Imatges de pÓgina

the state to let me dig unmolested wherever I would, and guaranteed the reward which I was to give the workmen, since hitherto no enterprise of the kind had been ventured upon in his district. My family and Sig. Stefani's remained in Vod-Benagas. We took servants, provided ourselves with water and food, and set out toward the desert named Galah-Volet-Mamouth, eight hours' distance from the Nile, where stands a very beautiful temple, whose outside is covered with hieroglyphics. We passed the first day in making strong hedges of thorny twigs, to protect us from the lions, which are very numerous in these remote places. The next morning we explored with great care the outside of the temple; and since it was half buried in sand, we tried to clear this away by help of baskets made of ox-skin, which I had had made at Vod-Benaga. We tried particularly to remove the sand from the eastern side, in hope of finding the entrance, but it was without success; then we attempted it at the principal façade, but our efforts were no more fortunate. Afterward, we began on the west side, but as we saw that all our efforts were unsuccessful, we wholly gave up this undertaking.

"We were indeed constrained to this by many other urgent reasons; five of our camels had died, the others were sick, exhausted, and worn out by the long marches which they must make to the Nile; the water and the food were unhealthy, our people had the colic, and a little negro, the son of a female slave, who prepared our wretched meals, had already died. We journeyed away, therefore, and turned toward Volet-Ahsan, to seek less dangerous places, and thus approached within two hours' journey of the Nile. We found here another temple still smaller than the former. We first made an enclosure of thorns, to protect ourselves from the lions, who, urged by hunger, howled every night in our neighborhood. I began then to examine the temple, but found after three days, that in our want of good nourishment and fresh water, we were in no situation to continue so laborious a life. That we might no longer labor without result, and so lose our money, we set out to return to our families. The day after our return to our tents, we received visits from a great number of the inhabitants of the little neighboring villages, who came to beg for employment. We gave to each the fifteenth of a dollar. Their beasts of burden supplied us with water, while our camels went to the Nile, where they found rich pastures, that they might thus restore their exhausted strength. There are at Vod-Benaga many pillars standing, the remains of an old temple of very rude workmanship. I sought out the part, which had served the ancient inhabitants as a burial place, and began my excavations as soon as I had found it. First, I discovered a large antechamber,

similar to the subterranean galleries of the Roman catacombs. This antechamber was many fathoms in circumference, and contained a number of closely covered Burmes, a sort of vases made of burnt clay, such as the blacks still use in their houses for carrying water.

"The discovery of these vases excited great astonishment among the workmen, who believed that they should find gold in them. To undeceive them, I raised one of the vases in my hand, and dashed it to the ground so that it broke. It contained nothing but earth kneaded with water. I examined this earth in hope of finding in it some amulet or a scarabæus; I found nothing either in this vase or in the others, which I afterward broke. I made a final examination in the depths of the gallery, and saw by the lamplight in a pit several feet deep many corpses, which showed nothing remarkable, except the one which lay in the middle and under a stone. This one had a sabre on the one side, a lance on the other, and a bow and arrows. Hardly had I touched them, when the oxydized weapons broke, with the exception of some arrows, which were covered with a sort of plating. I carried away these relics, which seemed to me to be interesting.

"After some days of unprofitable labor, I determined to have excavations made in the town, where I had found some remains of pillars, and I very soon found at that place a splendid pilaster of red granite and quadrangular form. Each side was three fathoms high, half a fathom broad. At about a third of the height the pilaster was ornamented on every side with a band formed of hieroglyphics, which enclosed various symbolic figures. On one side were two men and a woman, all naked; on the other side two other figures. The two remaining sides were similar, but with different figures. Since it was impossible to transport this large stone on the backs of our camels, I attempted to break off the lower part of it, that I might at least have the hieroglyphics, but the granite was so hard that the attempt failed. I tried to get off a tolerably large piece of it, by cutting with saws and with water, but could only make a superficial impression. I was obliged to give up the undertaking, and gave the pilaster in charge to the chief of the town of Vod-Benaga, with injunctions not to part with it without my orders. I afterwards presented it to M. Minaut, the French consul at Cairo.

"As we continued our excavations, we discovered a place paved with red bricks, in the middle of which stood a pillar. This building had probably served the Egyptians as a dwelling, since it had still diminutive form of the houses of the present day. I found there a little mask cut in jet, which I took away

with me. Farther on, we discovered a red granite similar to the first, but larger and better carved. I let it be again covered with earth. At last we found a temple in ruins, of which the savages had injured the decorations. With this we ended our examinations, whose insignificant results were neither sufficient to pay the cost, nor to reward us in the least for our labor. We proceeded no farther in our examination of Vod-Benaga, left the town, and turned toward Begaraviah, where the great Pyramids are. In this still region, the seat of ancient greatness, I had already long designed to seek some monuments, which were fitted to throw light upon the history of so interesting a part of the world, which had hitherto been visited only first by Sig. Belzoni, and by me.

"We fixed our tents near the village of Begaraviah, which is not far distant from the Nile, and hired some negro-huts. We employed a part of our people in making baskets of ox-skin, which were designed for the removal of the earth. The rest of the slaves must remain to take care of the camels. We then went to the Pyramids, which we saw at an hour's distance.

"We first passed through the old town of Meröe, which is almost wholly covered with sand, and found there only some sphinxes of black granite, which were injured and partly destroyed. Not far from the town many simple pyramids are to be seen in ruins, and we found a hill in the neighborhood, whose summit was crowned with one-and-twenty pyramids, ruined principally on the top. A single one was yet nearly uninjured. On the east of it we found eight other smaller ones, which were in very good preservation. At the foot of the hill we saw still others, smaller, of which only the Portico or Sanctuarium, covered with hieroglyphic inscriptions, remained uninjured. Here I wished to begin my labors, but my friend Sig. Stefani induced me first to make a trial in the town, which lay near the avenue of the Sphinxes. Four days after our arrival we set up our encampment, and requested laborers from the Sheik, or lord of the village. At first they came unwillingly, fearing that they should not be paid, but afterward so many offered themselves that we had to send them away. We began our digging in a sort of dwelling, which seemed to have been destroyed by the hand of man. We found in it a head of a mace covered with a blue enamelled lacker, and an ichneumon of serpentine. We continued to explore, in the hope of finding something valuable, but in vain. We must go farther. I left Sig. Stefani, and took a hundred men with me to examine the great Pyramids. Some days later my friend discovered another larger dwelling, but there was no advantage from this either, since he found nothing but a little idol of burnt and lackered

clay. In the mean while I had searched through the remains of a small pyramid, which lay at the foot of a little hill. When I came to the base of the hill, I found that it consisted of black, flat stones, which seemed to have been laid there by the hand of man. I tried to come nearer the foundation by the help of the pickaxe; and after I had cleared away a little earth, I plainly saw a step. It was the first stair of a flight, which led into the interior of a monument. After this I discovered a second stair, then a third, and so on. Night surprised us; we must desist from our labors; but the next day I summoned Sig. Stefani, his people, and the Arabs who were with him; we were in all three hundred and fifty persons; that was just the number of people that we needed, to dig out and carry away the earth. The Arabs, who saw that we paid our people daily, (to which they had hitherto not been accustomed,) were now eager to pitch their tents in the neighborhood of the work. These tents are made of long in woven straw; the Arabs call them Birs.

"I uncovered the staircase by degrees, till I came to the ninth step, which was the last. It led to a little vaulted grotto, where I found at first only bones of camels, horses, and other smaller skeletons, which I took to be hounds. I next found two different sorts of riding-gear; one seemed to be the packsaddle of a camel, the other a horse-saddle; finally, some pieces of metal also, in the form of bells, upon which birds and deities were engraved.

"In the depths of the grotto I saw a large stone, which formed the entrance to a burial-monument. I ordered it to be raised, and found an oval opening wrought in the rock by means of the chisel. It was filled up with earth kneaded with water. I had it dug out and carried away. But the heat and dampness in this opening were so stifling, that even the workmen, though accustomed to extreme heat, could not remain in the grotto longer than five minutes. I let them work by turns. After we had wholly cleared out this burial place, I found opposite the door of entrance a grave like that just described. It contained a heap of human bones, thrown one upon another, and no weapons, nor any other ornaments were found among them.

"During this time Sig. Stefani, who had employed himself with demolishing the other pyramid, had only come to the top of the portico. Some days later he succeeded in finding the staircase to the vault. Among the corpses one was found covered with a stone. They dug at the side of the head to remove the stone, when a laborer, as he struck with his mattock upon a round body, as large as an ostrich egg, brought to light a number of objects made of glass, which were of firm, white, and transparent quality.

"While Sig. Stefani superintended this work, I had explored the ruined pyramid, from which I obtained no good result, finding nothing but a block of stone in the portico, upon which two figures were engraven. It will perhaps be surprising to hear with what patience and constancy I prosecuted my search, in so very doubtful hope of seeing the fruit of my labor. I openly confess, that I was often overcome by sorrow, when I after long days of labor returned into my tent with my friend, and the laborers who followed us, springing and uttering a frightful howling, held out their hands to us to receive the reward of a labor which I must regard as lost. Our food too was wretched, and, considering our continued night-watches to secure our lives from the plots, which might threaten us at any moment, (Sig. Stefani and I were obliged to watch half the night by turns, through fear of the treachery of our people and the malice of the negroes;) withal an intolerable heat, and finally, the fear of losing in a moment all prospect of a fortunate issue to so expensive an undertaking, which I had prosecuted with the greatest constancy it must be confessed, that these circumstances were fitted to depress a stronger spirit than mine. At least they had so great effect upon me, that I was on the point of giving up my plan. But when I saw the workmen with their miserable sustenance digging with the greatest perseverance in the mere expectation of a trifling reward, I took courage again, and to such a degree, that I determined either to return without a sous, or as the possessor of a treasure. And so when I had dug through one building without success, I passed on to another.

"When Sig. Stefani had ended his labors in the pyramid, I proposed to him to begin another work elsewhere, namely, between the village and the west side of the pyramid, where, upon a hill, are standing the remains of an old town. This attempt produced no favorable result; but the natives encouraged me, and assured me, that they certainly knew from an old tradition of their country, that treasures were there concealed worth more than forty Ardeb of Gold, (about four thousand livres). I saw in this declaration only a design to induce me to prosecute my labors, to afford food and money to these wild men ; and I was the more confirmed in this design, because the excavations of Sig. Stefani were still fruitless, since he found nothing but a wooden figure, of which the right cheek and right arm were half colored red.

"I had no greater success than my companion. I searched through the fourth Pyramid without finding anything worth carrying away. As I was retiring, I found a large ferule of sap41



« AnteriorContinua »