American Egyptomania Search

From West Africa to Palestine

Freetown: Manchester, 1873

Browse scholarship by topic:

Art & Architecture

mounted my donkey and rode to the smaller Pyramid of Chephren, in front of which stands the Sphinx.

The Sphinx, which I gazed at a long while, is a most impressive spectacle. "This colossal and fanciful figure, half human, half animal, the body being that of a lion, was an emblematic repre- sentation of the king—the union of intellect and physical power. It was cut out of the solid rock, with the exception of the paws and a portion of the backbone, which are of hewn stone. Its heights to the top of the head was sixty-three feet, its length a hundred and forty-three feet, and it measured a hundred and two feet round the forehead. The head-dress is destroyed, and the face is much mutilated, so that the features, which were Egyptian in their charac- ter, are scarcely distinguishable. Below its breast and between its paws, which extend fifty feet from the chest, though now covered with sand, are the remains of a small temple and altar, the incense smoke from which ascended to its expanded nostrils."

* * *

Having spent about three hours in the company of these wonders of antiquity, we now concluded to return to Cairo. We rode away a little distance, and then turned and took a "last lingering look"; the Arabs, unsatisfied with the pecuniary compensation they had received—which Ibrahim said was more than they usually get— still followed us, and interrupted my meditative mood by clamour- ously insisting upon additional bakhshish. The journey back to Cairo was done in a much shorter time than it took us to go. We returned in four hours.

The pyramids which I visited are the two great pyramids, known, as I have already stated, as those of Cheops and Chephren. The large pyramid—the one I entered—is about four hundred and eighty feet high, or one hundred and forty feet higher than the highest point of St. Paul's Cathedral. Its base covers thirteen acres. The solid contents have been estimated at eighty-five million cubic feet, and to contain six million tons of stone. Herodotus says that one hundred thousand men, relieved every three months, were employed about twenty years in the erection of this vast edifice.

In view of these immense structures, I do not see how the boastful spirit of the age can indulge in such unlimited panegyrics on the advancement of the present day; setting up the commonest acts of the current civilization as perfect miracles compared with the doings of the ancients. What are Atlantic telegraphs to these incompre- hensible and time-defying edifices, whose authors did not invest their