"Chapter 1: The Explorer in Egypt." by Amelia Ann Blanford Edwards (1831-1892)
A CANAL IN THE DELTA.
IT may be said of some very old places, as of some very old books, that they are destined to be forever new. The nearer we approach them, the more remote they seem; the more we study them, the more we have yet to learn. Time augments rather than diminishes their everlasting novelty; and to our descendants of a thousand years hence it may safely be predicted that they will be even more fascinating than to ourselves. This is true of many ancient lands, but of no place is it so true as of Egypt. Our knowledge of how men lived and thought in the Valley of the Nile five or six thousand years before the Christian era is ever on the increase. It keeps pace with the march of discovery, and that march extends every year over a wider area. Each season beholds the exploration of new [Page 4] sites, and each explorer has some new thing to tell. What Mariette began thirty years ago, Maspero carried on and developed; and it was to Maspero's wise liberality that the Egypt Exploration Fund was indebted, in 1883, for liberty to pursue its work in the Delta. In that year the society despatched its first agent–M. Naville–upon its first expedition; and since 1883 the French in Upper Egypt, the English in Lower Egypt, have labored simultaneously to bring to light the buried wealth of the most ancient of nations. Thus the work of discovery goes on apace. Old truths receive unexpected corroboration; old histories are judged by the light of new readings; fresh wonders are disclosed wherever the spade of the digger strikes new ground. The interest never flags–the subject never palls upon us–the mine is never exhausted.
I will go yet further, and say that this mine is practically inexhaustible. Consider, for instance, the incredible number and riches of the tombs of ancient Egypt, and the immense population of the Nile Valley in the times of the Pharaohs. That immense population continued during a period of between four and five thousand years to embalm and secrete their dead, interring with them, according to the customs of successive epochs, funerary statues, vases, weapons, amulets, inscribed tablets, jewels, furniture, food, stuffs; articles of apparel, such as sandals, combs, hair-pins, and even wigs; implements, and written documents on papyrus, leather, and linen. Conceive, then, what must be the number of those sepulchres, of those mummies, of those buried treasures! The cemeteries of Thebes and Memphis and Abydos have enriched all the museums of Europe, and are not yet worked out. The unopened mounds of Middle and Lower Egypt, and the unexplored valleys of the Libyan range, undoubtedly conceal tens of thousands of tombs which yet await the scientific, or unscientific, plunderer.
The late Dr. Birch–a cautious man, and the last man in the world to exaggerate–estimated the number of corpses embalmed during two thousand seven hundred years at no [Page 5] less than 420,000,000. But recent discoveries (1) compel us to assign 4700 instead of 2700 years for the observance of this rite; which, calculated after the same rate, brings us to a gigantic total of 731,000,000 of mummies. The majority of these were, of course, mere slaves and peasants, rudely embalmed and buried in common graves; but even so, we may be very certain that the time can never come when quarried rock and drifted sand shall have yielded all the noble and wealthy dead, and all their riches. The Greek, the Roman, the mediæval Arab, the modern Arab, the Copt, the Turk, and the European archæologist have ravaged the soil, but the harvest is still undiminished; and although "mummy was sold for balsam" in Sir Thomas Browne's day, and has been exported for manure in our own, (2) there are probably at this moment more ancient Egyptians under the soil of Egypt than there are living men and women above it.
PRINCESS NESIKHONSU'S WIG.
This curious object, now in the National Egyptian Museum at Ghizeh, is one of several similar wigs buried with the mummy of Princess Nesikhonsu, a royal lady of the Twenty-first Dynasty, whose mortal remains and personal adornments were discovered in 1881, in the famous vault of the Priest Kings at Dayr-el-Bahari. Each wig was enclosed in a little hamper of plaited palm-fibre.
It has been aptly said that all Egypt is but the facade of an immense sepulchre. This is literally true; for the terraced cliffs that hem in the Nile to east and west, and the rocky bed of the desert beneath our feet, are everywhere honey-combed with tombs. But this is not all. The very towns in which those vanished generations lived their busy lives, the houses in which they dwelt, the temples in which they worshipped, are as much entombed as their former in- [Page 6] habitants. What the ancient Egyptians did for their dead, Time has done for their cities. All who run and read have heard of the mounds of Memphis, of Bubastis, of Tanis, and of other famous capitals; but few have, perhaps, any very distinct idea of how these mounds came to be formed, or even of what they are like. To what shall I compare them ? I can think of nothing which even distantly resembles them unless it be an ant-hill. These giant ant-hills are scattered all over the face of the country, and thickest of all in the Delta. They are the first objects that excite the traveller's curiosity when he turns his back upon Alexandria and his face towards Cairo. He looks out of the window of the railway carriage, and yonder, a mile or so off in the midst of the cotton-fields, he sees a huge, irregular brown tumulus, some fifty or sixty feet in height, perfectly bare of vegetation, which looks as if it might cover fifteen or twenty acres of ground. This strange apparition is no sooner left behind than two or three more, some smaller, some larger, come into sight; and so on all the way to Cairo. At first he can scarcely believe that each contains the dead bones of an ancient town. When he comes to travel farther and know the country better, he discovers that these mounds are to be reckoned not by scores but by hundreds. So numerous are they that many a district of the Delta, if modelled in relief, might be taken for a raised map of some volcanic centre, such as the chain of the Puy de Dôme, in Auvergne.
Some mounds are of great extent. The mounds of Tanis, for instance, cover no less than forty acres; but then Tanis (better known, perhaps, by its scriptural name, Zoan) was a very important city, and more than once was the chosen capital of the empire. Others are so small that they can scarcely represent anything but hamlets or fortified posts.
But why, it may be asked, have these places, instead of falling into heaps of ruin, become converted into mounds ? For the simple reason that the material of which they were constructed was mere earth, and so to earth they have returned. Like the Arab fellah of the present day, the Egyptian of [Page 7] five or six thousand years ago built his house of mud bricks mixed with a little chopped straw, and dried in the sun. The houses of the rich–built of the same material–were plastered and stuccoed, the walls and ceilings being decorated with elaborate polychrome designs, and the exterior relieved by light wooden colonnades and balconies. The huts of the poor were much the same as they are now–mere beehives of brown clay, which crumble slowly away in dry weather, and melt if it rains. Easily built and easily replaced, they were constantly falling out of repair, being levelled to the ground, trodden down, and rebuilt. Thus, each new house rose upon the ruins of the old one; and every time the process was repeated, a higher elevation was obtained for the foundation. In a country subject to annual inundation this in itself was an important advantage; and so, in the course of ages, what was probably a mere rising ground when first the town was founded, became a lofty hill, visible for miles across the plain.
Rightly to understand what I will venture to call the geological strata of an Egyptian mound, it is, however, necessary to have some idea of the processes of its growth and decay. These processes were everywhere the same; and if I attempt to sketch the history of a typical site, it must at the same time be remembered that my description represents no one mound in particular, but that it applies, in a general sense, to all.
We will suppose our typical mound to be situate in the Delta–possibly in the old Land of Goshen–and we will in imagination go back to that distant time when as yet the site was a mere barren sand-hill rising some twenty feet above the level of the soil. These sand-hillocks are the last visible vestiges of the old ocean-bed which underlies the whole of the Delta, beginning at Kalyûb, about ten miles below Cairo, and widening out like a gigantic fan to Alexandria on the western coast, to Damietta on the east. Now, the entire Delta is one vast deposit of mud annually brought down by the inundation of the Nile, and in the course of [Page 8] ages this mud has driven the sea back inch by inch, foot by foot, for a distance of more than one hundred miles. These sand-hills, which were formerly under the sea, are called by the Arabs " Gezireh," or islands; and they were naturally resorted to by the earliest nomadic tribes as places of refuge for themselves and their flocks during the season of the inundation. For the same reason, they became the sites of the first settlements. Every ancient ruin, every mound, every modern town and village in the Delta rests on a sandy eminence which once upon a time was covered by the blue waters of the Mediterranean.
Here, then, on an irregular platform of yellow sand surrounded by rich pastures in winter and summer, and by turbid floods in autumn, a few half-barbarous shepherds erect their primitive huts of wattle and daub; and here they set up a rude altar, consisting probably of a single upright stone brought with much labor and difficulty from the nearest point of the eastern or western cliffs. By-and-by, they or their descendants enclose that altar in a little mud-built shrine roofed over with palm branches, and wall in a surrounding space of holy ground.
As the centuries roll on, this first rude sanctuary gives place to a more ambitious structure built of stone; and to this structure successive generations add court-yards, porticos, colonnades, gate-ways, obelisks, and statues in such number that by the time of the Nineteenth Dynasty–that is to say, about the time of the Oppression and the Exodus–the temple covers an area as large as St. Peter's at Rome. In the meanwhile, the level of the inhabited parts of the town has been steadily rising, and the crude-brick dwellings of the townsfolk–upraised like a coral-reef by the perpetual deposition of building-rubbish–have attained so great an elevation that the temple actually stands in a deep hollow in the middle of the city, as if erected in the crater of an extinct volcano. Such was the condition of the great Temple of Bubastis when visited by Herodotus in the fifth century before Christ; and such, to this day, is the condition of the magnifi- [Page 9] cent Temple of Edfû, excavated twenty years ago by Mariette. Here the mound has been cut away all round the building, which stands on the paved level of the ancient city, forty feet below the spot from which one first looks down upon it.
We have thus far traced the history of our typical mound from its first rude beginnings to the apex of its prosperity. As time goes on, however, and the last native Dynasties expire, the trade of the community languishes, the population dwindles, and the temple falls out of repair. Then comes the prosperous period of Greek rule. Commerce and letters revive, and the Ptolemies repair the temple, or perhaps rebuild it. Next comes the Roman period, closely followed by the introduction of Christianity; and by-and-by, when the national religion is proscribed, a community of Coptic monks take possession of the grand old building, converting its chambers into cells, and its portico into a Christian church. The town now overflows into what was once the sacred area. Mud huts are plastered between sculptured walls and painted columns, and the ground begins to rise in and about the temple as formerly it had risen outside the enclosure. Ere long the monks, weary of living at the bottom of a pit, proceed to erect a new monastery in one of the suburbs. The temple, therefore, is partly pulled down for building material; and its desecrated ruins, which now constitute the poorest and most crowded quarter of the city, become gradually choked within and without. At last, even the roof is converted into a maze of huts and stables swarming with human beings, poultry, dogs, kine, asses, pigeons, and vermin. Thus, in process of time the whole building becomes buried, and its very site is forgotten. A few centuries later the town is devastated by some great calamity of plague or war, and after an existence of perhaps five thousand years, is finally deserted. Then the crude-brick shells of its latest habitations crumble away, and what was once a busy city clustered round a splendid temple, ends by becoming a heap of desolate, unsightly mounds strewn with innumerable potsherds. [Page 10]
Such are the constituent parts of my typical mound; and all the mounds of Egypt are but variations upon this one original theme.
A mound is a concrete piece of history; and, given the date of its first and last chapters, nothing is easier than to predict what may be found in it. Let us now excavate this typical mound, which began with prehistoric Egypt, and ended, probably, about Anno Domini 600. The explorer who should sink a vertical shaft through the heart of the mass would cut through the relics of one hundred and sixty-eight generations of men. It would not be one town which he would lay open; it would be an immense succession of towns, stratum above stratum, with a semi-barbarian settlement at the bottom and a Christian town at the top. Amid the caked dust and rubbish of that Christian town he would find little terra-cotta lamps of the old classical shape, stamped with the palm or cross. And he would find Roman coins, Gnostic gems, and potsherds scribbled over with Coptic, Greek, and demotic memoranda. Here, too–hidden away, perhaps, in an earthen jar, in the evil days of religious persecution–he might hope to find a copy of the earliest Coptic translation of the Scriptures, or a priceless second century codex of the New Testament.
Next below this, in strata of the Greek period, he would find coins of the Ptolemies, Greek and Egyptian inscriptions, Greek and Egyptian papyri, images of Greek and Egyptian gods, and works of art in the Græco-Egyptian and pure Greek styles. Among other possible treasures might be discovered a copy of Manetho's History of Egypt, or some of the lost masterpieces of the Greek poets. Still working downward, he would come upon evidences of various periods of foreign conquest, in the form of Persian and Assyrian tablets; and below these, in strata of the Saïte time, would be found exquisite works of art in bronze, sculpture, and personal ornaments. Even when so low down as the Nineteenth Dynasty–the grand epoch of Rameses the Great–we are not yet half through our mound. Under the débris of that [Page 11] sumptuous period we may find traces of the Hyksôs, or Shepherd Kings–those mysterious invaders of Mongolian type who ruled Egypt for five hundred years. Below this again, we come upon relics of the magnificent Twelfth Dynasty; and so on down to the time of the Pyramid Kings, when we should find scarabs of Pepi, Unas, Khafra, and Khufu, and perhaps even of Mena himself ! Nor must the temple buried in the heart of our mound be forgotten–a temple of which, perhaps, no two stones are left standing the one upon the other, but which, nevertheless, is rich in broken statues of Kings and gods, and in fragmentary records of victories and treaties, calendars of feasts, and votive inscriptions.
This sketch, however, is a mere outline of possibilities. No mound would be likely to yield all these consecutive links of history. Some would be found in one mound, and some in another. There are mounds and mounds. Excavation is a lottery, and the prizes vary in number and value. Excepting, of course, the second century codex and the copy of Manetho's History, almost every object which I have named as likely to be discovered in my typical mound has, however, actually been found in different places and at different times. I have myself picked up terra-cotta lamps stamped with early Christian emblems on the mounds of Memphis, inscribed potsherds in Nubia, scraps of beautiful blue-glazed ware at Denderah, mummy-bandages in the tombs of Thebes, and fragments of exquisite alabaster cups and bowls in the shadow of the Great Sphinx at Ghizeh. The mountain-slopes of Siût are strewn with cerement wrappings, and the débris of mummies broken up for the sake of their funerary amulets by the predatory Arabs; and there is not an ancient burial-ground, or mound, or ruined temple in Egypt where the traveller who has patience enough to grub under the soil beneath his feet may not find relics of the dead and gone past.
The Valley of the Nile is, in short, one great museum, of which the contents are perhaps one-third or one-fourth part only above ground. The rest is all below the surface, wait- [Page 12] ing to be discovered. Whether you go up the great river, or strike off to east or west across the desert, your horizon is always bounded by mounds, or by ruins, or by ranges of mountains honey-combed with tombs. If you but stamp your foot upon the sands, you know that it probably awakens an echo in some dark vault or corridor, untrodden of man for three or four thousand years. The mummied generations are everywhere–in the bowels of the mountains, in the faces of the cliffs, in the rock-cut labyrinths which underlie the surface of the desert. Exploration in such a land as this is a kind of chase. You think that you have discovered a scent. You follow it; you lose it; you find it again. You go through every phase of suspense, excitement, hope, disappointment, exultation. The explorer has need of all his wits, and he learns to use them with the keenness of a North American Indian.
Here his quick eye notes a depression in the soil, and beneath the sandy surface he detects something like the vague outline of a vast chess-board. Do these indicate the foundations of a building? Farther on the ground is strewn with splinters of limestone. Do they mark the wreck of a tomb ? Yonder the mountain-side is seamed with beds of calcareous deposit, layer above layer; but at one point the cliff is broken clear away, and this escarpment, whether natural or artificial, is marked by a pile of fallen blocks and débris. Is this an accident of nature, or does it mark the entrance to some hitherto undiscovered sepulchre? Here, again, is a mysterious sign cut on the face of a cliff, and here another, and another. What do these figures mean? Do they point the way to some cavern full of treasure hidden away thousands of years ago, and has the rock been " blazed," as the Canadian settler blazes the forest-trees, that he may know how to retrace his steps ?
The slenderest clew may lead to good-fortune, and every inch of the way is full of vague suggestions.
At last, guided half by experience, half by instinct, the explorer decides on a spot and calls up his workmen. They [Page 13] come–perhaps a dozen half-naked Arabs and some fifteen or twenty children–the men armed with short picks, the children with baskets in which to carry away the rubbish. A hole is dug, the sand is cleared away, the stony bed of the desert is reached, and there, just below the feet of the diggers, a square opening is seen in the rock. There is a shout of rejoicing. More men are called up, and the work begins in earnest. The shaft, however, is choked with sand and mud. A little lower down, and it is filled with a sort of concrete composed of chips of limestone, pebbles, sand, and water, which is almost as compact as the native rock. The men get down to a depth of six, twelve, fifteen, twenty feet. The baskets are now loaded at the bottom and hauled up, generally spilling half their contents by the way.
At last the sun goes down; twilight comes up apace; and the bottom of the square black funnel seems as far off as ever. Then the men trudge off to their homes, followed by the tired children; and the explorer suddenly finds out that he has had nothing to eat since seven o'clock in the morning, and that he has a furious headache. He goes back, however, at the same hour next morning, and for as many next mornings as need be till the end is reached. That may not be for a week or a fortnight. Some tomb-pits are from a hundred to a hundred and fifty feet deep; and some pits lead to a subterraneous passage another hundred or hundred and fifty feet long, which has to be cleared before the sepulchral chamber can be entered. When that long-looked-for moment comes at last, the explorer trusts himself to the rope–a flimsy twist of palm fibre, which becomes visibly thinner from the strain–and goes down as if into a mine.
What will he find to reward him for time spent and patience wearied ? Who shall say ? Perhaps a great nobleman of the time of Thothmes III. or of Rameses the Great, lying in state, just as they left him there three thousand years ago, enclosed in three coffins gorgeous with gold and colors; his carven staff, his damascened battle-axe, his alabaster vases, his libation vessels, and his "funeral baked meats," all un- [Page 14] touched and awaiting his resurrection. For so lie the royal and noble dead of those foregone days:
"Cased in cedar and wrapped in a sacred gloom;
Swathed in linen and precious unguents old;
Painted with cinnabar and rich with gold.
Silent they rest in solemn salvatory,
Sealed from the moth and the owl and the flitter-mouse,
Each with his name on his breast."
Or perhaps the explorer may find only a broken coffin, some fragments of mummy-cloth, and a handful of bones. The Arabs or the Romans, the Greeks or the Persians, or perhaps the ancient Egyptians themselves, have been there before him, and all the buried treasures–the arms, the jewels, the amulets, the papyri–are gone.
Yet, even so, there may be an inscription carved on one of the walls or passages which alone is worth all the cost of opening the tomb. It may possibly be a new chapter of "The Book of the Dead"; or a genealogical table of the family of the deceased, restoring some lost link in a royal Dynasty; or perhaps a few lines scratched by an ancient Greek or Roman tourist who happened to be there when the tomb was plundered in the days of the Ptolemies or the Cæsars. The traveller of olden time was as fond of leaving his autograph on the monuments as any Cook's tourist of to-day, and an ancient traveller's graffito may be of great historical interest. The explorer who should find the autograph of Herodotus or Plato would feel that he had made a discovery worth at least as much as a papyrus, and more than a good many mummies.
Such an exploration as I have just described would belong to Upper Egypt, where the ruins are all above ground, and where the explorer's object is mainly to discover subterraneous tombs.* In Lower Egypt, his work assumes a quite dif- [Page 15] ferent character. There he has to deal chiefly with mounds–huge rubbish-heaps from twenty to sixty or seventy feet in height–which extend over many acres, and mark the sites of deserted and forgotten cities. The labor here is all above the surface; but it is none the less difficult on that account, and none the less costly. The work of the Egypt Exploration Fund, for instance has hitherto been restricted to the Delta, and its excavations have all been excavations of mounds. I know, therefore, only too well what unmanageable and expensive articles they are, and how heavily they tax the energies and health of the explorer.
Tell Nebesheh is here shown as it appeared at the close of Mr. Petrie's excavations, the spot selected for excavation being the site of the great pylon gate-way in advance of the temple ruins. The black granite sphinx (headless) is seen in middle distance to left; and in the centre, on the edge of this group of ruins, lying upon its right side, may be detected the seated colossal statue of Rameses II.
When Mr. Petrie and Mr. Griffith went to Tell Nebesheh in the month of February, 1886, they literally landed on an unknown island in the Eastern Delta, far from the Nile, far from the Mediterranean, and farther still from the Gulf of Suez. This statement, if unexplained, might well be received with polite incredulity; but it is literally true.
The winter floods were still out; the marshes were lakes; the desert was mud; the roads were under water. Mr. Petrie, coming from the westward by canal-boat, found himself put ashore, with three miles of swamp (including a canal, which he waded) between himself and his destination. Mr. Griffith, coming from the south-east, encountered worse swamps, and a canal both wider and deeper, which he was obliged to swim. To the southward, to the northward, it was all the same–water and sand, water and mud, water and marsh. On this dreary island the two explorers lived and labored for some eight or ten weeks, and it was not till the last month of their sojourn that the surrounding country became really dry. Nor could they be said, meanwhile, to have lived in the lap of luxury. They were lodged in a guest-chamber attached to the house of the Sheikh of Nebesheh, who rode into the room every evening on his donkey and paid them a visit of two hours. This room was of large size, with an earthen floor strongly impregnated with salt, and always damp. An earthen divan, under which the rats burrowed in legions, ran round the walls; and the ceiling was made of palm trunks, along which the said rats ran upsidedown with alarming activity from sunset till dawn.
Like many places in Egypt, modern as well as ancient, this [Page 17] mound rejoiced in a variety of names, being known as Tell Nebesheh, alias Tell Bedawi, alias Tell Farûn. The first is the name of the modern village; the second means "the mound of the Bedouin"; the third (perpetuating, perhaps, an echo of old tradition) means "the mound of the Pharaoh." "The mound of graves" would be a better name than any of these, for the place proved to be a vast and very ancient cemetery, the level of which had been raised from age to age by successive strata of interments. Moreover, it was a large mound; so large that, besides the above-named cemetery, it contained the remains of two ancient towns and the site of a temple. The temple occupied the eastern extremity of the mound, and was formerly surrounded by a sacred enclosure about six hundred feet square.
Now this cemetery turned out to be a very curious place, quite unlike the cemeteries of Memphis, Abydos, and Thebes. It consisted of an immense number of small chambers, or isolated groups of chambers, scattered irregularly over a sandy plain. These were built of unbaked brick and roofed with barrel-vaulting. Some of the largest were cased (or lined if subterranean) with limestone. These tomb-chambers dated from about the period of the Twentieth Dynasty. In later times–in the sixth century B.C., and after–large blocks of about a dozen chambers became frequent. These tombs had nearly all been pillaged in early times, so that in a hundred only half a dozen bodies were found; and not only had the chambers fallen to decay, but they had been levelled, and others built on them, so that three or four successive occupations of the same ground might be traced. In some of these vaults Mr. Petrie found quantities of bones indiscriminately piled, not as if they had been thrown in by spoilers or tomb-breakers, but as if they had been dug up en masse from some other site, and reinterred without ceremony.
In one of the earlier tombs no fewer than two hundred uninscribed funerary statuettes in green-glazed pottery were found; and in another some thirty thousand beads of glass, silver, and lapis lazuli. Bronze spear-heads, amulets, [Page 18] scarabs, etc., were also turned up in considerable numbers. Last, but in point of interest certainly not least, came the discovery of two sets of masonic deposits under the corners of an unimportant building in the cemetery. These consisted of miniature mortars, corn-rubbers, and specimen plaques of materials used in the building, such as glazed-ware, various colored marbles, jasper, and the like.
A magnificent gray granite sarcophagus inscribed for a prince and priest of the Twenty-sixth Dynasty, and part of a limestone statue dedicated to Harpakhrat, the " child Horus," whose legendary birthplace was in these Delta marshlands, yielded the Egyptian name of this site, which represented all that remained of the ancient city of Am; while among other valuable monuments exhumed in the course of the excavations were a black granite altar of the reign of Amenemhat II., third Pharaoh of the great Twelfth Dynasty; two thrones in red sandstone, belonging to statues of royal personages of the same line; a colossal seated statue of Rameses II., in black granite; and, most interesting of all, a headless black granite sphinx, (3) upon which successive Pharaohs had engraved their cartouches, or royal ovals, each in turn erasing the names and titles of his predecessors. The description of this granite palimpsest is best given in Mr. Petrie's own words, as written in his weekly report at the time of the discovery:
" Originally made under the Twelfth Dynasty, to judge by the style, it has erased cartouches on the chest, between the paws, on each shoulder, on the right flank (the left being broken away), and, sixthly, an erased inscription around the base. Besides these, two legible inscriptions remain–namely, the cartouche of Seti II. on the chest, and the cartouches of Set-nekht [Rameses I.] on the left shoulder."
If, however, statues and inscriptions and funerary treasures are the reward of the explorer, he pays amply for that reward in personal discomfort, and sometimes even in actual privation. At Tell Defenneh, where Mr. Petrie made his celebrated discovery of the ruins of " Pharaoh's House at Tah- [Page 19] panhes," there were greater hardships to be borne than at Tell Nebesheh. Here the mounds were hemmed in between a barren desert and a brackish lake; there was no food purchasable nearer than Zagazig, some fifteen miles distant, and the water was barely drinkable. The diggers lived on mere lentils, and in default of any shelter from the burning sun of mid-day and the cold chills of midnight, they dug out burrows for themselves in the sand-hillocks, and roofed them over with tamarisk boughs. Mr. Petrie, of course, had his tent; but in the matter of food he was not much better off than his Arabs having only biscuits and tinned vegetables in his scanty larder.
This mound, excavated by M. Naville in 1887, gives an excellent idea of a mound which has been cut and caved away by many generations of Arab husbandmen. The whole mound was originally a homogeneous mass of the height of the nearest mass, which is scaled by the small human figures to the left of the picture.
When Mr. Petrie, Mr. Griffith, and Hr. Ernest Gardner [Page 20] were working all three together at Naukratis they divided the work; one superintending the excavation of the Temple of Aphrodite, another the excavation of the ancient town, and the third the excavation of the cemetery. Then arose a very important question–which should undertake the cooking, and which should do the washing-up ? Now the work in the town was the heaviest, so he who took the heaviest task could not also be the cook. The cemetery, again, was a long way off, and the cook could not therefore go to and fro between the camp and the cemetery. The temple, though requiring great care and attention, was really the lightest work; so it was finally agreed that the town should take life easily when not on duty in the diggings, that the temple should do the cooking, and that the cemetery should do the washing-up.
The explorer, of all men, must "scorn delights and live laborious days." His day must begin at sunrise, when his workmen are due. First he must go round and assign to each worker his individual task, booking every man's name as he comes in: this takes perhaps one hour and a half. He then goes to his tent and has breakfast, and after breakfast he makes his second round. He now helps, perhaps, to move a huge block or two, stirs up the lazy digger, catches a pilferer in the act and dismisses him, separates gossips, copies inscriptions, or takes photographs, with the sun blazing overhead and the thermometer standing at 99' in the shade. In the evening he writes reports, journals, and letters; classifies and catalogues the objects discovered during the day; draws plans, makes up his accounts, and so forth. At last he goes to bed, dead tired, and is kept awake half the night by predatory rats, mice, and other "small deer." At Tanis the mice were simply unbearable. Being field-mice, they would not walk into traps like civilized mice, so the explorer's only resource was to burn a night-light and shoot them. Now to lie in bed and shoot mice with a revolver is surely a form of sport exclusively reserved for the explorer in Egypt. Flies, of course, are legion, and the white ant is a perpetual plague of [Page 21] the first water. Besides a way they have of transporting biscuits, dates, coffee, sugar, and all sorts of portable provisions to their own private residences, these horrid insects have an abnormal appetite for paper, and consume reports, correspondence and even hieroglyphic dictionaries as eagerly as young ladies devour novels and romances.
The great field of archæological exploration in Egypt is not by any means an easy field to cultivate. The ground has gone to waste for hundreds, perhaps thousands, of years, and become sheer wilderness; and he who would hope to reap a harvest from it must clear it, dig it, and put in a vast amount of that expensive patent manure called brains.
Two of the great trenches cut by Mr. Petrie are visible in the illustration, one at the north end, the other at the south end of the mound. On the highest part to the left is an Arab cemetery.
Few, very few, probably, of those who "sit at home at ease" have any clear notion of the qualifications which go [Page 22] to make an explorer of the right sort–still less of the kind of life he is wont to lead when engaged in the work of exploration. They know that he goes to Egypt just as our November fogs are coming on, and that he thereby escapes our miserable English winter. They also know that he lives in a tent, and that he spends his time in "discovering things." Now what can be more romantic than life in a tent ? And what can possibly be more charming than "discovering things ?" They may not be very clear as to the nature of the "things" in question; but they, at all events, conceive of his life as a series of delightful surprises, and of himself as the favorite of fortune, having but to dip his hand into a sort of archæological lottery-box, and take out nothing but prizes. Of the judgment, the patience, the skill which are needed in the mere selection of a site for excavation; of the vigilance which has to be exercised while the excavations are in progress; of the firm but good-humored authority requisite for the control of a large body of Oriental laborers; of the range of knowledge indispensable for the interpretation and classification of the objects which may be discovered, the outside public has no more conception than I have of the qualities and training necessary for the command of an iron-clad.
In the first place, the explorer in Egypt must have a fair knowledge of colloquial Arabic, no small share of diplomatic tact, a strong will, an equable temper, and a good constitution. It is important that he should be well acquainted with Egyptian, Biblical, Babylonian, Assyrian, Greek, and Roman history; for the annals of these nations continually overlap, or are dovetailed into one another, and the explorer is at any time likely to come upon cuneiform tablets such as have lately been found in large numbers at Tell el Amarna, in Upper Egypt; or upon relics of the Hebrews, such as the ancient Jewish cemetery discovered by M. Naville at Tell el Yahûdieh, in Lower Egypt, in 1887; or upon Greek documents, Greek pottery, and Greek terra-cottas, such as have rewarded the labors of Mr. Petrie, Mr. Griffith, and Mr. [Page 23] Ernest Gardner at Naukratis, in the Eastern Delta. Fragments of Homer, Alcæus, Sappho, and other Greek poets have been found from time to time in Egypt during the present century, some scribbled on potsherds and some written on papyrus.(4) It is not three years since Mr. Petrie found a complete copy of the Second Book of the "Iliad," written on papyrus in most beautiful uncial Greek by a scribe of the second century after Christ, and buried under the head of a woman in the Græco-Egyptian necropolis of Hawara, in the Fayûm. The woman had apparently been young and beautiful. Her teeth were small and regular, and her long, silky black hair had been cut off and laid in a thick coil upon her breast. Was she a Greek, or was she an Egyptian lady learned in the language of the schools ? We know not. There was no inscription to tell of her nationality or her name. We only know that she was young and fair, and that she so loved her Homer that it was buried with her in the grave. Her head and her beautiful black hair are now in the Ethnographical Department of the Natural History Museum at South Kensington, and her precious papyrus is in the Bodleian Library at Oxford.
ARCHAIC HEAD OF CYPRIOTE TYPE.
Found in the ruins of Naukratis.
To appreciate and report upon such a find as this, or upon the inscriptions discovered at Naukratis, the explorer must, of course, be a fairly competent Greek scholar.
Still more of course must he be sufficiently conversant with the ancient Egyptian language to translate any hieroglyphic inscriptions which he may discover. A knowledge of trigonometry, though not absolutely indispensable, is of value in surveying sites and determining ancient levels. [Page 24] But, above all, the explorer must be a good "all-round" archæologist.
Now, does the world–meaning thereby the great body of cultivated readers–at all realize what it is to be a good "all-round" archæologist ? It must be remembered, first of all, what that science is, or rather that aggregate of sciences, which goes by the name of Archæology. Were I asked to define it, I should reply that archæology is that science which enables us to register and classify our knowledge of the sum of man's achievement in those arts and handicrafts whereby he has, in time past, signalized his passage from barbarism to civilization. The first chapter of this science takes up the history of the human race at a date coeval with the mammoth and other extinct mammalia; and its last chapter, which must always be in a state of transition, may be said to end for the present with about a hundred or a hundred and fifty years ago.
Now archæology in Egypt begins later, and ends earlier, than archæology in this broad and general sense. We have never yet got far enough behind the first chapters of Egyptian history to discover any traces of a stone age.(5) The stone age of the Nile Valley, if it ever existed, underlies such a prodigious stratum of semi-barbaric civilization that the spade of the excavator has not yet reached it. Also, Egyptian archæology, properly so called, ends with the last chapter of Egyptian history; that is to say, with the abolition of the ancient religion in the latter half of the fourth century of our era. Hence, our explorer in Egypt is only called upon to be an "all-round" archæologist within the field of the national history: namely, from the time of Mena, the prototype of Egyptian royalty, who probably reigned about five thousand years before Christ, down to the time of the Emperor Theodosius, Anno Domini 379. Yet even within that limit, he has to know a great deal about a vast number of things. He must be familiar with all the styles and periods of Egyptian architecture, sculpture, and decoration; with the forms, patterns, and glazes of Egyp- [Page 25] tian pottery; with the distinctive characteristics of the mummy-cases, sarcophagi, methods of embalmment and styles of bandaging peculiar to interments of various epochs; and with all phases of the art of writing, hieroglyphic, hieratic, and demotic. Nor is this all. He must know by the measurement of a mud brick, by the color of a glass bead, by the modelling of a porcelain statuette, by the pattern of
PLAN OF NAUKRATIS.
The plan is reduced from Mr. Petrie's large plate in "Naukratis," Part I., and shows the lines of the ancient streets, and the sites of such temples and public buildings as were discovered in the course of the first season's work, including the Great Temenos (Pan-Hellenion). The temples of Hera and Aphrodite were found the following year. The canal to left follows the course of the ancient canal which formed the famous "port" of the city.
After this, it must I think be admitted that the explorer, like the poet, is "born, not made." The wonder perhaps is that he should ever be born at all. Fortunately, however, for the cause of knowledge, this phenomenal individual does from time to time make his appearance upon earth; and according to the form he assumes under his different avatars, he proceeds to excavate Troy, Curium, Halicarnassus, Nineveh, Bubastis, or Naukratis.
The discovery and excavation of the scanty ruins of this last site–the famous and long-lost city of Naukratis–was due to Mr. Petrie. Former travellers had, for the last fifty years, sought for it in vain, and given up the quest in despair. Ebers looked for it at Dessûk, and Mariette at Salhadscher, in the neighborhood of Saïs. Mr. Petrie found it, almost by accident, in the course of an archæological tramp undertaken at the commencement of his working season in 1884. He was tracking the Western frontier-line of the Delta, and thus came across a large mound some three thousand feet in length by fifteen hundred feet in width, the surface of which was so thickly strewn with fragments of fine Greek figured ware that it was impossible to walk upon it in any direction without crushing these beautiful potsherds at every step. It was, in fact, to quote his own words, "like walking through the smashings of the vase-room of the British Museum." It was to this place that he returned in 1880, when he made one of the most important historical and archæological discoveries which have ever rewarded the labors of the explorer in Egypt.
The local name of the mound and of the adjacent village (for which it is vain to look in any guide-book maps) is Nebireh. The place lies about equidistant between Alexandria and Cairo, and about six miles west-north-west of Tell el Barûd. When Mr. Petrie first found his way thither, he [Page 27]
FOUNDATION DEPOSITS OF PTOLEMY PHILADELPHUS, B.C. 286 - 274.
The model mortar is the most distant object in the group, which consists of seven ranks. In the second rank are the corn-rubbers, i.e. two pieces of red granite,the one concave, the other convex. Rank 3, two libation vases in green glazed ware. Rank 4, four libation cups in the same ware. Rank 5, bronze trowels and chisels, and two pegs of alabaster. Rank 6, bronze hatchet, chisels, sacrificial knife, and two pegs of alabaster. Rank 7, specimens of materials, mud brick; plaque of glazed ware; ingots of gold, silver, lead, copper, and iron; fragments of lapis lazuli, agate, jasper, turquoise, and obsidian. This set of masonic deposits, as also those discovered by M. Naville at Tell Qarmus, are in the British Museum.
Strangely enough, Mr. Petrie seems to have had no suspicion of the truth, and when, on the fourth day after his arrival at Nebireh, he discovered a limestone slab engraved with an inscription in honor of one Heliodorus, a citizen of Naukratis, he was utterly taken by surprise. "I almost jumped," he said, " when I read these words :*
" 'The City of Naukratis [honors]
Heliodorus, son of Dorion Philo. . .
Priest of Athena for life. . .
Keeper of The Records for virtue and good-will.' "
So, here was Naukratis–that ancient and famous mart where Greek and Egyptian first dwelt and traded together on equal terms; Naukratis, founded, as it is believed, by Milesian colonists; granted, with special privileges and charters, to the Hellenic tribes by Amasis II. of the Twen- [Page 27] ty-sixth Egyptian Dynasty; and renowned in the times of Athenaeus and Herodotus for the skill of its potters and the taste of its florists ! And now discovery followed fast upon discovery, every day's work bringing more and more corroborative evidence to light. Inscriptions, coins, sculptures, bronzes, terra-cottas turned up in astonishing profusion, and among other treasures a fine slab engraved with the dedication of a palæstra, or public wrestling-school, for the youth of the city. As the trenching and clearing progressed, yet more important results were obtained. The sites, ruins, and sacred enclosures of two temples dedicated to Apollo–the one erected upon the débris of the other –were first brought to light.
ARCHAIC STATUETTE OF A HUNTER.
Found in the ruins of the Temple of Aphrodite at Naukratis. –British Museum, Greek department.
The earlier structure was built of limestone, and, to judge by the style of columns and cornice, dates from about B.C. 700 to B.C. 600. The later (circa B.C. 400) was of white marble, and exquisitely decorated. Close outside the temenos-wall of one of these temples Mr. Petrie came upon a great deposit of magnificent libation-bowls, accidentally broken in the service of the temple, and thrown out as useless. Most of them are inscribed with votive dedications by pious Milesians, Teans, and others. Later on, the remains of the famous Pan-Hellenion, and the ruins of the temples of Hera, Zeus, and Aphrodite were discovered, all of then mentioned by Herodotus and Athenæus. These discoveries were the work of two successive seasons, the first season's explorations being conducted by Mr. Petrie, and the second by Mr. Ernest A. Gardner, now Director of the English School of Archæology at Athens. The [Page 30] lines of the streets of the ancient city were yet traceable; the "potters' quarter" was identified; and not only were several of the potters' kilns found intact, but also the ruins of a potter's factory. This potter, whomsoever he may have been, did a great trade in scarabs. He made all sorts of things– miscellaneous amulets, toys, gods, beads, and so forth–but scarabs were his specialty. The Egyptian scarab is now so familiar an object in all museums and private collections that I need hardly describe how these tiny amulets are made in the shape of a beetle–the backs exactly imitated from nature, but the undersides engraved, like seals, with an immense variety of devices, such as mottoes, sacred emblems, figures of gods and kings, scrolls, animals, fish, flowers, and the like.(6). In the ruins of this old artist's workshops Mr. Petrie found hundreds of scarabs, finished and unfinished, hundreds of clay moulds for casting the same, lumps of various pigments for coloring the scarabs, and other appliances of the trade. The scarab-maker's business came somehow to an untimely end about five hundred and seventy years before Christ; for the place had evidently been suddenly deserted, all the good man's stock in trade being left behind. As the Greek colonists fought at that time on the side of Apries, the legitimate Pharaoh, when Amasis revolted and usurped the throne, we may fairly conclude that Naukratis suffered for the loyalty of her inhabitants, and that our scarab-maker was ruined with the rest of his fellow-citizens.
In another part of the town Mr. Petrie came upon the remains of a jeweller's workshop, containing a quantity of lump silver, and a large store of beautiful archaic Greek coins, fresh from the mint of Athens. These coins had never been in circulation, and they were doubtless intended to be made up into necklaces and ear-rings, after a fashion much admired by the fair ladies of Hellas, and recently revived by the jewellers of modern Europe.
Most important, also, is the evidence here brought to bear upon the origin and growth of the ceramic arts of Greece. Patterns which we had long believed to be purely Greek are [Page 31] now traced back, step by step, to Egyptian originals. The well-known " Greek honeysuckle " pattern, for instance, is found to be neither Greek nor honeysuckle. The Naukratis pottery furnishes specimens of this design in all its stages. In its most archaic form, it is neither more nor less than the stock "lotus pattern" of the Egyptian potters. (7) Taken in hand by the Greek, it becomes expanded, lightened, and transformed. Yet more important is the light thrown upon the origin and development of Greek art. We have long known that the early Greek, when emerging from prehistoric barbarism, must have gone to school to the Delta and the Valley of the Nile, not only for his first lessons in letters and science, but also for his earliest notions of architecture and the arts. Now, however, for the first time, we are placed in possession of direct evidence of these facts. We see the process of teaching on the part of the elder nation, and of learning on the part of the younger. Every link in the chain which connects the ceramic art of Greece with the ceramic art of Egypt is displayed before our eyes in the potsherds of Naukratis.
HEAD OF APHRODITE.
From the ruins of the Temple of Aphrodite, Naukratis. Alexandrian period. This head is in the British Museum, Greek department.
More novel and curious than all, however, was a series of discoveries of ceremonial deposits buried under the four corners of a building adjoining the Pan-Hellenion.(8)
The enclosure wall of the Pan-Hellenion was fifty feet thick and forty feet high, and it was built about six hun- [Page 30] dred or six hundred and fifty years before the Christian era. Within this enclosure were clustered not only the temples of the gods, but the treasury and storehouses of the citizens, who were essentially a trading and manufacturing community. In a later age Ptolemy Philadelphus appears to have filled up a breach in this wall with a great building and gate-way, and it was under the four corners of this gate-way that the masonic deposits of the royal builder were found. Under each corner, upon the dark clay of the soil, had been laid a little bed of white sand; and in this bed of white sand, which Mr. Petrie scraped away with his own hands, he found a whole series of diminutive models laid in a specially prepared hole, upon which sand had afterwards been poured in such wise as completely to cover the objects beneath.
These objects were of three kinds; namely, models of tools, models of materials, and models commemorative of the ceremony performed in laying the foundations. There was, for instance, a model hoe for digging out the ground; a model rake, such as those used for making mortar; a model adze; a model chisel; a tiny trowel for spreading the mortar; a model hatchet for shaping the beams; and four little alabaster pegs –models of those used to mark out the four corners of the building. These were the models of tools.
Then came models of articles used in the masonic ceremony: a model mortar and pair of corn-rubbers, a pair of model libation-vases, and four model cups in glazed pottery. These, probably, had reference to some rite in which offerings of bread, oil, and wine were made. Also, there was found with them a model sacrificial knife and axe, such as might be used for the slaying of victims. These were the ceremonial objects.
Finally, there were samples of materials: a model brick of Nile clay; a tiny plaque of glazed-ware; other plaques of lapis lazuli, agate, jasper, turquoise, and obsidian; a Liliputian ingot of iron; and other ingots of copper, silver, lead, and gold. The largest of these are less than a domino, and the majority [Page 33] are less than half that size. Last of all–last and lowest–so firmly attached by a bed of rust to the handle of a second miniature bronze trowel that it could not be removed without danger of breakage, was found a little plaque of oval lapis lazuli in the form of a royal cartouche, engraved with the names and titles of Ptolemy Philadelphus. The model clay brick shows the material of the mass of the building; the plaque of glazed-ware represents the tile-facings and general surface decoration; while the plaques of precious stones show the more costly substances used for inlaying. These objects are now in the British Museum. They are most beautifully wrought, in perfect preservation, and so small that they would all lie upon a sheet of letter-paper. This was the first discovery of masonic deposits ever made in Egypt, and it marks an entirely new departure in the field of exploration. It is impossible, indeed, to over-estimate the historical value of a discovery which thus places in our hands for future use a key to the age and date of every important building in Egypt.
(mended) discovered in the great trench of the Temple of Aphrodite, Naukratis. British Museum.
This discovery was made five years ago, and it has already borne abundant fruit. Masonic deposits were found by Mr. Petrie in 1886, at Tell Nebesheh, under the substructions of a temple built by Amasis II. in the ancient Egyptian city of [Page 34]
(mended) discovered in the great trench of the Temple of Aphrodite, Naukratis. British Museum.
No large works of sculpture were found in the ruins of Naukratis, with the exception of two much-damaged sphinxes and the remains of a headless colossal ram in white marble. Hands, feet, and other fragments of life-size statues were, however, turned up in the precincts of the various temples, besides a large number of smaller heads and torsos of marble, limestone, and terra-cotta. Some of these represent [Page 35] the deities worshipped in these temples, while others are fashioned in the likeness of their votaries. Some, again, date from the rude archaic beginnings of the Greek school of Naukratis, and others carry us on to the finest period of Alexandrian art. Very interesting as an example of the earlier school is this statuette of a man carrying a hare over each shoulder, and a knife in his girdle. It has been supposed to represent Apollo as the hunter god; but as it was found in the ruins of the Temple of Aphrodite, it is more probably a votive offering on the part of a sportsman who thus dedicates himself to the service of the goddess. The treatment of the head and hair is distinctly Cypriote in style, while the rigidity of the pose, and the "hieratic" position of the feet and arms, are as distinctly Egyptian. A much-defaced votive inscription in archaic Greek characters is engraved on the right leg. Found on the same site, but widely separate in date, is the beautiful terra-cotta head of Aphrodite here reproduced as an example of the high degree of perfection to which the Greek artists of Naukratis had attained before the decadence of the city, when superseded by Alexandria.
(From the cemetery, Naukratis.) The Greeks of the later period at Naukratis were interred for the most part in wooden coffins ornamented with rosettes, gryphons, and gorgoneia in terra-cotta, painted and gilded. These gorgoneia are moulded in the classic type of the Alexandrian period.
The excavation of the Temple of Aphrodite proved to be extraordinarily rich in fragments of painted and inscribed Greek ware. A huge trench appears to have been dug round the temple platform in ancient times, and into this trench must have been thrown an immense store of bowls, vases, cups and figurines–the ceramic treasures of the temple. The clearing of this mine of precious fragments occupied Mr. Gardner for several weeks, six or seven basketfuls being the result of each day's [Page 36] work. One week alone–the week ending on February 13, 1886–yielded no less than thirty-five large basketfuls of these exquisite potsherds, making, at a rough computation, about four hundred and fifty pounds in weight, or a total number of twenty-five thousand fragments. The sorting and classifying of the fragments consumed more than a year of Mr. Gardner's time; and about twenty or twenty-five vases, bowls, and other objects have been put together more or less completely. Two of these mended bowls, described by Mr. Ernest A. Gardner as among "the most magnificent examples of ancient pottery found at Naukratis," are here reproduced. These bowls have each two triple handles terminating in a human face at each end; while midway between the handles on each side is a boss with two faces back to back. A frieze of gazelles browsing on a ground parsemé with floral and other emblems, runs round the outside; the inside being decorated with a central star-shaped ornament surrounded by a frieze of lions, geese, sphinxes, etc.(9) Some of these votive offerings, as shown by the graffiti of the donors, were given by citizens of Teos, and others by Milesians.
Taken chronologically, these Naukratis fragments–for they are mostly fragments–constitute not only a series of valuable finds, but an "object-lesson" of the highest interest on the history of the ceramic arts of Greece. We first of all detect the Milesian colonist trying his "'prentice hand" at scarab-making, and producing at best but a blundering imitation of that popular product of his adopted home. Next we find him taking to pottery, properly so called; and, with the vivacious fancy of his race, adapting, varying, and playing with the old stock subjects of Egyptian ornament. Presently he casts aside the trammels of tradition and launches out into a style of his own–a style as purely Hellenic, and as original, as if his first lessons had never been learned in an Oriental school.
* This description (from page 12 to page 14) of an exploration in Upper Egypt is a free adaptation from a passage in Professor Maspero's address, delivered to the pupils of the Lycée Henri Quatre in August, 1887.