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Page:History of Architecture in All Countries Vol 1.djvu/174

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242
Part I.
HISTORY OF ARCHITECTURE.

being much steeper, as their height is generally equal to the width of the base. They also all possess the roll-molding on their angles, and all have a little porch or pronaos attached to one side, generally ornamented with sculpture, and forming either a chapel, or more probably the place where the coffin of the deceased was placed. We know from the Greeks that, so far from concealing the bodies of their dead, the Ethiopians had a manner of preserving them in some transparent substance, which rendered them permanently visible after death.[1]

To those familiar with the rigid orientation of those of Lower Egypt, perhaps the most striking peculiarity of the pyramids is the more than Theban irregularity with which they are arranged, no two being ever placed, except by accident, at the same angle to the meridian, but the whole being grouped with the most picturesque diversity, as chance appears to have dictated.

Among their constructive peculiarities it may be mentioned that they seem all to have been first built in successive terraces, each less in dimensions than that below it, something like the great pyramid at Saccara (Woodcut No. 9), these being afterwards smoothed over by the external straight-lined coating.

Like the temples of Gibel Barkal, all these buildings appear to belong to the Tirhakah epoch of the Ethiopian kingdom. It is extremely improbable that any of them are as old as the time of Solomon, or that any are later than the age of Cambyses, every indication seeming to point to a date between these two great epochs and to the connection of African history with that of Asia.

The ruins at Wady el-Ooatib, a little further up the Nile than Meroë, should perhaps be also mentioned here, if only from the importance given to them by Heeren, who thought he had discovered in them the ruins of the Temple of Jupiter Ammon. They are, however, all in the debased style of the worst age of Ptolemaic or Roman art in that country. They are wholly devoid of hieroglyphics or any indication of sanctity or importance, and there can be little doubt that they are the remains of a caravansera on the great commercial route between Egypt and Axum, along which the greater part of the trade of the East arrived at Alexandria in the days of its magnificence.


Although widely differing in date from the monument just described—except the last—this may be the place to mention a group of the most exceptional monuments of the world—the obelisks of Axum. It is said they were originally 55 in number, four of them equal to that shown in the annexed woodcut, which represents the only one now standing; but there are fragments of several of these lying about, and some of tlie smaller ones still standing, all of the


  1. Herodotus, iii. 24. Diodorus, ii. 15.