« PreviousContinue »
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 the site of an Egyptian tomb is the mastaba,' the finest examples of which were built at Şakkârah; it was called
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 ärbes. The facts here given on the subject of maştabas are derived from the excellent articles of M. Mariette in Revue Archéologique, S. zme, t. xix. p. 8 ff.
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 mașțaba vary; the largest measures
position of 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 30 feet. 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 maștaba 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. Masļavas tien
bottom of a serdåb. are oriented astronomically
Orientatowards the true north, and in the cases where they are a few
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 mașțabas at Şaķķârah 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 mastaba 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 maştaba has no interior chamber, for this opening takes its place. When the mașțaba has the façade in the place of the opening, there is a chamber within. When the entrance to the mastaba 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 maş. tabas.
sometimes made from the south, but never from the west; the top of the mastaba is quite flat.
The interior of the complete mașțaba consists of three The parts, the chamber, the serdâb, and the pit. Having entered chamber the Chamber by the door in the side, it is found to be either without any ornamentation whatever, or to be covered with sculptures. At the bottom of the chamber usually facing the
east, is a stele, which, whether the walls are inscribed or not, is always inscribed. At the foot of the stele, on the bare ground, is often a table of offerings made of granite, alabaster, or calcareous stone; two obelisks, or two supports for offerings, are often found at each side of this table. Besides these things the chamber has no furniture, and it rarely has a door.
Not far from the chamber, oftener to the south than to the north, and oftener to the north than to the west, is a lofty but narrow nook hidden in the thickness of the masonry, and built with large stones ; this nook is called the Serdâb.' Sometimes the serdâb has no communication whatever with the other parts of the mașțaba, but sometimes a rectangular passage, so
narrow that the hand can only be inserted with difficulty, leads from the serdâb into the chamber; in the serdab statues of the deceased were placed and the narrow passage served
? A serdab, ulgow, strictly speaking, is a lofty, vaulted, subterranean chamber, with a large opening in the north side to admit air in the hot weather.