficulty would be to discover the entrance under the limestone casing. It lay hidden almost in the middle of the northern face, on the level of the eighteenth course, at about forty-five feet above the ground. A movable flagstone, working on a stone pivot, disguised it so effectively that no one except the priests and custodians could have distinguished this stone from its neighbours. When it was tilted up, a yawning passage was revealed,* three and a half feet in height, with a breadth of four feet.
* Strabo expressly states that in his time the subterranean parts of the Great Pyramid were accessible: "It has on its side, at a moderate elevation, a stone which can be moved, [—Greek phrase—]". "When it has been lifted up, a tortuous passage is seen which leads to the tomb." The meaning of Strabo's statement had not been mastered until Mr. Petrie showed, what we may still see, at the entrance of one of the pyramids of Dahshur, arrangements which bore witness to the existence of a movable stone mounted on a pivot to serve as a door. It was a method of closing of the same kind as that described by Strabo, perhaps after he had seen it himself, or had heard of it from the guides, and like that which Mr. Petrie had reinstated, with much probability, at the entrance of the Great Pyramid.
Drawn by Faucher-Gudin, from Petrie's The Pyramids and Temples of Gizeh, pl. xi.
The passage is an inclined plane, extending partly through the masonry and partly through the solid rock for a distance of 318 feet; it passes through an unfinished chamber and ends in a cul-de-sac 59 feet further on. The blocks are so nicely adjusted, and the surface so finely polished, that the joints can be determined only with difficulty. The corridor which leads to the sepulchral chamber meets the roof at an angle of 120 deg. to the descending passage, and at a distance of 62 feet from the entrance. It ascends for 108 feet to a wide landing-place, where it divides into two branches. One of these penetrates straight towards the centre, and terminates in a granite chamber with a high-pitched roof. This is called, but without reason, the "Chamber of the Queen." The other passage continues to ascend, but its form and appearance are altered. It now becomes a gallery 148 feet long and some 28 feet high, constructed of beautiful Mokattam stone. The lower courses are placed perpendicularly one on the top of the other; each of the upper courses projects above the one beneath, and the last two, which support the ceiling, are only about 1 foot 8 inches distant from each other. The small horizontal passage which separates the upper landing from the sarcophagus chamber itself, presents features imperfectly explained. It is intersected almost in the middle by a kind of depressed hall, whose walls are channelled at equal intervals on each side by four longitudinal grooves. The first of these still supports a fine flagstone of granite which seems to hang 3 feet 7 inches above the ground, and the three others were probably intended to receive similar slabs. The latter is a kind of rectangular granite box, with a flat roof, 19 feet 10 inches high, 1 foot 5 inches deep, and 17 feet broad. No figures or hieroglyphs are to be seen, but merely a mutilated granite sarcophagus without a cover. Such were the precautions taken against man: the result witnessed to their efficacy, for the pyramid preserved its contents intact for more than four thousand years.* But a more serious danger threatened them in the great weight of the materials above. In order to prevent the vault from being crushed under the burden of the hundred metres of limestone which surmounted it, they arranged above it five low chambers placed exactly one above the other in order to relieve the superincumbent stress. The highest of these was protected by a pointed roof consisting of enormous blocks made to lean against each other at the top: this ingenious device served to transfer the perpendicular thrust almost entirely to the lateral faces of the blocks. Although an earthquake has to some extent dislocated the mass of masonry, not one of the stones which encase the chamber of the king has been crushed, not one has yielded by a hair's-breadth, since the day when the workmen fixed it in its place.
* Professor Petrie thinks that the pyramids of Gizeh were rifled, and the mummies which they contained destroyed during the long civil wars which raged in the interval between the VIth and XIIth dynasties. If this be true, it will be necessary to admit that the kings of one of the subsequent dynasties must have restored what had been damaged, for the workmen of the Caliph Al-Mamoun brought from the sepulchral chamber of the "Horizon" "a stone trough, in which lay a stone statue in human form, enclosing a man who had on his breast a golden pectoral, adorned with precious stones, and a sword of inestimable value, and on his head a carbuncle of the size of an egg, brilliant as the sun, having characters which no man can read." All the Arab authors, whose accounts have been collected by Jomard, relate in general the same story; one can easily recognize from this description the sarcophagus still in its place, a stone case in human shape, and the mummy of Kheops loaded with jewels and arms, like the body of Queen Ahhotpu I.
Drawn by Faucher-Gudin, from pl. ix., Petrie, The Pyramids and Temples of Gizeh. A is the descending passage, B the unfinished chamber, and C the horizontal passage pierced in the rock. D is the narrow passage which provides a communication between chamber B and the landing where the roads divide, and with the passage FG leading to the "Chamber of the Queen." E is the ascending passage, H the high gallery, I and J the chamber of barriers, K the sepulchral vault, L indicates the chambers for relieving the stress; finally, a, are vents which served for the aeration of the chambers during construction, and through which libations were introduced on certain feast-days in honour of Kheops. The draughtsman has endeavoured to render, by lines of unequal thickness, the varying height of the courses of masonry; the facing, which is now wanting, has been reinstated, and the broken line behind it indicates the visible ending of the courses which now form the northern face of the pyramid.
Facsimile by Boudier of a drawing published in the Description de l'Egypte, Ant., vol. v. pl. xiii. 2.
Four barriers in all were thus interposed between the external world and the vault.*
* This appears to me to follow from the analogous arrangements which I met with in the pyramid of Saqqara. Mr. Petrie refuses to recognize here a barrier chamber (cf. the notes which he has appended to the English translation of my Archeologie egyptienne, p. 327, note 27,) but he confesses that the arrangement of the grooves and of the flagstone is still an enigma to him. Perhaps only one of the four intended barriers was inserted in its place—that which still remains.
The Great Pyramid was called Khuit, the "Horizon" in which Khufui had to be swallowed up, as his father the Sun was engulfed every evening in the horizon of the west. It contained only the chambers of the deceased, without a word of inscription, and we should not know to whom it belonged, if the masons, during its construction, had not daubed here and there in red paint among their private marks the name of the king, and the dates of his reign.*
* The workmen often drew on the stones the cartouches of the Pharaoh under whose reign they had been taken from the quarry, with the exact date of their extraction; the inscribed blocks of the pyramid of Kheops bear, among others, a date of the year XVI.
Worship was rendered to this Pharaoh in a temple constructed a little in front of the eastern side of the pyramid, but of which nothing remains but a mass of ruins. Pharaoh had no need to wait until he was mummified before he became a god; religious rites in his honour were established on his accession; and many of the individuals who made up his court attached themselves to his double long before his double had become disembodied. They served him faithfully during their life, to repose finally in his shadow in the little pyramids and mastabas which clustered around him. Of Dadufri, his immediate successor, we can probably say that he reigned eight years;* but Khephren, the next son who succeeded to the throne,** erected temples and a gigantic pyramid, like his father.
* According to the arrangement proposed by E. de Rouge for the fragments of the Turin Canon. E. de Rouge reads the name Ra-tot-ef, and proposes to identify it with the Ratoises of the lists of Manetho, which the copyists had erroneously put out of its proper place. This identification has been generally accepted. Analogy compels us to read Dadufri, like Khafri, Menkauri, in which case the hypothesis of de Rouge falls to the ground. The worship of Dadufri was renewed towards the Saite period, together with that of Kheops and Khephren, according to some tradition which connected his reign with that of these two kings. On the general scheme of the Manethonian history of these times, see Maspero, Notes sur quelques points de Grammaire et d'Histoire dans le Recueil de Travaux, vol. xvii. pp. 122-138.
** The Westcar Papyrus considers Khafri to be the son of Khufu; this falls in with information given us, in this respect, by Diodorus Siculus. The form which this historian assigns—I do not know on what authority—to the name of the king, Khabryies, is nearer the original than the Khephren of Herodotus.
He placed it some 394 feet to the south-west of that of Kheops; and called it Uiru, the Great. It is, however, smaller than its neighbour, and attains a height of only 443 feet, but at a distance the difference in height disappears, and many travellers have thus been led to attribute the same elevation to the two. The facing, of which about one-fourth exists from the summit downwards, is of nummulite limestone, compact, hard, and more homogeneous than that of the courses, with rusty patches here and there due to masses of a reddish lichen, but grey elsewhere, and with a low polish which, at a distance, reflects the sun's rays. Thick walls of unwrought stone enclose the monument on three sides, and there may be seen behind the west front, in an oblong enclosure, a row of stone sheds hastily constructed of limestone and Nile mud.
Facsimile by Faucher-Gudin of the sketch in Lepsius, Denkm., ii., 1 c.
Here the labourers employed on the works came every evening to huddle together, and the refuse of their occupation still encumbers the ruins of their dwellings, potsherds, chips of various kinds of hard stone which they had been cutting, granite, alabaster, diorite, fragments of statues broken in the process of sculpture, and blocks of smooth granite ready for use. The chapel commands a view of the eastern face of the pyramid, and communicated by a paved causeway with the temple of the Sphinx, to which it must have borne a striking resemblance.* The plan of it can be still clearly traced on the ground, and the rubbish cannot be disturbed without bringing to light portions of statues, vases, and tables of offerings, some of them covered with hieroglyphs, like the mace-head of white stone which belonged in its day to Khephren himself.
* The connection of the temple of the Sphinx with that of the second pyramid was discovered in December, 1880, during the last diggings of Mariette. I ought to say that the whole of that part of the building into which the passage leads shows traces of having been hastily executed, and at a time long after the construction of the rest of the edifice; it is possible that the present condition of the place does not date back further than the time of the Antonines, when the Sphinx was cleared for the last time in ancient days.
Drawn by Boudier, from a photograph by Emil Brugsch-Bey. See on p. 199 the carefully executed drawing of the best preserved among the diorite statues which the Gizeh Museum now possesses of this Pharaoh.
The internal arrangements of the pyramid are of the simplest character; they consist of a granite-built passage carefully concealed in the north face, running at first at an angle of 25 deg., and then horizontally, until stopped by a granite barrier at a point which indicates a change of direction; a second passage, which begins on the outside, at a distance of some yards in advance of the base of the pyramid, and proceeds, after passing through an unfinished chamber, to rejoin the first; finally, a chamber hollowed in the rock, but surmounted by a pointed roof of fine limestone slabs.
The sarcophagus was of granite, and, like that of Kheops, bore neither the name of a king nor the representation of a god. The cover was fitted so firmly to the trough that the Arabs could not succeed in detaching it when they rifled the tomb in the year 1200 of our era; they were, therefore, compelled to break through one of the sides with a hammer before they could reach the coffin and take from it the mummy of the Pharaoh.*
* The second pyramid was opened to Europeans in 1816 by Belzoni. The exact date of the entrance of the Arabs is given us by an inscription, written in ink, on one of the walls of the sarcophagus chamber: "Mohammed Ahmed Effendi, the quarryman, opened it; Othman Effendi was present, as well as the King Ali Mohammed, at the beginning and at the closing." The King Ali Mohammed was the son and successor of Saladin.
Of Khephren's sons, Menkauri (Mykerinos), who was his successor, could scarcely dream of excelling his father and grandfather;* his pyramid, the Supreme—Hiru** —barely attained an elevation of 216 feet, and was exceeded in height by those which were built at a later date.*** Up to one-fourth of its height it was faced with syenite, and the remainder, up to the summit, with limestone.****
* Classical tradition makes Mykerinos the son of Kheops. Egyptian tradition regards him as the son of Khephren, and with this agrees a passage in the Westcar Papyrus, in which a magician prophesies that after Kheops his son (Khafri) will yet reign, then the son of the latter (Menkauri), then a prince of another family.
** An inscription, unfortunately much mutilated, from the tomb of Tabhuni, gives an account of the construction of the pyramid, and of the transport of the sarcophagus.
*** Professor Petrie reckons the exact height of the pyramid at 2564 +-15 or 2580 +- 2 inches; that is to say, 214 or 215 feet in round numbers.
**** According to Herodotus, the casing of granite extended to half the height. Diodorus states that it did not go beyond the fifteenth course. Professor Petrie discovered that there were actually sixteen lower courses in red granite.
For lack of time, doubtless, the dressing of the granite was not completed, but the limestone received all the polish it was capable of taking. The enclosing wall was extended to the north so as to meet, and become one with, that of the second pyramid. The temple was connected with the plain by a long and almost straight causeway, which ran for the greater part of its course* upon an embankment raised above the neighbouring ground. This temple was in fair condition in the early years of the eighteenth century,** and so much of it as has escaped the ravages of the Mameluks, bears witness to the scrupulous care and refined art employed in its construction.
* This causeway should not be confounded, as is frequently done, with that which may be seen at some distance to the east in the plain: the latter led to limestone quarries in the mountain to the south of the plateau on which the pyramids stand. These quarries were worked in very ancient times.
** Benoit de Maillet visited this temple between 1692 and 1708. "It is almost square in form. There are to be found inside four pillars which doubtless supported a vaulted roof covering the altar of the idol, and one moved around these pillars as in an ambulatory. These stones were cased with granitic marble. I found some pieces still unbroken which had been attached to the stones with mastic. I believe that the exterior as well as the interior of the temple was cased with this marble" (Le Mascrier, Description de l'Egypte, 1735, pp. 223, 224).
Drawn by Boudier, from a photograph, by Emil Brugsch-Bey, of a statue preserved in the Museum of Gizeh.
Coming from the plain, we first meet with an immense halting-place measuring 100 feet by 46 feet, and afterwards enter a large court with an egress on each side: beyond this we can distinguish the ground-plan only of five chambers, the central one, which is in continuation with the hall, terminating at a distance of some 42 feet from the pyramid, exactly opposite the middle point of the eastern face. The whole mass of the building covers a rectangular area 184 feet long by a little over 177 feet broad. Its walls, like those of the temple of the Sphinx, contained a core of lime-stone 7 feet 10 inches thick, of which the blocks have been so ingeniously put together as to suggest the idea that the whole is cut out of the rock. This core was covered with a casing of granite and alabaster, of which the remains preserve no trace of hieroglyphs or of wall scenes: the founder had caused his name to be inscribed on the statues, which received, on his behalf, the offerings, and also on the northern face of the pyramid, where it was still shown to the curious towards the first century of our era. The arrangement of the interior of the pyramid is somewhat complicated, and bears witness to changes brought unexpectedly about in the course of construction. The original central mass probably did not exceed 180 feet in breadth at the base, with a vertical height of 154 feet. It contained a sloping passage cut into the hill itself, and an oblong low-roofed cell devoid of ornament. The main bulk of the work had been already completed, and the casing not yet begun, when it was decided to alter the proportions of the whole.