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Page:History of Architecture in All Countries Vol 1.djvu/161

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Bk. I. Ch. IV.
129
KINGDOM OF THE PHARAOHS.

of the very best age. Like all the tombs, however, they depend for their magnificence more on the paintings that cover the walls than on anything which can strictly be called architecture, so that they hardly come properly within the scope of the present work; the same may be said of private tombs. Except those of Beni Hassan, already illustrated by Woodcuts Nos. 15 to 18, these tombs are all mere chambers or corridors, without architectural ornament, but their walls are covered with paintings and hieroglyphics of singular interest and beauty. Generally speaking, it is assumed that the entrances of these tombs were meant to be concealed and hidden from the knowledge of the people after the king's death. It is hardly conceivable, however, that so much pains should have been taken, and so much money lavished, on what was designed never again to testify to the magnificence of its founder. It is also very unlike the sagacity of the Egyptians to attempt what was so nearly impossible; for though the entrance of a pyramid might be so built up as to be unrecognizable, a cutting in the rock can never be repaired or disguised, and can only be temporarily concealed by heaping rubbish over it. Supposing it to have been intended to conceal the entrances, such an expedient was as clumsy and unlikely to have been resorted to by so ingenious a people as it has proved futile, for all the royal tombs in the valley of Biban-el-Melouk have been opened and rifled in a past age, and their sites and numbers were matters of public notoriety in the times of the Greeks and Romans. Many of the private tombs have architectural fa├žades, and certainly never were meant to be concealed, so that it is not fair to assume that hiding their tombs' entrances was ever a peculiarity of the Thebans, though it certainly was of the earlier Memphite kings.


Obelisks.

Another class of monuments, almost exclusively Egyptian, are the obelisks, which form such striking objects in front of almost all the old temples of the country.

Small models of obelisks are found in the tombs of the age of the pyramid builders, and represented in their hieroglyphics; but the oldest public monument of the class known to exist is that at Heliopolis, erected by Osortasen, the great king of the 12th dynasty. It is, like all the others, a single block of beautiful red granite of Syene, cut with all the precision of the age, tapering slightly towards the summit, and of about the average proportion, being about 10 diameters in height; exclusive of the top it is 67 ft. 4 in.

The two finest known to exist are, that now in the piazza of the Lateran, originally set up by Thothmes III., 105 ft. in height, and that still existing at Karnac, erected by Thothmes I., 93 ft. 6 in. in