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The Origin and Significance of the Great Pyramid, by C. Staniland Wake, [1882], at

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NOTWITHSTANDING the religious object of the erection of the Great Pyramid, there is no ground for supposing that its erection required the aid of Divine inspiration or guidance. Prof. Smyth affirms however, that the Great Pyramid measures are quite different from those used by the ancient Egyptians. They were the sacred measures of the Hebrews, but this people could not, according to Prof. Smyth, have been its builders, as they were dwellers in tents. Nor, on the same authority, were the Egyptians more competent. Their wisdom was not sufficient to enable them to design the Great Pyramid. The civilization of the Egyptians, moreover, had a sudden beginning, so that they could not have gradually acquired the necessary scientific knowledge for such a purpose. Prof. Smyth further asserts that there is no evidence of the existence of

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an earlier race who could have designed the Great Pyramid, and he affirms that it was erected by a people foreign to the land of Egypt, whom he calls Cushites or Chaldeans, under Divine guidance. *

It is evident that the real argument of those who hold the theory of divine inspiration in relation to the Great Pyramid is the supposed absence of any people who could by their own knowledge design the structure. Dr. Seiss, who finds a reference to the pyramid in the Book of Job, says as to this ancient book, "In it we find a familiarity with writing, engraving in stone, mining, metallurgy, building, shipping, natural history, astronomy, and science in general, showing an advanced, organised, and exalted state of society, answering exactly to what pertains above all to the sons of Joktan, whose descendants spread themselves from Upper Arabia to the South Seas, and from the Persian Gulf to the Pillars of Hercules, tracking their course as the first teachers of our modern world with the greatest monuments that antiquity contains." 

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[paragraph continues] According to Dr. Seiss, the Joktanites were the true Arabians, and they, and not the Cushites, were the highly cultured people who erected those great monuments. This writer, moreover, sees in Job the son of Joktan, and he suggests the identity of the Patriarch with the Philition, whose name is associated by Herodotus with the erection of the Great Pyramid. It will be thought that as the Joktanites had the scientific qualifications necessary for the erection of the Great Pyramid, there is no occasion to call in the aid of divine inspiration. Not so Dr. Seiss, who terms this great structure "a miracle in stone, a petrifaction of wisdom and truth revealed of God, preserved among his people from the foundation of the world, and thus memorialised by impulse and aid from Him." *

It is evident, however, that Dr. Seiss admits too much. If the Joktanites had the scientific knowledge ascribed to them, they could have built the Great Pyramid without divine guidance. How this knowledge was originally acquired is another question, and one which does not now concern us. Prof. Smyth, who ascribes the building of the pyramid to the influence of the

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[paragraph continues] Cushites, makes an equally fatal admission. He says, "The spirit, then, of the Egyptians at the building of the Great Pyramid was the same which marked them, both at the oppression of the children of Israel afterwards, and, in conjunction with other peoples, at the building of the Tower of Babel before. In so far as the Egyptians could accomplish it in their new work on the banks of the Nile, and as they flattered themselves, too, for ages that they had accomplished it even to the full,—the Great Pyramid was a resurgence in a new land, and with a community speaking a new language, of their thwarted ideas in another place; but through the humble agency of the shepherd Philition their labours were made really to tell against themselves." * The reference made in this passage to the Tower of Babel is important. This building appears to have struck the imagination of the ancient world by its magnitude as much as the Great Pyramid has since done, and we may well suppose that a people who could rear the one could erect the other without supernatural aid. Moreover, if, as Prof. Smyth supposes, the Egyptians sought to carry out in the later

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building the ideas which they with other peoples had attempted to embody in the Tower of Babel, there does not appear to be any object in calling in such aid either for the designing or the erection of the Great Pyramid.

It will be objected, however, that the Babylonian Tower could not have formed the model for the great Egyptian edifice, as they were of different construction; and that, as the Great Pyramid was not only the largest but the earliest of the pyramids, its design could not have been derived from the former through intermediate structures. This argument would doubtless have great force if it were founded on fact. In reality, however, the Pyramids of Ghizeh, although the largest, are not the earliest Egyptian monuments of this description. * The best modern authorities believe that the great Pyramid of Sakkarah was erected by one of the kings of the First Dynasty, whereas the Pyramids of Ghizeh belong to the Fourth Dynasty. If that was so, the fact is of great importance, since the design of the Sakkarah pyramid, as shown by its name of

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[paragraph continues] Pyramid of Degrees, evidently approaches that of the Tower of Babel. It might well have formed the original on which the design of the Great Pyramid of Ghizeh was modelled, notwithstanding that the internal features of the two buildings differ considerably. The peculiarity of the Great Pyramid is that its chambers and passages are chiefly formed in the structure itself, instead of being cut out of the rock on which the building is erected. Sir J. Gardner Wilkinson affirms, indeed, but not very correctly, that the passages of the Second Pyramid are very similar to those of the Great Pyramid; and Prof. Smyth remarks on the analogy between the Sepulchral Room of the one and the so-called King's Chamber of the other structure. This latter authority thinks the analogy not real, however, as the King's Chamber is "140 feet above the ground outside and in the midst of worked masonry,—or in a position whey e no pyramid was ever yet known to have any chamber or to bury a man; while the large chamber of the Second Pyramid is excavated in rock, and has its floor below the level of the ground outside,—or in a position suitable to burying." The shape and position of the sarcophagus

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in this burial chamber, as compared with the coffer of the Great Pyramid, are said to weaken still further the analogy, which Prof. Smyth considers to be finally disposed of by the fact, not to be overlooked, that "while the chamber of the Second Pyramid is directly led to by the leading of the entrance passage and its conspicuously lined walls, the King's Chamber of the Great Pyramid is just as directly led away from by the entrance-passage there, which seems rather to have been a blind and shield to it, and a diversion to all who would come to seek for that remarkable chamber. . . . . . Hence the chamber in the Great Pyramid, which is truly the representative of the larger one in the Second Pyramid, can be no other than that usually despised, but nevertheless very large, subterranean chamber which is excavated in the rock at the bottom of the long entrance passage, and equally with the chambers excavated in other pyramids must have been intended to be easily discovered, and looked on as sepulchral, while the so-called King's Chamber of the Great Pyramid stands absolutely unique." * From this point of view, it might probably be said that the

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[paragraph continues] Great Pyramid was, like other structures of the same kind, intended for a sepulchral monument, but that it had some other aim, denoted by the various chambers and passages which mark its peculiar internal construction. As a fact, however, the subterranean chamber of the Great Pyramid was never completely excavated, from which perhaps may have arisen the tradition that, owing to the opposition of the people, the body of Cheops, the royal builder, was not after all deposited in the tomb prepared for it.

It is only in comparatively modern times that any doubt has been thrown on the sepulchral aim of the Great Pyramid, and we will see what light antiquity throws on the subject. But first as to the period of its erection and the social and political condition which prevailed in Egypt at that epoch. The building of the Pyramids of Ghizeh is universally ascribed to the Fourth Dynasty, and that of the Great Pyramid in particular to Khoufou or Souphis, commonly known as Cheops, the first king of the dynasty. M. Lenormant, in the ninth edition of his important work on the "Ancient History of the East," states, that "the first reigns of the Fourth Dynasty marked the culminating point of the primitive

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history of Egypt. The splendour and the internal richness of the country would appear to have been immense under these princes, and are sufficiently attested by their prodigious constructions. The limits of the kingdom extended as far as the first cataract; the capital was always at Man-nofri, or Memphis, and the centre of the life of the empire was in its environs." * The Egyptian monarchy was founded by Mena or Menes, who built the royal city of Man-nofri, that is, the "good place," or "good port," and whose dynasty occupied the throne for 253 years. The kings of the Second Dynasty, which probably also belonged to the family of Menes, reigned during a period of 302 years, and it was succeeded by a native Memphite dynasty which endured for 214 years. The Egyptian monarchy had thus existed for more than 75o years before the commencement of the Fourth Dynasty, a period which was amply sufficient for the development of the scientific and artistic knowledge necessary for the construction of even the Great Pyramid itself. An English Egyptologist, Dr. S. Birch, has given a very interesting account of the attainments of Egyptian civilization at that epoch. He says,

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[paragraph continues] "Architecture, as represented by the Pyramids, had become an advanced science, and reflected the geometric and theoretical knowledge of mathematics which their form and structure described for all future ages. The technical masonry was unrivalled, the finish admirable and unsurpassed by any later efforts of the Egyptian architect. The hardest materials, such as the granite of Syene, were hewn into the requisite form of the truest proportions, while the softer but more beautiful alabaster had been discovered and worked. In sculpture a canon of proportion had been discovered and laid down for the human figure, and granite, diorite, and other hard stones conquered and moulded into shape by the efforts of the chisel. The statue of Kephren is equal, if not superior, to the subsequent efforts of Egyptian sculpture, while in the features is clearly to be recognised a portrait of the monarch, showing that the power of producing excellent representations of the living form in all its details existed . . . In wood even greater excellence was attained, for in that material the sculptor developed all his power. The wooden statue of the Museum of Boulaq is an unrivalled work of ancient art . . . The bas-reliefs

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of the tombs are executed with a minute detail . . . The graphic system of writing was complete; the language perfectly represented by the hieroglyphs, which presented to the eye a lively picture on the painted wall of tomb or sepulchre; while the inscriptions show that the religion of the country was already reduced to a system, and the seasons marked by a regular calendar of festivals. The political organization had also attained a considerable degree of refinement. The court of Memphis swarmed with sacerdotal personages, prophets and prophetesses of the gods, and priests attached to the personal worship of the monarch. Scribes and secretaries were attached to the Pharaoh, superintendents were set over every branch of the public service. In private life the Egyptian lord led a charmed life—his estate was cultivated by slaves, his household full of domestics; the barber, the waiting-maid, the nurse, appear as necessary adjuncts to his household as the steward who presided over the distribution and the clerk who checked the expenses of his daily life. Each priest or noble had in his establishment all the trades necessary for his ease and comfort—the glass-blower, the gold-worker, the potter, the

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tailor, the baker, and the butler. His leisure or ennui was charmed by the acrobat and the dancer, the harpist and the singer; games of chance and skill were played either by him or in his presence. The chief occupation of the period, or at all events that most often represented in the tombs, was inspection of the farm." After particularizing the domesticated animals possessed by the noble of the Fourth Dynasty, the food he ate, and the dress he wore, Dr. Birch continues, "Simple, but elegant, furniture ministered to his requirements. Stools, chairs, footstools, couches, and headrests, or wooden pillows—the use of these rests is still retained in Africa,—appear in the furniture of his elegantly-built house . . . He enjoyed all the pleasures of existence, and delighted more in the arts of peace than war." *

This view of early Egyptian society agrees with the statements of other writers. M. Lenormant affirms that the representations on a tomb of one of the great officers under the Third Dynasty show us the Egyptian civilization as completely organized as it was at the date of the conquest by the Persians, or of that by the Macedonians, with a physiognomy perfectly individual

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and the marks of a long anterior existence. The inhabitants of the valley of the Nile had then not only the same species of domestic animals as those which they took with them in their migrations, but certain species of indigenous mammalia which we find only in a savage state, although the only beast of burden is the ass, neither the horse nor the camel being yet known. According to Sir J. Gardner Wilkinson, indeed, the Egyptians of the Fourth Dynasty had "the same settled habits as in later times. We see no primitive mode of life; no barbarous customs; not even the habit, so slowly abandoned by all peoples, of wearing arms when not in military service, nor any archaic art." *

But what was the condition of the Egyptian civilization 750 years earlier, at the commencement of the first Memphite Dynasty? Menes, the founder of the dynasty, is said to have diverted the ancient course of the Nile, and to have constructed a colossal dam to keep back the river, so as to form a site for his capital—a work which still continues to regulate the waters of that region. The city of Memphis with the

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neighbouring towns became, says M. Lenormant, quoting M. Maspero, "the home of Egyptian civilization. It was at Memphis that literature developed and flourished; at Memphis, in the palace of the kings, that the exact sciences were cultivated with the greatest care; at Memphis, finally, that the plastic arts produced their chefs d’œuvre." The immediate successor of Menes began the construction of the palace at Memphis, and is reputed to have composed books on medicine. *

The name of the succeeding monarch is given as the constructor of one of the pyramids of Sakkarah. During the reign of the fifth monarch of the dynasty, several chapters of the Book of the Dead are said to have been found, and also a treatise of medicine, of which the text has been preserved to us in the medical papyrus at Berlin. Menes himself is referred to in official history as the perfect type of a monarch, a constructor, a legislator, and a conqueror. The priests, whose power he had broken, represented him as a corrupter of the simplicity of primitive manners, and the introducer of habits of luxury and effeminacy, among them being

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that of reclining on a bed or couch at meals. * To one of his successors, the second king of the Second Dynasty, is ascribed the erection of the Great Pyramid of Sakkarah, known as the Pyramid of Degrees, which must have long preceded the larger structure at Ghizeh. The form, and especially the underground arrangement of the former structure, are evidence of its great antiquity, as they reproduce many of the features of the. Egyptian tombs of the early Memphite period. These consist of a deep pit, leading to an underground chamber, and surmounted by a building which serves in great measure to conceal the entrance to the proper tomb. The Pyramid of Degrees is formed of a series of such buildings of decreasing size, placed one above the other, the ground beneath it being excavated in various places, so as to form numerous passages and chambers to be used for sepulchral purposes. The same general plan is found in the Second Pyramid of Ghizeh, but in the latter the deep pit is replaced by the long slanting passage.

The civilization which found its home at Memphis might thus well have originated the

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science necessary for the formation of the Great Pyramid. The erection of this building is, indeed, supposed by M. Lenormant to have been preceded several centuries by that of the Sphinx, the image of the reclining Sun-god, and also of the neighbouring temple, the structure of which is described as prodigious even by the side of the Pyramids. An inscription of the time of Khoufou, or Cheops, * speaks of this temple as having been accidentally discovered buried in the sand of the desert, and the Sphinx appears to have had need of repair during the reign of the same monarch. But we cannot suppose the civilization of the founders of Memphis to have been suddenly acquired. The overthrow of the priestly power, which Menes accomplished, requires the prior existence of a culture differing perhaps little, except in its milder and more peaceful character, from that which afterwards developed itself in the Memphite region. Sir J. Gardner Wilkinson, says, indeed, that all the facts lead to the conclusion that the Egyptians had already "made very great progress in the arts of civilization be-

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fore the age of Menes, and perhaps before they immigrated into the valley of the Nile." *

Menes himself was a native of Teni, or Thinis, the chief city of that part of Upper Egypt in which the priestly authority had established its supremacy. In this region numerous cities existed before the foundation of Memphis. "It was," says Lenormant, "the country of the great prehistoric sanctuaries, seats of the sacerdotal dominion, which played the most important part in the origin of civilization." The people themselves were known as Schesou-Hor, "the servants of Horus," the national god par excellence of the Egyptian people, and after death they were said to become the conductors of the bark of the Sun in his celestial voyage, and the cultivators of the happy fields of the other life. M. Maspero affirms, that to this prehistoric race "belongs the honour of having constituted Egypt, such as we know it, from the commencement of the historic period. At first divided into a great number of tribes, they commenced by establishing at several points small independent states, each of which had its own laws and worship." They founded

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the principal cities of Egypt and established the most important sanctuaries. These primitive inhabitants of the Nile valley may have been less highly cultured than their descendants of the Great Pyramid epoch, but as they possessed the hieroglyphic form of writing special to the Egyptians, they must have been already considerably advanced in civilization. M. Maspero supposes, that when they first settled in Egypt, the sands of the desert covered all the soil which was not affected by the yearly inundation of the Nile. He adds, however, that "little by little, the new comers learnt to regulate the course of the river, to embank it, to carry by means of irrigating canals fertility into the most distant corners of the valley. Egypt rose from the waters, and became in the hand of man one of the countries the best adapted to the peaceable development of a great civilization." *


21:* "Life and Work at the Great Pyramid," Vol. iii. pp. 465, seq., 521 seq.

21:† "A Miracle in Stone," p. 210.

22:* "A Miracle in Stone," p. 226.

23:* "Life and Work at the Great Pyramid," Vol. iii. p. 530.

24:* Sir J. Gardner Wilkinson ascribes the Pyramid of Abouseir to Shuré (Soris), the immediate predecessor of Cheops, according to Manetho. (See Appendix II.)

26:* "Life and Work," etc., Vol. L p. 268.

28:* Tom. ii, p. 71.

31:* "Ancient History from the Monuments."—Egypt, pp. 42-46.

32:* Rawlinson's "Herodotus," vol. ii. p. 344.

33:* Tom. ii, p. 58.

34:* Tom. ii. p. 58, seq.

35:* It should be mentioned, however, that Egyptologists are not agreed in supposing this inscription to be contemporaneous with Cheops.

36:* Rawlinson's "Herodotus," Vol. ii. p. 345.

37:* Lenormant, Tom. ii. p. 51, seq.

Next: Chapter III. The Tomb Theory