Mummy Of Rameses II

Mummy Of Rameses II.

At a little distance from the city, on the new driveway to the Pyramids, stands the unrivaled museum of Egyptian antiquities, which a few years ago was transferred hither from the Cairene quarter known as Boulak. It is surrounded by a beautiful garden, within which is the tomb of Mariette, that self-denying and enthusiastic archaeologist who gave his life and fortune to Egyptian exploration, and whose untimely death, in 1881, was an irreparable loss to science. While it is literally true that he gave his life to Egypt, in return old Egypt gave herself to him. For how magnificent was the success that rewarded his untiring devotion! To have, himself, discovered and rescued from their desert shroud thousands of statues, temples, tombs, and sphinxes, - thus bringing the beginnings of the recorded history of man within our easy comprehension, - no doubt abundantly repaid him for long years of labor and privation. But he had many personal experiences which must have wonderfully enriched his life. Thus, close by Memphis, Mariette discovered the famous Serapeum, or Cemetery of the Sacred Bulls, all of which, after death, had been embalmed, and for a period of two thousand years had rested here in huge sarcophagi of granite, - hidden away for ages under the desert sands. Each of the coffins was a monolith weighing nearly sixty tons, and in these the embalmed bulls were laid away in separate compartments in long subterranean galleries, which fill the visitor with amazement as he looks upon them.

Tomb Of Mariette

Tomb Of Mariette.

Royal Sarcophagi

Royal Sarcophagi.

When Mariette opened this vast cemetery, he found one vault which for some reason had escaped the ruthless hands of those who, at some time, inspired by the hope of finding treasure, had plundered most of Egypt's sepulchres. Accordingly, when the portal yielded to his pressure, he perceived in the mortar the signet-impress of the mason who had closed it long before the time of Moses. There also, on a layer of sand, were the footprints of the workmen, who, nearly four thousand years before, had consigned the sacred mummy to its tomb and closed the door, as they supposed forever! What wonder, then, that when the great savant found himself thus face to face with a stupendous past, within an area on which no eye had looked for nearly twice as long a period as had elapsed since Christ was born, he was completely overcome and burst into tears!

An entire lecture might be devoted to the mere enumeration of the interesting relics of the Pharaohs contained in this museum; but some mention, at least, must be made of a celebrated statue which, though estimated to be at least four thousand years old, is even now so startlingly lifelike as to astonish all who look upon its face. Its preservation, too, is marvelous, considering that its material is wood. It represents a type of man still common in Egypt. In fact, when it was found, the Arabs were so struck with its resemblance to their somewhat corpulent overseer, that they immediately called it the "Village Chief," a title which it still retains. What impressed me most about this figure was the expression of its eyes. They fairly haunted me. It seemed as if a living being must dwell within that wooden form, to stare upon me so intently. This effect is due to the peculiar artifice employed in its construction. Thin folds of bronze were used for eyelids, beneath which were inserted, for the eyeballs, pieces of white quartz; the iris was then made of a darker colored stone, while in the centre was driven, for the pupil, a silver nail.

The Village Chief

The Village Chief.

A few miles to the south of Cairo is the site of Memphis, probably the oldest city in Egypt, and the capital of Menes, first of Egypt's kings. We may gain some idea of its antiquity, when we reflect that it was founded, according to Lepsius, four thousand - according to Mariette, five thousand - years before Christ. It is said to have been so large that a half-day's journey was necessary to cross it from north to south; but little of it now remains above ground. A stately palm-grove covers this cradle of the Egyptian dynasties, and silence and solitude reign here supreme. It is true, Mariette's heroic labors in this region brought to light more than two thousand buried sphinxes, and five thousand statues and tablet-inscriptions. But most of these have been taken away to European museums, and almost the only-thing remaining here to-day is a colossal statue of Rameses II, too vast to be removed. This now lies prostrate on its finely sculptured face, commingling slowly with historic dust.