May 7, 2012

The Labyrinth? c. 450 B.C. | Walking Through Egypt

The Labyrinth? c. 450 B.C.
Herodotus

Pyramids Labyrinth
I visited this place, and found it to surpass description; for if all the walls and other great works of the Greeks were put together in one, they would not equal, either for labour or expense, this Labyrinth. Though no one would deny that the temples of Ephesus and Samos are remarkable buildings. The Pyramids too are astonishing structures, each one of them equal to many of the most ambitious works of Greece; but the Labyrinth surpasses them. It has twelve covered courts six in a row facing north, six south. . . . Inside the building is of two storeys and contains 3000 rooms, of which half are underground, and the other half directly above them. The upper rooms I saw, and it is hard to believe they are the work of men; the baffling and intricate passages from room to room and from court to court were an endless wonder to me, as we passed from a courtyard into rooms, from rooms into galleries, from galleries into more rooms, and thence into more courtyards. The roof of every chamber, courtyard and gallery is, like the walls, of stone. The walls are covered with carved figures, and each court is exquisitely built of white marble and surrounded by a colonnade. The founder of the Labyrinth has been variously named by ancient authors, but it seems probable that its builder was Amenemhat III of the Xllth dynasty, the same who constructed the lake of Moeris. His is the oldest name found among the ruins.

Working at the Labyrinth, 1843 
Dr. Richard Lepsius
Here we have been, on the southern side of the Pyramid of Moeris, since 23rd May, and are settled among the ruins of the Labyrinth; for I was certain from the first, after we had made but a hasty survey of the whole, that we are perfecdy entitled to designate them under this name: I did not, however, imagine that it would have been so easy for us to become convinced of this.

As soon as Erbkam had measured and noted down a small plan of what is extant, I caused some excavators to be levied from the surrounding villages, through the Mudhir of Medinet el Faium, the governor of the province, and ordered them to make trenches through the ruins, and to dig at four or five places at once. A hundred and eight people were thus occupied today. With the exception of those belonging to the nearest place, Howara, who return home every evening, I allow these people to encamp on the northern side of the Pyramid, and to spend their wghts there. They have their overseers and bread brought to them; every morning they are counted, and they are paid every evening; each man receives a piastre, each child half a piastre, sometimes when they have been particularly diligent, as much as thirty paras (there are forty of them in a piastre). Each of the men brings with him a pickaxe, and a shallow woven basket (maktaj). The children, who form the greatest number, are only required to bring baskets. The maktafs are filled by the men, and carried away by the children on their heads. This is done in long processions, which are kept in order and at work by special overseers.

Their chief pleasure and a material assistance in their daily work, is singing. They have some simple melodies, which at a distance, owing to their great monotony, make almost a melancholy impression.

Elizabeth Cooper traveled to and beyond the Fayoum in her search for the Bedouin in their home country she went as a guest of the Bedouin.

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