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Page:History of Architecture in All Countries Vol 1.djvu/127

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Bk. I. Ch. II.
95
INTRODUCTORY.

CHAPTER II.

THE PYRAMIDS AND CONTEMPORARY MONUMENTS.

LEAVING these speculations to be developed more fully in the sequel, let us now turn to the pyramids—the oldest, largest, and most mysterious of all the monuments of man's art now existing. All those in Egypt are situated on the left bank of the Nile, just beyond the cultivated ground, and on the edge of the desert, and all the principle examples within what may fairly be called the Necropolis of Memphis. Sixty or seventy of these have been discovered and explored, all which appear to be royal sepulchres. This alone, if true, would suffice to justify us in assigning a duration of 1000 years at least to the dynasties of the pyramid builders, and this is about the date we acquire from other sources.

The three great pyramids of Gizeh are the most remarkable and the best known of all those of Egypt. Of these the first, erected by Cheops, or, as he is now more correctly named, Suphis, is the largest; but the next, by Chepheren, his successor, is scarcely inferior in dimensions; the third, that of Mycerinus, is very much smaller, but excelled the two others in this, that it had a coating of beautiful red granite from Syene, while the other two were reveted only with the beautiful limestone of the country. Part of this coating still remains near the top of the second; and Colonel Vyse[1] was fortunate enough to discover some of the coping-stones of the Great Pyramid buried in the rubbish at its base. These are sufficient to indicate the nature and extent of the whole, and to show that it was commenced from the bottom and carried upwards; not at the top, as it has sometimes been thoughtlessly asserted.

The dimensions of these three, as ascertained by the copings, are as follows, according to the most recent determination by Professor Piazzi Smyth and others:—

Side of base.
Feet.
Height.
Feet.
Area in square feet. Angle of side. Angle of passage.
Cheops 760 484 577,600 51° 51' 26° 27'
Chepheren 707 454 499,849 52° 20' 25° 55'
Mycerinus 354 218 125,316 51° 00' 26° 20' [2]

  1. Col. H. Vyse, " Operations carried on at the Pyramids of Gizeli in 1837." Lond. 1840–43.
  2. The measures quoted in the text are generally taken from the elaborate surveys made by Mr. Perring for Colonel