Page images


labour, for about eighteen days, they arrived at the door-way of that temple, which Mr. Belzoni considers as the finest and most extensive excavation in Nubia, and one that can stand a competition with any in Egypt, except the tomb newly discovered in Beban el Molook.' As the temple of Ipsambul has, in all probability, been covered with sand two thousand years, or more, our readers will not be displeased with the description of it.'

'From what we could perceive at the first view, it was evidently a very large place; but our astonishment increased, when we found it to be one of the most magnificent of temples, enriched with beautiful intaglios, painting, colossal figures, &c. We entered at first into a large pronaos, fifty-seven feet long and fifty-two wide, supported by two rows of square pillars, in a line from the front door to the door of the sekos (See Plate 43). Each pillar has a figure, not unlike those at Medinet Aboo, finely executed, and very little injured by time. The tops of their turbans reach the ceiling, which is about thirty feet high: the pillars are five feet and a half square. Both these and the walls are covered with beautiful hieroglyphics, the style of which is somewhat superior, or at least bolder, than that of any others in Egypt, not only in workmanship, but also in the subjects. They exhibit battles, storming of castles, triumphs over the Ethiopians, sacrifices, &c. In some places is to be seen the same hero as at Medinet Aboo, but in a different posture. Some of the columns are much injured by the close and heated atmosphere, the temperature of which was so hot, that the thermometer must have risen to above a hundred and thirty degrees. The second hall is about twenty-two feet high, thirty-seven wide, and twentyfive and a half long. It contains four pillars about four feet square: and the walls of this also are covered with fine hieroglyphics in pretty good preservation. Beyond this is a shorter chamber, thirty-seven feet wide, in which is the entrance into the sanctuary. At each end of this chamber is a door, leading into smaller chambers in the same direction with the sanctuary, each eight feet by seven. The sanctuary is twentythree feet and a half long, and twelve feet wide. It contains a pedestal in the centre, and at the end four colossal sitting figures, the heads of which are in good preservation, not having been injured by violence. On the right side of this great hall, entering into the temple, are two doors, at a short distance from each other, which lead into two long separate rooms, the first thirty-eight feet ten inches in length, and eleven feet five inches wide; the other forty-eight feet seven inches, by thirteen feet three. At the end of the first are several unfinished hieroglyphics, of which some, though merely sketched, give fine ideas of their manner of drawing. At the lateral corners of the entrance into the second chamber from the great hall is a door, each of which leads into a small chamber twenty-two feet six inches long, and ten feet wide. Each of these rooms has two doors leading into two other chambers, forty-three feet in length, and ten feet eleven inches wide. There are two benches in them, apparently to sit on. The most remarkable subjects in this temple are, 1st, a group of captive Ethiopians, in the


western corner of the great hall: 2d, the hero killing a man with his spear, another lying slain under his feet, on the same western wall: 3d, the storming of a castle, in the western corner from the front door." -pp. 211-213.

Such is the interior. The description of the exterior follows.

The outside of this temple is magnificent. It is a hundred and seventeen feet wide, and eighty-six feet high; the heighth from the top of the cornice to the top of the door being sixty-six feet six inches, and the height of the door twenty feet. There are four enormous sitting colossi, the largest in Egypt or Nubia, except the great sphinx at the pyramids, to which they approach in the proportion of near two-thirds. From the shoulder to the elbow they measure fifteen feet six inches; the ears three feet six inches; the face seven feet; the beard five feet six inches; across the shoulders twenty-five feet four inches; their height is about fifty-one feet, not including the caps, which are about fourteen feet. There are only two of these colossi in sight, one is still buried under the sand, and the other, which is near the door, is half fallen down, and buried also. On the top of the door is a colossal figure of Osiris twenty feet high, with two colossal hieroglyphic figures, one on each side, looking towards it. On the top of the temple is a cornice with hieroglyphics, a torus and frize under it. The cornice is six feet wide, the frize is four feet. Above the cornice is a row of sitting monkeys eight feet high, and six across the shoulders. They are twenty-one in number. This temple was nearly two-thirds buried under the sand, of which we removed thirty-one feet before we came to the upper part of the door. It must have had a very fine landing-place, which is now totally buried under the sand. It is the last and largest temple excavated in the solid rock in Nubia or Egypt, except the new tomb. p. 213, 214,

Mr. Belzoni observes that the heat on first entering this temple was so great that they could scarcely bear it, and the perspiration from their hands was so copious as to render the paper by its dripping unfit for use. On the first opening that was made by the removal of the sand, the only living object that presented itself was a toad of prodigious size. The inanimate objects within were the figures of two lions with hawks' heads, as large as life, and a small sitting human figure.

We took occasion in a former article to mention the Greek inscription found by Mr. Bankes on the leg of the Colossus in front of this most magnificent excavation, and gave it as our opinion that it was the first Psammeticus, that is to say the Psammeticus who introduced the Ionians and Carians into Egypt, in honour of whom it was written. There are, however, those who contend (from the employment of the Greek ) that the inscription must be of much later date. We cannot agree with them until it shall be proved that the Ionians or the Carians never used the in the


place of σ, and that Simonides, who is said to have added it to the Greek alphabet, did not himself borrow it from some of the people of Greece. But we leave Mr. Bankes to elucidate this difficulty, which we have no doubt he is well able to do.


The party now returned to Thebes, where they found M. Drovetti busily employed in digging among the rocks for mummies and other reliques of antiquity, assisted by two Piedmontese, one of them a renegado who had served in the French army. As that gen tleman had already played Mr. Belzoni some scurvy tricks, he determined to avoid him, and retired into the vale of the tombs of the kings,' being satisfied, he says, that there still remained some interesting discoveries to be made in that quarter. Three new tombs were opened by him, but in none of them did there appear any thing to prove that they had been intended for the sepulchre of the kings of Egypt. Some were only passages and staircases leading to painted rooms. In one of these was a sarcophagus of granite with two mummies in it, covered with hieroglyphics in an unfi nished state, and a statue standing erect, six feet six inches high, and beautifully cut out of sycamore. There were besides many little images of wood well carved, some with the head of a lion, others of a fox, and others of a monkey. In another tomb were mummies in their cases lying flat on the ground; the bodies were covered with linen of different degrees of fineness, and, as Mr. Belzoni thinks, wrapped round them at different and distant periods of time: so careful were the ancient Egyptians in their attentions to the dead! Some of the tombs had paintings beautifully executed, others were quite plain. In one chamber were discovered two naked bodies without either wrappers or case; they were females, with hair of considerable length, and well preserved. In some of the chambers the mummies of cows, sheep, monkeys, crocodiles, bats, and other animals, were intermixed with human bodies; and one tomb was filled with nothing but cats, carefully folded in red and white linen, the head covered by a mask representing the cat, and


made of the same linen.'

The Egyptians were certainly well acquainted with linen manufac tures to a perfection equal to our own; for, in many of their figures, we observe their garments quite transparent; and among the folding of the mummies, I observed some cloth quite as fine as our common mus lin, very strong, and of an even texture. They had the art of tanning leather, with which they made shoes as well as we do, some of which I found of various shapes. They had also the art of staining the leather with various colours, as we do Morocco, and actually knew the mode of embossing on it, for I found leather with figures impressed on it, quite elevated. I think it must have been done with a hot iron while the leather was damp. They also fabricated a sort of coarse which they made beads and other ornaments.



• Besides

[ocr errors]

'Besides enamelling, the art of gilding was in great perfection among them, as I found several ornaments of the kind. They knew how to cast copper as well as to form it into sheets, and had a metallic composition not unlike our lead, rather softer, but of greater tenacity. It is much like the lead which we see on paper in the tea-chests from China, but much thicker. I found some pieces of it covered on both sides with a thin coat of another metal, which might be taken for silver, but I cannot believe it to be so. It certainly is a proof of the scarcity of this metal in Egypt, where, in my opinion, it was less common than gold; for it is seldom found, whereas the latter is quite common on the ornaments.'-p. 173, 174.

It seems also that sufficient proofs were procured of their skill in varnishing on baked clay, and that this art was carried to great perfection: all their colours, especially the red, blue, green, and yellow, still remain, after so many ages, as brilliant and as beautiful as when first laid on.

The inconvenience, and, we may add, the hazard of visiting these sepulchres, can only be duly appreciated by those who have made the experiment; and nothing but an extraordinary degree of enthusiasm for researches of this kind could have supported our traveller in the numerous descents which he made into the mummy pits of Egypt, and through the long narrow subterraneous passages, particularly inconvenient for a man of his size. His own account of these difficulties is extremely interesting.

'Of some of these tombs many persons could not withstand the suffocating air, which often causes fainting. A vast quantity of dust rises, so fine that it enters the throat and nostrils, and chokes the nose and mouth to such a degree, that it requires great power of lungs to resist it and the strong effluvia of the mummies. This is not all; the entry or passage where the bodies are is roughly cut in the rocks, and the falling of the sand from the upper part or ceiling of the passage causes it to be nearly filled up. In some places there is not more than the vacancy of a foot left which you must contrive to pass through in a creeping posture like a snail, on pointed and keen stones, that cut like glass. After getting through these passages, some of them two or three hundred yards long, you generally find a more commodious place, perhaps high enough to sit. But what a place of rest! surrounded by bodies, by heaps of mummies in all directions; which, previous to my being accustomed to the sight, impressed me with horror. The blackness of the wall, the faint light given by the candles or torches for want of air, the different objects that surrounded me, seeming to converse with each other, and the Arabs with the candles or torches in their hands, naked and covered with dust, themselves resembling living mummies, absolutely formed a scene that cannot be described. In such a situation I found myself several times, and often returned exhausted and fainting, till at last I became inured to it, and indifferent to what I suffered, except from the dust, which never failed to choke my throat and nose; and though, for


tunately, I am destitute of the sense of smelling, I could taste that the mummies were rather unpleasant to swallow. After the exertion of entering into such a place, through a passage of fifty, a hundred, three hundred, or perhaps six hundred yards, nearly overcome, I sought a resting-place, found one, and contrived to sit; but when my weight bore on the body of an Egyptian, it crushed like a band-box. I naturally had recourse to my hands to sustain my weight, but they found no better support; so that I sunk altogether among the broken mummies, with a crash of bones, rags, and wooden cases, which raised such a dust as kept me motionless for a quarter of an hour, waiting till it subsided again. I could not remove from the place, however, without increasing it, and every step I took I crushed a mummy in some part or other. Once I was conducted from such a place to another resembling it, through a passage of about twenty feet in length, and no wider than that a body could be forced through. It was choked with mummies, and I could not pass without putting my face in contact with that of some decayed Egyptian; but as the passage inclined downwards, my own weight helped me on: however, I could not avoid being covered with bones, legs, arms, and heads rolling from above. Thus I proceeded from one cave to another, all full of mummies piled up in various ways, some standing, some lying, and some on their heads. The purpose of my researches was to rob the Egyptians of their papyri; of which I found a few hidden in their breasts, under their arms, in the space above the knees, or on the legs, and covered by the numerous folds of cloth, that envelop the mummy. The people of Gournou, who make a trade of antiquities of this sort, are very jealous of strangers, and keep them as secret as possible, deceiving travellers by pretending, that they have arrived at the end of the pits, when they are scarcely at the entrance. I could never prevail on them to conduct me into these places till this my second voyage, when I succeeded in obtaining admission into any cave where mummies were to be seen.'—p. 156-158.

The tombs in the Beban el Molook were more capacious. The first that was opened had a staircase eight feet wide and ten feet high, at the foot of which were four mummies in their cases, flat on the ground, with their heads towards the stairs; further on were four more in the same direction; one of them had a covering thrown over it exactly like the pall on the coffins of the present day.

'I went through the operation of examining all these mummies one by one. They were much alike in their foldings, except that which had the painted linen over it. Among the others I found one, that had new linen, apparently, put over the old rags; which proves, that the Egyptians took great care of their dead, even for many years after their decease. That which was distinguished from all the rest, I observed was dressed in finer linen, and more neatly wrapped up. It had gar lands of flowers and leaves, and on the side over the heart I found a plate of the metal which I have already described, soft like lead, coyered with another metal, not unlike silver leaf. It had the eyes cow, which so often represents Isis, engraved on it; and in the centre

of a


« PreviousContinue »