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stone. The upper passage seemed called the Lake of Mæris, which is to have been roofed in on a level close by the Labyrinth, is still more with the surface of the soil, and astonishing." below this again there was a second Strabo says of it,one, which, however, was so choked with sand that it was impossible capable of receiving the superabund
“Owing to its size and depth, it is to follow it.
As I was examining ance of water during the inundation it I put up a jackal, which darted without overflowing the habitations away across the desert, startled at and crops; but later, when the water the sudden intrusion upon his soli- subsides, and after the lake has given tude. There were some mummied up its excess through one of its two bones about, and I wondered whe- mouths, both it and the canal retain ther flesh which had undergone the
water enough for purposes of irriga
tion. This is accomplished by natural drying process of ages could afford means, but at both ends of the canal satisfactory gnawing material for there are also lock-gates by means of these scavengers of the wilds. I which the engineers can regulate the suppose a human leg three thou- influx and efflux of the water." sand years old, if it does not con- These lock-gates—which, according tain much nourishment, must have to Diodorus, cost £11,250 every a taste of some sort.
time they were opened-are, no There can be no doubt that we doubt, the great stone dikes and owe the modern word “labyrinth” to sluices mentioned later by Aboolthe strange accumulation of cham- feda at Illahoon, which regulated bers and tortuous passages which the quantity admitted into the once existed on the shores of Lake Fayoum; and it seems not improbMæris. According to Manethon, able that the modern Illahoon, with the Labyrinth derived its name its pyramid, was the site of the from King Labarys, its founder, ancient town of Ptolemais. also known as Amenemhat III.; The Greeks believed that Lake but another derivation has been Mæris was constructed by a king suggested, which possesses the com- of the same name; but it is proved bined merit of extreme antiquity that no such king existed, and and originality. It seems that the that they invented the king from old Egyptian word for the mouth the Egyptian word “mere," which of a reservoir, which Lake Meris exactly corresponds to our word undoubtedly was, is ra-hunt or la.“mere.” Until within a comparhunt. Hence one of the names of atively recent period, the Birket the lake was “ Hunt.” The temple el Kurûn was popularly supposed of the mouth of the reservoir would to have been the ancient Lake be ra-pe-ro-hunt, or la-pe-lo-hunt. Mæris; but as we know that the From laperohunt we get to laper- great object of Lake Mæris was to int, and then, by easy stages, to act as a reservoir for the waters
labyrinth.” It is more likely, how- which fertilised the Fayoum, and ever, to have been the combination that it was constructed as a triumph from which Illahoon is derived- of engineering skill by Amenemthe terminations lo-hunt and la-hunt hat III., it becomes absolutely not being very dissimilar, the addi- impossible to identify it with the tion of the Arabic particle el form- Lake of the Horn, which is two ing the word. In allusion to Lake hundred feet below the level of Mæris, over which we were now Lake Mæris and the country it was looking, Herodotus says: “Wonder- intended to irrigate, and is eviful as is the Labyrinth, the work dently a natural sheet of water fed by springs: but even if it were such great extent should have not, it is at all events a natural seemed a prodigy of engineering depression, which it would require skill to the ancients. In addition no genius to fill with water. More- to its great utility as a fertilising over, Herodotus, speaking of the agent, it was invested with a charLabyrinth, says: “It was a little acter of sanctity which gave it a above Lake Mæris, opposite Croco- wide celebrity. The sacred crocodilopolis.” Now the site of Croco- dile, which was carefully tended dilopolis is fifteen miles from the and petted in its waters, was an Lake of the Horn, but the dikes object of the deepest veneration to which testify to the existence of the inhabitants of the Arsinoite some vast ancient reservoir are in Nome, who treated it with the most its immediate vicinity. According marked respect, and kept it at conto the estimate of Linant Bey, to siderable expense, while a most whom is due the discovery of the elaborate cuisine provided it with site of the Labyrinth and the posi- dainties. “Geese, fish, and various tion of Lake Mæris, the latter must fresh meats,"
says Sir Gardner have been a sheet of water about Wilkinson, “ were dressed pursixty miles in circumference, and posely for it; they ornamented its with an average depth of twenty head with ear-rings, its feet with feet. Pomponius Mela says that bracelets, and its neck with neckit was navigated by large vessels laces of gold and artificial stones; which conveyed the produce of the it was rendered perfectly tame by Fayoum to other parts of Egypt. kind treatment, and after death its The Pyramid and Labyrinth were body was embalmed in a most situated at the point where the sumptuous manner.” river entered it, and the vast ex- It was rather unfortunate for the panse of green over which the eye crocodile and his worshippers that wanders between the Pyramid and the inhabitants of the adjoining Medinet was formerly covered by Heracleopolitan Nome worshipped its waters. Wherever the natural the ichneumon, the bitter enemy formation of the country did not of the crocodile, which, it is reportrestrain them, immense dikes were ed, waged war upon him by the oribuilt, which must have been in ginal device of crawling down his some places thirty feet high, and throat when he was asleep, and which, to judge by the traces which feeding upon his intestines. The anexist on the north and west sides, tipathy between the crocodile and must have been about thirty miles the ichneumon, in consequence of long, with an average breadth of this unfair mode of proceeding, one hundred and fifty feet-a work seems to have extended to the woron a scale which would have ap- shippers of the two animals, which palled engineers not accustomed to led, during the reign of the Romans, build pyramids. Linant Bey calcu- to disputes that terminated in bloodlates that this reservoir must have shed, and made the contending irrigated a superficies of 600,000 parties forget the respect due to acres, as, besides feeding the Fay- the sacred monuments of their adoum, he believes that its waters versaries to such an extent that were carried down into the pro- the destruction of the Labyrinth vince of Gizeh, and so ultimately by the Heracleopolitans was the into the old Canopic branch of the final result. It is difficult to reNile at Mariout. Nor can one concile psychologically a worship wonder that an artificial lake of so full of trivialities with a religion so replete with lofty moral concep- skulls, and there were numerous bones tions, and with the high intellec- to which the dried flesh still adhertnal capacity which created a Lake ed under the wrappings of mummyMeris, reared huge pyramids, con- cloth. Altogether, the vestiges of structed the stupendous work of these rains conveyed as much the art which was celebrated through- idea of a necropolis as of aa assemout the then civilised world as the blage of council-chambers, and it Labyrinth, and called into existence, is not unlikely that its primitive out of a tract of desert, the fertile design was simply to serve as a vast province which for many centuries sepulchre like that at Sakkara. derived its name as the Crocodilo. There can be little doubt that politan Nome, from the animal thus pyramids invariably form the centres venerated.
of such burial-places-indeed HeroWhen we had exhausted our ex- dotus tells us that he was informed amination of the left bank of the by his guides that the lower chamBahr es Sherki, we announced our bers were used for funeral purposes; intention to the crowd of attendant and Amenemhat may have selected Arabs who had accompanied us this spot on the shores of the lake from the village, of crossing over he had created, as his own restingto see the network of chambers on place and that of the chief men of the other side. To our dismay they his reign. From the records upon pronounced the stream unfordable, the inscriptions where his name has and told us we should have to make been found, it is almost beyond a a circuit of two miles by a bridge. doubt that he is buried here, alThis I resolutely declined, and some though not within the Pyramid; of the Arabs accordingly stripped to and the mode of sepultare among try and find a ford. The channel the ancient Egyptians renders it, in was so narrow that it might easily the opinion of some Egyptologists, have been jumped with the aid of extremely likely that this vast cona leaping-pole; but the men bad geries of apartments, which at a later some difficulty in finding a spot period were converted into counwhere the water only came up to cil-halls, were originally mortuary their armpits. This was the depth chambers, but upon a scale of such even close to the bank; but by per- magnificence and vastness that the forming a sort of circus feat, and subsequent dynasties considered each of us sitting astride the heads them available for other purposes. of two men, we got carried across, Indeed we have no record of the while our donkeys were sent round. Labyrinth being used for great imIt was not a very graceful perform- perial assemblies until the period ance for a lady; but in the absence immediately preceding the Psamof any other spectators than the tikides of the twenty-sixth dynassons of the desert, it did not so ty, or about 1900 years after the much matter. The chambers were time of Amenemhat, its construca disappointing collection of tiny tor. At the same time, it is not apartments, with thick walls of impossible that the Labyrinth was crude brick—possibly over a hun- used for other purposes as well dred in number—their floors strewn as those of sepulture, even from with pottery, rags, and bones. We the earliest period; for the assempicked up a bead, some good speci- blage of twelve palaces or aulæ, as mens of blue and green glazed terra described by Herodotus, must have cotta, and fragments of glass. In one had some reference to the twelve room alone I observed five human nomes into which Egypt was divided before the number was in- possible to associate in one's mind creased by Rameses II. to thirty- the crude brick rooms which are six. And we may be safe in saying still standing, or even the discoveries that if we carry our imaginations of Lepsius, now covered with sand, back 3500 years, or even more, with all this splendour and magnithe spot upon which we were now ficence, vestiges of which must still standing presented an aspect of remain to reward the labours of the scenic beauty, of architectural mag- explorer. nificence, and was invested with We returned to the village of a character of political and re- Howara by another road, approachligious importance, unrivalled in the ing the bluff upon the edge of world, which it retained for nearly which it is built like a fortress, 2000 years. It was evidently through a grove of date-trees, and reselected, from its central position embarked at a spot where an Arab on the boundary - line which was working a most primitive ferrydivided Upper from Lower Egypt, boat. It presented the appearance for the great regal, political, and of a straw raft with sides, and was sacerdotal rites which were cele- constructed entirely of bundles of brated here. Standing, on the reeds; one bundle being placed upshores of a beautiful lake, the right in the bows, round which the waters of which reflected the mag- rope was passed by means of which nificent city of Crocodilopolis Ar- it was worked, and which stretched sinoë immediately opposite, and across from one bank to the other. which was navigated by number- We floated back over the placid less craft, and surrounded by palm- waters of the Bahr Youssef in the groves and those gardens of fruits glow of the brilliant sunset, the and flowers for which the province men keeping time to the lazy plash was celebrated, the Labyrinth oc- of their oars with boat-songs, cupied a position of great scenic their choruses now measured and beauty, and of political significance. dreamy, as though unable to resist It was the great council-hals of Egypt. the somnolent influences which perHither flocked the representatives vaded all nature now wild and of the different nomes to the great fitful, as they put on a spurt, proassembly of the nation; here con- bably under the still more potent gregated the high priests to cele- inspiration of empty stomachs and brate those great religious ceremo- a pot of lentils in prospect. nies which demanded the united The railway, which has its terhomage of the people. Here prob- minus at Medinet el Fayoum for ably kings were crowned, laws were regular traffic, is continued to the made, great public works decided Government sugar-factory at Aboukupon, questions of war or peace ser as
ser as an agricultural line; and settled, -in a word, in this con- twice a-week during the cane-cutgeries of palaces, under the shadow ting season, a waggon—it can scarceof the Pyramid, on the banks of ly be called a carriage—is attached this vast artificial lake, which had for the conveyance of passengers. I been adorned and beautified by the was glad to join a party consisting taste and resources of successive of the Governor and two or three centuries, all the highest interests native officials on a trip to the of the nation were discussed in as- factory, which is situated in the semblies composed of the great vicinity of the Birket el Kurun, or powers of the State—the king, the “Lake of the Horn.” It is not priesthood, and the army. It is im- much more than ten miles, as the crow flies, to Aboukser; but as the under these circumstances we never difference of level between the attained a very high rate of speed; plateau on which Medinet is situ- but we were not in a hurry, and ated and the lake is about 170 I was not sorry to traverse an enfeet, and the descent becomes more tirely new tract of country thus abrupt towards the end of the leisurely, as it enabled me the plateau, the line takes a long curve, better to appreciate its rich luxupartly for the sake of an easier riance and still undeveloped capagradient, and partly because it thus bilities. The Fayoum contains, at traverses a wider extent of cane- a rough estimate, about 250,000 field-its whole length being thus acres of land, of which half belongs over fifteen miles. The train at to the Government, and the remainstarting consisted only of the engine der to the peasants and native proand waggon, which might have prietors. Among these latter some been a baggage - van with four are very rich; and one of
my fellowwindows cut in it, and a divan passengers on this occasion had an placed all round; but before we had estate of about a thousand acres, gone very far, we came upon a on which he had built a handsome couple of trucks filled with cane country-house. He pointed it out to standing on the line in the middle me as we passed it about a mile of a cane-field. They were mere from the track, and invited me to iron cradles, their walls consisting pay him a visit, an invitation which of long stalks of sugar-cane woven I regretted I was unable to accept. into the iron so as to hold the cane, From all that I could learn, a wellwhich was cut into lengths from managed farm in the Fayoum may two to three feet long. They be made a most profitable underwere attached in front of the taking. If the cultivation of the engine, which then moved slowly sugar, cotton, and indigo, for wbich along till we came to another batch. it is eminently adapted, have not These were almost empty; but the proved so successful as they might cane was piled on each side of the be, the causes are not far to seek. line, and gangs of Arabs rapidly There are no regular stations on loaded them, while we took ad- this line, but we stop“ apropos vantage of the delay to water the accordingly,” as my coachman used engine. This was performed in the to say, wherever sugar-cane hapmost primitive fashion by a couple pens to be lying about. We passed, of sakkas, or water-carriers, who, nevertheless, many thriving vilhaving placed a notched section of lages, most of them picturesquely a date-tree between the engine and situated on mounds, or on the edge the ground to serve as a ladder, of one of the precipitous wadies laboriously filled the goatskins, which intersect the country, and which are swung on their backs, which form in places pretty wooded at a ditch by the side of the track, glens through which brawl running climbed up the tree-ladder on to streams, while heavy palm-groves the engine, and emptied their goat- throw their shade over all. After skins into the boiler: by the time leaving Sineru, which is a large it was full the trucks were loaded, village, with gardens of prickly and we went on again, pushing pear, and a little grove of opuntia about a dozen of them before us. trees, the country begins to slope This operation was performed several more rapidly towards the lake, and times, until at last there were at the railway takes a wide curve past least thirty loaded trucks ahead of the villages of Agamieh, Nazlet, the engine. As may be imagined and Bisheh, all lying to the left