Gaston Camille Charles Maspero.

Manual of Egyptian Archaeology and Guide to the Study of Antiquities in Egypt online

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first a portico (A), then a square ante-chamber with pillars (B), then a
passage (C) with a small room (D) on the right, leading to the last chamber
(E) (fig. 120). There was room enough in this tomb for many persons, and,
in point of fact, the wife of Ti reposed by the side of her husband. When
the monument belonged to only one person, the structure was less
complicated. A short and narrow passage led to an oblong chamber upon which
it opened at right angles, so that the place is in shape of a T (fig. 121).
The end wall is generally smooth; but sometimes it is recessed just
opposite the entrance passage, and then the plan forms a cross, of which
the head is longer or shorter (fig. 122). This was the ordinary
arrangement, but the architect was free to reject it, if he so pleased.
Here, a chapel consists of two parallel lobbies connected by a cross
passage (fig. 123). Elsewhere, the chamber opens from a corner of the
passage (fig. 124). Again, in the tomb of Ptahhotep, the site was hemmed in
by older buildings, and was not large enough. The builders therefore joined
the new mastaba to the older one in such wise as to give them one entrance
in common, and thus the chapel of the one is enlarged by absorbing the
whole of the space occupied by the other (fig. 125).

[Illustration: Fig. 123. - Plan of chapel in mastaba of Thenti II., Fourth
Dynasty, Sakkarah.]

[Illustration: Fig. 124. - Plan of chapel in mastaba of the _Red Scribe_,
Fourth Dynasty, Sakkarah.]

The chapel was the reception room of the Double. It was there that the
relations, friends, and priests celebrated the funerary sacrifices on the
days prescribed by law; that is to say, "at the feasts of the commencement
of the seasons; at the feast of Thoth on the first day of the year; at the
feast of Ûaga; at the great feast of Sothis; on the day of the procession
of the god Min; at the feast of shew-bread; at the feasts of the months and
the half months, and the days of the week." Offerings were placed in the
principal room, at the foot of the west wall, at the exact spot leading to
the entrance of the "eternal home" of the dead. Unlike the _Kiblah_ of the
mosques, or Mussulman oratories, this point is not always oriented towards
the same quarter of the compass, though often found to the west. In the
earliest times it was indicated by a real door, low and narrow, framed and
decorated like the door of an ordinary house, but not pierced through. An
inscription graven upon the lintel in large readable characters,
commemorated the name and rank of the owner. His portrait, either sitting
or standing, was carved upon the jambs; and a scene, sculptured or painted
on the space above the door, represented him seated before a small round
table, stretching out his hand towards the repast placed upon it. A flat
slab, or offering table, built into the floor between the two uprights of
the doorway, received the votive meats and drinks.

[Illustration: Fig. 125. - Plan of chapel in mastaba of Ptahhotep, Fifth
Dynasty, Sakkarah.]

[Illustration: Fig. 126. - Stela in tomb of Merrûka (Fifth Dynasty, Abûsir):
a false doorway containing the statue of the deceased.]

The general appearance of the recess is that of a somewhat narrow doorway.
As a rule it was empty, but occasionally it contained a portrait statue of
the dead standing with one foot forward as though about to cross the gloomy
threshold of his tomb, descend the few steps before him, advance into his
reception room or chapel, and pass out into the sunlight (fig. 126). As a
matter of fact, the stela symbolised the door leading to the private
apartments of the dead, a door closed and sealed to the living. It was
inscribed on door-posts and lintels, and its inscription was no mere
epitaph for the information of future generations; all the details which it
gave as to the name, rank, functions, and family of the deceased were
intended to secure the continuity of his individuality and civil status in
the life beyond death. A further and essential object of its inscriptions
was to provide him with food and drink by means of prayers or magic
formulae constraining one of the gods of the dead - Osiris or Anubis - to act
as intermediary between him and his survivors and to set apart for his use
some portion of the provisions offered for his sake in sacrifice to one or
other of these deities. By this agency the _Kas_ or Doubles of these
provisions were supposed to be sent on into the next world to gladden and
satisfy the human _Ka_ indicated to the divine intermediary. Offerings of
real provisions were not indispensable to this end; any chance visitor in
times to come who should simply repeat the formula of the stela aloud would
thereby secure the immediate enjoyment of all the good things enumerated to
the unknown dead whom he evoked.

[Illustration: Fig. 127. - Wall scene of funerary offerings, from mastaba of
Ptahhotep, Fifth Dynasty.]

[Illustration: Fig. 128. - Wall-painting, funeral voyage; mastaba of Urkhuû,
Gizeh, Fourth Dynasty.]

[Illustration: Fig. 129. - Wall-scene from mastaba of Ptahhotep, Fifth
Dynasty.]

The living having taken their departure, the Double was supposed to come
out of his house and feed. In principle, this ceremony was bound to be
renewed year by year, till the end of time; but the Egyptians ere long
discovered that this could not be. After two or three generations, the dead
of former days were neglected for the benefit of those more recently
departed. Even when a pious foundation was established, with a revenue
payable for the expenses of the funerary repasts and of the priests whose
duty it was to prepare them, the evil hour of oblivion was put off for only
a little longer. Sooner or later, there came a time when the Double was
reduced to seek his food among the town refuse, and amid the ignoble and
corrupt filth which lay rejected on the ground. Then, in order that the
offerings consecrated on the day of burial might for ever preserve their
virtues, the survivors conceived the idea of drawing and describing them on
the walls of the chapel (fig. 127). The painted or sculptured reproduction
of persons and things ensured the reality of those persons and things for
the benefit of the one on whose account they were executed. Thus the Double
saw himself depicted upon the walls in the act of eating and drinking, and
he ate and drank. This notion once accepted, the theologians and artists
carried it out to the fullest extent. Not content with offering mere
pictured provisions, they added thereto the semblance of the domains which
produced them, together with the counterfeit presentment of the herds,
workmen, and slaves belonging to the same. Was a supply of meat required to
last for eternity? It was enough, no doubt, to represent the several parts
of an ox or a gazelle - the shoulder, the leg, the ribs, the breast, the
heart, the liver, the head, properly prepared for the spit; but it was
equally easy to retrace the whole history of the animal - its birth, its
life in the pasture-lands, its slaughter, the cutting up of the carcass,
and the presentation of the joints. So also as regarded the cakes and
bread-offerings, there was no reason why the whole process of tillage,
harvesting, corn-threshing, storage, and dough-kneading should not be
rehearsed. Clothing, ornaments, and furniture served in like manner as a
pretext for the introduction of spinners, weavers, goldsmiths, and cabinet-
makers. The master is of superhuman proportions, and towers above his
people and his cattle. Some prophetic tableaux show him in his funeral
bark, speeding before the wind with all sail set, having started on his way
to the next world the very day that he takes possession of his new abode
(fig. 128). Elsewhere, we see him as actively superintending his imaginary
vassals as formerly he superintended his vassals of flesh and blood (fig.
129). Varied and irregular as they may appear, these scenes are not placed
at random upon the walls. They all converge towards that semblance of a
door which was supposed to communicate with the interior of the tomb. Those
nearest to the door represent the sacrifice and the offering; the earlier
stages of preparation and preliminary work being depicted in retrograde
order as that door is left farther and farther behind. At the door itself,
the figure of the master seems to await his visitors and bid them welcome.

[Illustration: Fig. 130. Plan of serdab in mastaba at Gizeh, Fourth
Dynasty.]

The details are of infinite variety. The inscriptions run to a less or
greater length according to the caprice of the scribe; the false door loses
its architectural character, and is frequently replaced by a mere stela
engraved with the name and rank of the master; yet, whether large or small,
whether richly decorated or not decorated at all, the chapel is always the
dining-room - or, rather, the larder - to which the dead man has access when
he feels hungry.

[Illustration: Fig. 131. - Plan of serdab and chapel in mastaba of Rahotep
at Sakkarah, Fourth Dynasty.]

[Illustration: Fig. 132. - Plan of serdab and chapel in mastaba of Thenti I.
at Sakkarah, Fourth Dynasty.]

On the other side of the wall was constructed a hiding-place in the form of
either a high and narrow cell, or a passage without outlet. To this hiding-
place archaeologists have given the Arab name of "_serdab_." Most mastabas
contain but one; others contain three or four (fig. 130). These _serdabs_
communicated neither with each other nor with the chapel; and are, as it
were, buried in the masonry (fig. 131). If connected at all with the outer
world, it is by means of an aperture in the wall about as high up as a
man's head (fig. 132), and so small that the hand can with difficulty pass
through it. To this orifice came the priests, with murmured prayers and
perfumes of incense. Within lurked the Double, ready to profit by these
memorial rites, or to accept them through the medium of his statues. As
when he lived upon earth, the man needed a body in which to exist. His
corpse, disfigured by the process of embalmment, bore but a distant
resemblance to its former self. The mummy, again, was destructible, and
might easily be burned, dismembered, scattered to the winds. Once it had
disappeared, what was to become of the Double? The portrait statues walled
up inside the _serdab_ became, when consecrated, the stone, or wooden,
bodies of the defunct. The pious care of his relatives multiplied these
bodies, and consequently multiplied the supports of the Double. A single
body represented a single chance of existence for the Double; twenty bodies
represented twenty such chances. For the same reason, statues also of his
wife, his children, and his servants were placed with the statues of the
deceased, the servants being modelled in the act of performing their
domestic duties, such as grinding corn, kneading dough, and applying a coat
of pitch to the inside surfaces of wine-jars. As for the figures which were
merely painted on the walls of the chapel, they detached themselves, and
assumed material bodies inside the _serdab_. Notwithstanding these
precautions, all possible means were taken to guard the remains of the
fleshly body from natural decay and the depredations of the spoiler. In the
tomb of Ti, an inclined passage, starting from the middle of the first
hall, leads from the upper world to the sepulchral vault; but this is
almost a solitary exception. Generally, the vault is reached by way of a
vertical shaft constructed in the centre of the platform (fig. 133), or,
more rarely, in a corner of the chapel. The depth of this shaft varies from
10 to 100 feet. It is carried down through the masonry: it pierces the
rock; and at the bottom, a low passage, in which it is not possible to walk
upright, leads in a southward direction to the vault. There sleeps the
mummy in a massive sarcophagus of limestone, red granite, or basalt.
Sometimes, though rarely, the sarcophagus bears the name and titles of the
deceased. Still more rarely, it is decorated with ornamental sculpture.
Some examples are known which reproduce the architectural decoration of an
Egyptian house, with its doors and windows.[28] The furniture of the vault
is of the simplest character, - some alabaster perfume vases; a few cups
into which the priest had poured drops of the various libation liquids
offered to the dead; some large red pottery jars for water; a head-rest of
wood or alabaster; a scribe's votive palette. Having laid the mummy in the
sarcophagus and cemented the lid, the workmen strewed the floor of the
vault with the quarters of oxen and gazelles which had just been
sacrificed. They next carefully walled up the entrance into the passage,
and filled the shaft to the top with a mixture of sand, earth, and stone
chips. Being profusely watered, this mass solidified, and became an almost
impenetrable body of concrete. The corpse, left to itself, received no
visits now, save from the Soul, which from time to time quitted the
celestial regions wherein it voyaged with the gods, and came down to re-
unite itself with the body. The sepulchral vault was the abode of the Soul,
as the funerary chapel was the abode of the Double.

[Illustration: Fig. 133. - Section showing shaft and vault of mastaba at
Gizeh, Fourth Dynasty.]

[Illustration: Fig. 134. - Section of mastaba, Sakkarah, Sixth Dynasty.]

[Illustration: Fig. 135. - Wall painting of funerary offerings, from mastaba
of Nenka, Sakkarah, Sixth Dynasty.]

Up to the time of the Sixth Dynasty, the walls of the vault are left bare.
Once only did Mariette find a vault containing half-effaced inscriptions
from _The Book of the Dead_. In 1881, I however discovered some tombs at
Sakkarah, in which the vault is decorated in preference to the chapel.
These tombs are built with large bricks, a niche and a stela sufficing for
the reception of sacrificial offerings. In place of the shaft, they contain
a small rectangular court, in the western corner of which was placed the
sarcophagus. Over the sarcophagus was erected a limestone chamber just as
long and as wide as the sarcophagus itself, and about three and a half feet
high. This was roofed in with flat slabs. At the end, or in the wall to the
right, was a niche, which answered the purpose of a _serdab_; and above the
flat roof was next constructed an arch of about one foot and a half radius,
the space above the arch being filled in with horizontal courses of
brickwork up to the level of the platform. The chamber occupies about two-
thirds of the cavity, and looks like an oven with the mouth open. Sometimes
the stone walls rest on the lid of the sarcophagus, the chamber having
evidently been built after the interment had taken place (fig. 134).
Generally speaking, however, these walls rest on brick supports, so that
the sarcophagus may be opened or closed when required. The decoration,
which is sometimes painted, sometimes sculptured, is always the same. Each
wall was a house stocked with the objects depicted or catalogued upon its
surface, and each was, therefore, carefully provided with a fictitious
door, through which the Double had access to his goods. On the left wall he
found a pile of provisions (fig. 135)[29] and a table of offerings; on the
end wall a store of household utensils, as well as a supply of linen and
perfumes, the name and quantity of each being duly registered. These
paintings more briefly sum up the scenes depicted in the chapels of
ordinary mastabas. Transferred from their original position to the walls of
an underground cellar, they were the more surely guaranteed against such
possible destruction as might befall them in chambers open to all comers;
while upon their preservation depended the length of time during which the
dead man would retain possession of the property which they represented.


[27] For an account of the necropolis of Medûm, see W.M.F. Petrie's
_Medum_.

[28] The sarcophagus of Menkara, unfortunately lost at sea when on its way
to England, was of this type. See illustration No. 19, Chapter III.,
in Sir E. Wilson's _Egypt of the Past_. - A.B.E.

[29] This wall scene is from the tomb of Nenka, near Sakkarah. For a
coloured facsimile on a large scale, see Professor Maspero's article
entitled "Trois Années de Fouilles," in _Mémoires de la Mission
Archéologique Française du Caire_, Pl. 2. 1884. - A.B.E.




2. - THE PYRAMIDS.

[For the following translation of this section of Professor Maspero's book
I am indebted to the kindness of Mr. W.M. Flinders Petrie, whose work on
_The Pyramids and Temples of Gizeh_, published with the assistance of a
grant from the Royal Society in 1883, constitutes our standard authority on
the construction of these Pyramids. - A.B.E.]

The royal tombs have the form of pyramids with a square base, and are the
equivalent in stone or brick of the tumulus of heaped earth which was piled
over the body of the warrior chief in prehistoric times (Note 14). The same
ideas prevailed as to the souls of kings as about those of private men; the
plan of the pyramid consists, therefore, of three parts, like the mastaba,
- the chapel, the passage, and the sepulchral vault.

The chapel is always separate. At Sakkarah no trace of it has been found;
it was probably, as later on at Thebes, in a quarter nearer to the town. At
Medûm, Gizeh, Abûsîr, and Dahshûr, these temples stood at the east or north
fronts of the pyramids. They were true temples, with chambers, courts, and
passages. The fragments of bas-reliefs hitherto found show scenes of
sacrifice, and prove that the decoration was the same as in the public
halls of the mastabas. The pyramid, properly speaking, contained only the
passages and sepulchral vault. The oldest of which the texts show the
existence, north of Abydos, is that of Sneferû; the latest belong to the
princes of the Twelfth Dynasty. The construction of these monuments was,
therefore, a continuous work, lasting for thirteen or fourteen centuries,
under government direction. Granite, alabaster, and basalt for the
sarcophagus and some details were the only materials of which the use and
the quantity was not regulated in advance, and which had to be brought from
a distance. To obtain them, each king sent one of the great men of his
court on a mission to the quarries of Upper Egypt; and the quickness with
which the blocks were brought back was a strong claim upon the sovereign's
favour. The other material was not so costly. If mainly brick, the bricks
were moulded on the spot with earth taken from the foot of the hill. If of
stone, the nearest parts of the plateau provided the common marly limestone
in abundance (Note 15). The fine limestone of Tûrah was usually reserved
for the chambers and the casing, and this might be had without even sending
specially for it to the opposite side of the Nile; for at Memphis there
were stores always full, upon which they continually drew for public
buildings, and, therefore, also for the royal tombs. The blocks being taken
from these stores, and borne by boats to close below the hill, were raised
to their required places along gently sloping causeways. The internal
arrangement of the pyramids, the lengths of the passages and their heights,
were very variable; the pyramid of Khûfû (Cheops) rose to 475 feet above
the ground, the smallest was not 30 feet high. The difficulty of imagining
now what motives determined the Pharaohs to choose such different
proportions has led some to think that the mass built was in direct
proportion to the time occupied in building; that is to say, to the length
of each reign. Thus it was supposed that the king would begin by hastily
erecting a pyramid large enough to contain the essential parts of a tomb;
and then, year by year, would add fresh layers around the first core, until
the time when his death for ever arrested the growth of the monument. But
the facts do not justify this hypothesis. The smallest of the pyramids of
Sakkarah is that of Ûnas, who reigned thirty years; while the two imposing
pyramids of Gizeh were raised by Khûfû and Khafra (Chephren), who governed
Egypt, the one for twenty-four, and the other for twenty-three years.
Merenra, who died very young, had a pyramid as large as that of Pepi II.,
whose reign lasted more than ninety years (Note 16). The plan of each
pyramid was laid down, once for all, by the architect, according to the
instructions which he had received, and the resources placed at his
disposal. He then followed it out to the end of the work, without
increasing or reducing the scale (Note 17).

[Illustration: Fig. 136. - Section of the Great Pyramid.[30]]

The pyramids were supposed to have their four faces to the four cardinal
points, like the mastabas; but, either from bad management or neglect, the
greater part are not oriented exactly, and many vary distinctly from the
true north (Note 18). Without speaking of the ruins of Abû Roash or Zowyet
el Aryan, which have not been studied closely enough, they naturally form
six groups, distributed from north to south on the border of the Libyan
plateau, from Gizeh to the Fayûm, by Abûsîr, Sakkarah, Dahshûr, and Lisht.
The Gizeh group contains nine, including those of Khûfû, Khafra, and
Menkara, which were anciently reckoned among the wonders of the world. The
ground on which the pyramid of Khûfû stands was very irregular at the time
of construction. A small rocky height which rose above the surface was
roughly cut (fig. 136) and enclosed in the masonry, the rest being smoothed
and covered with large slabs, some of which still remain (Note 19). The
pyramid itself was 481 feet high and 755 feet wide, dimensions which the
injuries of time have reduced to 454 feet and 750 feet respectively. It
preserved, until the Arab conquest, a casing of stones of different colours
(Note 20), so skilfully joined as to appear like one block from base to
summit. The casing work was begun from the top, and the cap placed on
first, the steps being covered one after the other, until they reached the
bottom (Note 21). In the inside all was arranged so as to hide the exact
place of the sarcophagus, and to baffle any spoilers whom chance or
perseverance had led aright. The first point was to discover the entrance
under the casing, which masked it. It was nearly in the middle of the north
face (fig. 136), but at the level of the eighteenth course, at about forty-
five feet from the ground. When the block which closed it was displaced, an
inclined passage, 41.2 inches wide and 47.6 inches high, was revealed, the
lower part of which was cut in the rock. This descended for 317 feet,
passed through an unfinished chamber, and ended sixty feet farther in a
blind passage. This would be a first disappointment to the spoilers. If,
however, they were not discouraged, but examined the passage with care,
they would find in the roof, sixty-two feet distant from the door, a block
of granite (Note 22) among the surrounding limestone. It was so hard that
the seekers, after having vainly tried to break or remove it, took the
course of forcing a way through the softer stone around (Note 23). This
obstacle past, they came into an ascending passage which joins the first at
an angle of 120° (Note 24), and is divided into two branches. One branch
runs horizontally into the centre of the pyramid, and ends in a limestone
chamber with pointed roof, which is called, without any good reason, "The
Queen's Chamber." The other, continuing upward, changes its form and
appearance. It becomes a gallery 148 feet long and 28 feet high, built of
Mokattam stone, so polished and finely wrought that it is difficult to put
a "needle or even a hair" into the joints (Note 25). The lower courses are
vertical; the seven others "corbel" forwards, until at the roof they are
only twenty-one inches apart. A fresh obstacle arose at the end of this
gallery. The passage which led to the chamber of the sarcophagus was closed
by a slab of granite (Note 26); farther on was a small vestibule divided in
equal spaces by four portcullises of granite (Note 27), which would need to
be broken. The royal sepulchre is a granite chamber with a flat roof,
nineteen feet high, thirty-four feet long, and seventeen feet wide. Here
are neither figures nor inscriptions; nothing but a granite sarcophagus,
lidless and mutilated. Such were the precautions taken against invaders;
and the result showed that they were effectual, for the pyramid guarded its
deposit during more than four thousand years (Note 28). But the very weight
of the materials was a more serious danger. To prevent the sepulchral


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