6 INTRODUCTION
 
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begun the appalling task of destroying the pyramid, by cutting an open trench down the middle, as many other pyramids have been barbarously opened of late years. This open trench affair was however far too much to carry out, and had been abandoned after hopelessly disfiguring the pile of brickwork. On the north side therefore there was but little chance left, but I cleared and cleaned up the rock and pavement some way in front of it, to settle if any entrance might exist so far out I also attacked the east side, and cleared the face there to the base, in the middle of the side, but all in vain. The next point of promise was a deep open space on the north of the pyramid, where I worked from 29th January to 10th February. Here there had existed a small temple, of which Lepsius found some blocks remaining with the cartouches of Amenemhat III. This area had not however been cleared about the middle, and it was possible that this building had stood over the entrance to the pyramid. So a deep trench was cut through the hard mass of concreted stone chips, down to the undisturbed paving and the native rock. Here therefore was no entrance. Seeing that the south side was very deeply encumbered, and would require enormous work to clear it, I reluctantly decided on tunnelling to the middle, beginning at the broken north face.

The pyramid being built of mud bricks laid in sand did not offer any serious difficulty, but yet the tunnel was not so simple as it seemed. The sand between the bricks was in very thick layers, usually half to one inch; and being quite dry and clean, it ran out interminably in some parts, coming down as in an hour-glass from the joints. It was needful therefore to board up the roof of the tunnel all along, and as no native would treat the place with sufficient tenderness to avoid loosening the bricks overhead, I had to fix every board myself as the tunnel advanced. The bricks moreover were so large and heavy, being double the size each way of an English brick, and weighing 40 or 50 lbs., that a single one dropped on a person would have settled his moving powers for some time to come. It was needful therefore to use the greatest care in loosening and taking down the bricks. As the tunnel advanced to the middle, I found that the rock had dipped down far below the outside level on which we had begun ; and the floor therefore had to be exit lower until the tunnel was so high that I had a false roof above the working roof to support the bricks. Occasionally, falls of the side took place, and the false roof above broke away in parts, and hung in other places as if a touch would bring it down ; the lower roof however sustained what actually fell, but the whole region was caving slowly in, and even the lower roof was only supported on a fissured mass which stuck somehow on to the side of the tunnel. In the second season the state of matters was still more dangerous: falls of the sides and roof continually took place, even three times in twenty-four hours. As masons from Cairo were working inside it was needful to clear away all signs of the falls, and re-strut the sides, as quickly as possible; and as happily nothing much fell while they were inside they never knew anything about the state of affairs. One of these falls would bring down tons of brick from the sides and roof, along perhaps 20 feet length. I then at once began clearing the stuff out with some lads, needing to pass all along the unsupported and loose tunnel to get it clear; and then turning everyone out - sometimes at night - I used to re-prop the sides without any interference. The need of listening acutely all the time to detect any sand running down - the prelude to a fall - and the need of having the narrow way quite clear to retreat in half a second if needs be, made it necessary to work quite alone. It may be said why not timber the place thoroughly with thick beams along the sides and roof continuously ? To do so however would have needed the widening of the whole passage, to allow of thick supports; and the work would have been risky and very long for one pair of hands, as no Arab would understand it.

4. The cutting of the tunnel occupied from 11th February to 5th April. When near the middle of the pyramid, not having found any sign of a chamber, we deepened the tunnel; but yet were in solid brickwork without any hope even when down on the rock base. While working in the tunnel, however, I noticed that on the east side the bricks were laid with mud mortar, and not in loose sand ; and this difference extended for nearly four feet above the base rock As this mud mortaring continued along the side of the tunnel for forty or fifty feet it was probably a wall. And if a wall had been built on the ground before the pyramid, it would be for keeping out the sand and dust from falling into the pit in the rock where the chamber was being built So I argued that the chamber must be on one side or other of the dwarf wall. Which side? was the question. On carefully cleaning the rock floor of the tunnel I found that there was a slight slope down to the west, and concluded that the pit must be on the lower side. We therefore turned at right angles

 

 

 


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