« ForrigeFortsæt »
the most interesting, from the freshness of the colouring and comparatively perfect state of its walls, but the admission of air and Monsieur Champollion have tended much to destroy its beauty. It has been cruelly mutilated by every traveller since the scientific Frenchman set the example.
The supposition that the passage discovered by Belzoni under the sarcophagus (and in which he penetrated to the distance of three hundred feet) leads to the eastern side of the mountains is rather fanciful, since its direction is about s.s.w. It probably communicates with some other entrance to the tomb from another ravine.
There are other tombs more extensive than Belzoni’s, (as it is usually called) but I think none in which the figures are so well executed, which, in it, by the way, are almost all in relief; whereas the others are mostly intaglio. There is a great similarity in the plan of all. A small square vestibule, from whence a long passage inclining gradually downwards, and communicating with various small apartments,
INTERIOR OF THE TOMBS.
or cells, right and left-reaches a rectangular transverse chamber, the roof of which, in most instances, is carved in the form of an arch, out of the solid rock. Thence, continuing its downward course, the passage finally arrives at the sepulchre of the great personage, whose bones the mania for the “ diffusion of useful knowledge” will no longer allow to remain quietly in the red granite sarcophagus, prepared with so much labour and expense for their reception.
The figures with which the walls are covered throughout are of the same deformed brute-headed divinities that decorate the temples. They are carved without the least regard to perspective, or proportions, and daubed all over with the most gaudy colours that, in early ages, the vegetable and mineral worlds were known to produce.
The village of Gournou is situated on the acclivity of the mountain, about one hundred and fifty feet above the level of the valley of the Nile. Its inhabitants dwell mostly in caverns and tombs practised in the face of
TRAFFIC IN MUMMIES.
the hills, and are notorious for carrying on a considerable trade in mummies and other articles of virtù. Of late years, however, their traffic has been attended with some risk, Mohammed Ali having prohibited the digging for, and carrying away, antiquities, throughout his dominions. He has, in consequence, been accused of having monopolised this branch of commerce; but this statement is by no means borne out by facts, as he himself takes no part in and derives no part from the disgusting trade in old bones and dried flesh.
The Viceroy's reasons for putting a stop to the unprofitable and sacrilegious violation of the tombs of the ancients is, that it took a number of hands from the much more beneficial occupation of husbandry; for the fields were neglected, whilst the tombs were dug up and rifled. He is always ready, however, to grant permission to explore to such persons as are actuated solely by scientific motives.
Ibrahim Pasha employs a number of persons constantly in excavating amongst the various ruins: and most of the foreign Consuls,
also, avail themselves of the Viceroy's liberality in bestowing resurrectionising diplomas. His indulgence to foreigners on this score (as indeed on most others) is, of course, much abused; for the eagerness with which every sort of trash is purchased by travellers makes the trade a very profitable concern, and opens a wide door for fraud, by the encouragement it gives to the manufacture of mummies. *
The following story was in circulation whilst I was in Egypt, which, though I will not vouch for its “ whole” truth, is not sufficiently improbable (considering the eccentric habits of my countrymen) to be altogether regarded as fiction.
An English traveller had a great desire to be mummified after the manner of the ancient Egyptians; and, having paid in advance to the operators, bound them by a solemn oath to do his bidding, prepared his sarcophagus, and written a long notice of his life and opinions, swallowed a dose of arsenic. He was, of course, “ gathered to his fathers;" — his body underwent the embalming process, and the papyrus having been placed on his ambitious breast-was enclosed in the red granite case, and deposited in a tomb that had been prepared for its reception.
Not many years afterwards, some roguish Arabs sold the precious relic to a learned Frenchman, who carried it to Paris — vain beyond belief of having acquired such a treasure, which-judging from the splendour of the case—he thought must be a Pharaoh at least. A party of brother savans were invited to assist at the ceremony of unrollment, when-after some hundred yards of fine linen had been
Taking a reluctant leave of the ruined city of the Hundred Gates, we once more got under weigh; and, favoured by a light breeze, dropped down in the course of a night to the landing-place of Kheneh.
We proceeded at once to the house of our old acquaintance, Sheik Hassan, to request his aid to procure us camels and guides to take us to Kosseir. He undertook to have every thing requisite ready for us on the day appointed, and letters prepared for his son, who filled the office of British consular agent at that port.
Our curiosity in matters of Arab domestic economy induced us to accept his invitation to dinner for the morrow: and these matters being arranged, we crossed over to the left bank of the river, and passed the rest of the day in exploring the extensive ruins of Denderah.
The temples at Denderah, being the first, removed—the papyrus was discovered, which, in plain English, declared the great defunct to have been a Mr. Peter Simpkins of Fenchurch Street and Camberwell Grove, soapboiler and salt-refiner to the Royal Family, and many years an inmate of St. Luke's.