« AnteriorContinuar »
cannot be above twelve hundred years old,— a comparatively modern relic, which we treat with contempt while grubbing amid the remains of the twelfth dynasty. At the same time, we cannot flatter ourselves that what we do discover dates back beyond the Roman, or, at most, the Ptolemaic period. In the course of five or six walks which we took over these ruins, we picked up ourselves seven coins, of which four were of the reigns of Vespasian, Diocletian, Constantine, and Trajan. One was a curious Cufic coin; and we procured about a dozen more from the Arabs, most of which were undecipherable, but those we made out were also Roman. Some of the pottery was of a blue, green, or yellow glaze, the colours remarkably brilliant; but unfortunately we only found it in fragments. Pieces of glass bottles were common; and I picked up one perfect little phial of iridescent glass, used by the sympathetic ancients to contain tears. Beads were comparatively abundant, and we made quite an assortment of them. There were numerous fragments of glass bracelets, unfortunately none perfect. From the appearance and shape of the broken amp/lorae, which
lay strewn around in great profusion, they must have been of a great size; and from one spot we may look over hundreds of acres of this shattered ware, testifying to the extensive use of pottery by the ancients. I pulled out several large pieces of coloured cloth from the base of this cliff of projecting debris, a handbroom made of date-fibre, and a key of curious shape, heavily oxidised. From the great quantities of slag lying about in parts of these ruins, it would seem as though the city had been subjected at some time to the action of fire; and large fragments of blue glass were to be found which had evidently undergone a process of fusing. These, however, may have been the runnings from the glass furnaces. It is worthy of note, nevertheless, that a tradition exists among the Copts, of the city having been burnt by a besieging army, who tied torches to the tails of cats and drove them into the town. The Arab diggers, who live in huts in the neighbourhood of these ruins, occasionally pick up valuable antiquities; but they are too ignorant to know their worth, and it is painful to think how many objects of interest they must smash in the course of their excavations for manure-dust. As it is, when they want to build, they come here for bricks which have stood the test of centuries; and I saw one man loading his donkey with large sun-dried bricks, twenty inches long by nine wide, which he was picking out of a wall just showing through the mound. In one part of these ruins there are numbers of chambers, built of crude brick, in a very fair state of preservation; and it was in these that I found most of the beads and coins. Besides bricks and pottery, one now and then stumbles across a small piece of marble carving, or some larger fragments of granite columns. In looking over these chambers and mounds, we can trace the difference between the Roman and Egyptian periods. We see on the surface the strewn pottery, glass-ware, and coins of the later time, with here and there a few burnt bricks, which were most probably Roman, as the Egyptians rarely used them; but as we get lower down in our examination of the scarped cliff of debris, we come upon all the evidences of Egyptian structure, with bones and mummy-cloth more abundant, and thicker layers of straw or fibre.
It was from the bottom of the cliff that I pulled out a fragment, at least a foot square, of what must have been an ancient Egyptian fishingnet. The crude brick walls which crop out from the base of these mounds, and over which probably a later town was built, are sometimes curved or waving in their construction. The whole description answered exactly to that given by Sir Gardner Wilkinson, who says:—
“The use of crude bricks baked in the sun was universal throughout the country, for private and for many public buildings; and the dry climate of Egypt was particularly suited to those simple materials. They had the recommendation of cheapness, and even of durability; and those made 3OOO years ago, whether with or without straw, are even now as firm and fit for use as when first put up in the reigns of the Amenophis and Thotines, whose names they bear. When made of the hill-mud or alluvial deposit, they required straw to prevent their cracking; but those formed of clay (now called haybeh) taken from the torrent-beds on the edge of the desert, held together without straw; and crude brick walls frequently had the additional security of a layer of reeds or bricks, placed at intervals to act as binders. The courses of bricks were also disposed occasionally in horizontal curves, or a succession of concave and convex lines, throughout the length of the wall; and this undulating arrangement was even adopted in stone, especially in quays by the river-side.” The modern cemetery of Medinet el Fayoum, with its picturesque tombs, is placed amid these ruins at the point where they most nearly approach the town. The Egyptian monarch whose name is most intimately associated with this province, and to whom it probably owed, in the first instance, its development into a region of exceptional fertility, was Amenemhat the Third, who reigned in Egypt about 3000 years before Christ, and 600 years, therefore, before the arrival of Joseph in the country. In those days Egypt was called “the Land of Khemi,” the “Ham” of the Bible, or “the Black Country”—a name derived from the blackness of the soil. Amenemhat seems to have had a great talent for engineering, and for irrigating this black soil in the most effectual manner. It is almost beyond a doubt that he it was who led the Bahr Youssef through