Page images

Drying dispensed with. The drying up qualities of the sand of qualities of Egyptian Egypt are very remarkable. Some few years ago Sir C. sand. Holled Smith, K.C.B., while making some excavations among

the ruins of a temple at Wady Halfah, on the west bank of the river, dug up a box, which, having been opened, was seen to contain the body of a European ; on making inquiries he found that an English engineer had died there about a dozen years before. The hair and beard and features were unaltered as far as appearance went, but the skin had dried up like parchment, and the body had become much smaller. In tombs of the lower classes of the Ancient

[graphic][graphic][merged small][merged small][ocr errors]
[graphic][ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small][merged small]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors][ocr errors]

3. Plan of a Maştaba

with four serdâbs.

2. Entrance to a Maştaba at Şakkârah.

Empire, the remains of the dead consist chiefly of light yellow bones. Sometimes the body of the dead was protected by walls of poorly made bricks, and a vaulted roof. The tombs of the wealthy were made in the shape of mașțabas, pyramids, and series of chambers hewn in the mountains on the eastern and western banks of the Nile.

One of the earliest forms of the building which marks țaba tomb. the site of an Egyptian tomb is the mastaba,' the finest

examples of which were built at Şakkarah; it was called

The maş.

[graphic][merged small][graphic][merged small]

mastaba by the Arabs because its length, in proportion to its height, is great, and reminded them of the long, low seat common in Oriental houses, and familiar to them. The mastaba is a heavy massive building, of rectangular shape, the four sides of which are four walls symmetrically inclined towards their common centre. The exterior surfaces are not

* From the Arabic üibizo. The facts here given on the subject of mastabas are derived from the excellent articles of M. Mariette in Revue Archéologique, S. 2me, t. xix. p. 8 ff.

30 feet.

flat, for the face of each course of masonry, formed of stones laid vertically, is a little behind the one beneath it, and if these recesses were a little deeper, the external appearance of each side of the building would resemble a flight of steps. The stones which form the mastabas are of a moderate size, and with the exception of those used for the ceiling and architrave, have an average height of 18 or 20 inches. The Plan and height and length of the mastaba vary; the largest measures

position of

maştabas. about 170 feet long by 86 feet wide, and the smallest about 26 feet long by 20 feet wide ; they vary in height from 13 to

The ground at Şakkârah is formed of calcareous rock covered to the depth of a few feet with sand; the foundations of the mastabas are always on the solid rock. The plan of the maştaba is a rectangle, and the greater axis of the rectangle is, without exception, in the direction from north to south. Moreover, at the pyramids of Gîzeh, where the mastabas are arranged symmetrically, the plan of their arrangement is like a chess-board, the squares of which are uniformly elongated towards

6. Transverse section at the the north. Mastabas then

bottom of a serdâb. are oriented astronomically

Orienta towards the true north, and in the cases where they are a few tion of

maştabas. degrees out, this difference must be attributed not to design but to negligence. It has been asserted that mastabas are only unfinished pyramids, but properly considered, it is evident that they form a class of buildings by themselves, and that they have nothing in common with the pyramid, save in respect of being oriented towards the north, this orientation being the result, not of a studied imitation of the pyramid, but of a religious intention, which at this early period influenced the construction of all tombs, whatever their external form. The maştabas at Şakkârah are built of stone and brick; the stone employed is of two kinds, the one being very hard, and of a bluish-grey colour, and the other being comparatively soft, and of a yellowish colour. The bricks also are of two kinds, the


one yellowish, and the other black; both sorts were sun-dried only. The bricks of a yellowish colour seem to have been used entirely during the earliest dynasties, and the black ones only appear with the second half of the IVth dynasty. However carefully the outside of the mastaba was built, the inside is composed of sand, pieces of stone thrown in without design or arrangement, rubble, rubbish, etc., and but for the outside walls holding all together many of them must have perished long since. The eastern face of the maștaba is the most important, for, four times out of five, the entrance

is in it; it is sometimes, but very rarely, bare. Some yards from the north-east corner is, at times, a very high, narrow opening, at the bottoin of which the masonry of the mastaba itself assumes the form of long vertical grooves, which distinguish the stelæ of this epoch ; a stele, with or without inscription, sometimes takes the place of this opening At a distance of some feet from the south-east corner is generally another opening, but larger, deeper and more carefully made ; at the bottom of this is sometimes a fine inscribed calcare

ous stone stele, and sometimes a 7. The upper chamber, the small architectural façade, in the

pit, and the sarcophagus centre of which is a door. When chamber of a Mastaba.

the eastern face has the opening at the south-east corner which has just been described, the mastaba has no interior chamber, for this opening takes its place. When the mastaba has the façade in the place of the opening, there is a chamber within. When the entrance to the mașțaba is made on the north side, the façade is brought back to the end of a kind of vestibule, and at the front of this vestibule are set up two monolithic columns, without abacus, and without base, which support the architrave, which supports the ceiling. The entrance to the mastaba is


The stele in maştabas.

« PreviousContinue »