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THE more one sees of the “Land of Khemi,” the more one is amazed at the extent of the remains which still exist awaiting a thorough examination, and which lie so temptingly strewn over the face of the country that it is almost an insult to them to leave them still unexplored. The mounds and cliffs seem to be crying out, “Come and dig, -we contain all the records of the ages; we only conceal the pages of ancient history which are still dark, because no one will take the trouble to turn us over; we can reveal the secrets of the little-known period when the shepherd-kings reigned over the land; we can throw light upon the obscure annals of the pontifical monarchs of the twenty-first dynasty; we can tell all about the seventh, eighth, ninth, and
tenth dynasties, of which no record whatever has yet been found upon any of the monuments; under these superincumbent masses of brickbats and potsherds, in rock-cut tombs and undiscovered mastaðas, it is all written in imperishable letters, only come and dig.” It would be doing a gross injustice to the distinguished body of Egyptologists, from Champollion down to Mariette and Brugsch Pashas, to say that this appeal has not been responded to, and that in the great works at Sakkara, and the excavations which have taken place, a wonderful effort has not been made; but what strikes one is, that the task is so vast and endless—that in spite of all the time and money that have been already spent, so much remains to be done." In fact one does not know which is most wonderful, what has been achieved, or what yet remains to be accomplished. The ordinary tourist who visits the Boulak museum and the Necropolis of Sakkara, and then runs up to the First or the Second Cataract, is apt to think that the subject must be wellnigh exhausted; and is scarcely conscious of the fact that the banks of the Nile from Cairo to Thebes, between which he glides so rapidly in a Cook's steamer, or, more tranquilly, journeys in a da/abeeya, are strewn with the mounds of ancient cities, especially on the eastern shore, and that its cliffs are honeycombed with tombs. It was the knowledge of this fact which tempted us, in the most humble and unassuming manner, and without any pretensions to a knowledge of the subject, to try and see whether we could not discover something in a very small way, by poking about in a leisurely manner, from various centres on the banks of the river, where we were kindly provided with accommodation. Indeed, so far as our experience went, the hospitality of the Government was only equalled by that of private friends. To one of these, learned in the lore of the ancient Egyptians, we were indebted for our first attempt, and in fact for the encouragement of any latent tendency we possessed towards researches, which, when once the taste for them is fully developed, becomes one of the most absorbing and interesting of pursuits. About a hundred miles up the Nile from Cairo lies the small town of Feshn; here we were most kindly entertained by Monsieur Daninos, who is resident there, and who assisted the late Mariette Pasha in many of his earlier researches. On the opposite bank of the river, the limestone cliffs of the Jebel Thér recede suddenly at a spot known to the natives as Haybee, near which there is a small hamlet of hovels, a grove of young datetrees, and the remains of a very ancient pier, which, in the days when there was an important town and fortress stretching along the shore, projected into the river. Near the stones that still mark its site we moored our bark, which was nothing more or less than a common village boat, in which we had crossed from the opposite bank in company with our erudite friend on archaeological researches bent. He had given notice of our projected visit the day before, and the sheikh of the neighbouring village, with a dozen or more of its male inhabitants, was on the bank awaiting our arrival. As soon as we got through the dategrove we came upon the mounds of an ancient town, whose name, as found in the hieroglyphics, was Isembheb. Scrambling over these, with eyes eagerly scanning the debris for coins, beads, and other relics, we followed our guides to a projecting shoulder of the mounds, beyond which they said there was a cave; but we had no sooner reached the brow, than we were arrested by the remarkable view which burst upon us. The recess had widened into an amphitheatre surrounded by limestone cliffs, which bore the marks of having been extensively quarried both in modern and ancient times, the trenches and cuttings increasing the quaint picturesqueness of the natural formation. Immediately to our left, and rising out of the mound on which we stood, was a cliff, partly faced and partly crowned with brick to a height of fifty feet, and about a hundred yards broad, the massive construction of crude brick presenting quite an imposing appearance. In other directions there were fragments of
* Since the above was written, Monsieur Maspero has opened a pyramid near Sakkara, containing discoveries of the utmost importance, as throwing light upon the unknown history of some of the earliest dynasties; while the highly interesting researches of Monsieur Emile Brugsch, in the neighbourhood of Thebes, has resulted in a trouvaille of the very highest interest, consisting of no fewer than 4000 objects, among which are thirty-six royal sarcophagi, with their inner cases and mummies intact, belonging to Pharaohs, queens, princes, princesses, and high priests of the seventeenth, eighteenth, nineteenth, and twenty-first dynasties.