Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 37.djvu/166

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the very first period of Egyptian history, but we have ranges of sphinxes, heroic statues, and bas-reliefs, showing that even in the early ages this branch of art had reached an amazing development.

As regards the perfection of these, Lübke, the most eminent German authority on plastic art, referring to the early works in the tombs about Memphis, declares that, "as monuments of the period of the fourth dynasty, they are an evidence of the high perfection to which the sculpture of the Egyptians had attained." Brugsch declares that "every artistic production of those early days, whether picture, writing, or sculpture, bears the stamp of the highest perfection in art." Maspero, the most eminent French authority in this field, while expressing his belief that the Sphinx was sculptured even before the time of Mena, declares that "the art which conceived and carved this prodigious statue was a finished art, an art which had attained self-mastery and was sure of its effects"; and Sir James Fergusson, the highest English authority, declares, "We are startled to find Egyptian art nearly as perfect in the oldest periods as in any of the later."

The evidence as to the high development of Egyptian sculpture in the earlier dynasties becomes every day more overwhelming. What exquisite genius the early Egyptian sculptors showed in their lesser statues is known to those who have seen those most precious specimens in the Boulak Museum at Cairo, which were wrought before the conventional type was adopted in obedience to religious considerations.

Take, next, decorative and especially ceramic art: as early as the fourth and fifth dynasties we have vases, cups, and other vessels showing exquisite beauty of outline and a general sense of form equal to Etruscan and Grecian work of the best periods.

Take, next, astronomy: to say nothing of the other evidences of a long development of thought in this field, we may go back to the very earliest period of Egyptian civilization, and we find that the four sides of the Great Pyramid are adjusted to the cardinal points with the utmost precision. "The day of the equinox can be taken by observing the sun set across the face of the pyramid, and the neighboring Arabs adjust their astronomical dates by its shadow."

The same view is confirmed by philologists. To use words of Max Düncker: "The oldest monuments of Egypt, and they are the oldest, monuments in the world, exhibit the Egyptian in possession of the art of writing." It is found also by the inscriptions of the early dynasties that the Egyptian language had even at that early time been developed in all essential particulars to the highest point it ever attained. What long periods it must have required for such a development every scholar in philology can imagine.