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Page:History of Architecture in All Countries Vol 1.djvu/131

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Bk. I. Ch. II.
99
THE PYRAMIDS AND CONTEMPORARY MONUMENTS.


No. 7. Section of King's Chamber and of Passage in Great Pyramid. Scale 50 ft. to 1 in.
The passages and chambers are worthy of the mass; all are lined with polished granite; and the ingenuity and pains that have been taken to render them solid and secure, and to prevent their being crushed by the superincumbent mass, raise our idea of Egyptian science higher than even the bulk of the building itself could do.

Towards the exterior, where the pressure is not great, the roof is flat, though it is probable that even there the weight is throughout discharged by 2 stones, sloping up at a certain angle to where they meet, as at the entrance. Towards the centre of the pyramid, however, the passage becomes 28 feet high, and assumes the form of inverted stairs, as shown in the section (fig. 1), till it contracts so much at the top that no pressure can hurt it. Nowhere, however, is this ingenuity more shown than in the royal chamber, which measures 17 ft. 1 in. by 34 ft. 3 in., and 19 ft. in height. The walls are lined and the roof is formed of splendid slabs of Syenite, but above the roof 4 successive chambers, as shown in the annexed section (fig. 2), have been formed, each divided from the other by slabs of granite, polished on their lower surfaces, but left rough on the upper, and above these a 5th chamber is formed of 2 sloping blocks to discharge the weight of the whole. The first of these chambers has long been known; the upper four were discovered and first entered by Colonel Vyse, and it was in one of these that he discovered the name of the founder. This was not engraved as a record, but scribbled in red paint on the stones, apparently as a quarry-mark, or as an address to the king, and accompanied by something like directions for their position in the building. The interest that attaches to these inscriptions consists in the certainty of their being contemporary records, in their proving that Suphis was the founder of the Great Pyramid, and consequently fixing its relative date beyond all possibility of cavil. This is the only really virgin discovery in the pyramids, as they have all been opened either in the time of the Greeks or Romans, or by the Mahometans, and an unrifled tomb of this age is still a desideratum. Until such is hit upon we must remain in ignorance of the real mode of sepulture in those days, and of the purpose of many of the arrangements in these mysterious buildings.[1]

  1. It is understood that M. Mariette has discovered some chambers in tombs which throw great light on this subject; but nothing has yet been published.