We will hear a whisper, we will see the shadowed light of a torch above the open sarcophagus. In early 1881, a wealthy American, lover and connoisseur of the arts, went up the Nile to Luxor, to the very village opposite Thebes, the ancient residence of the kings. The purpose of his journey was to acquire antique rarities. Not relying on the usual ways - the antiquities trade was subjected to the strictest regulation through the efforts of Mariette - he relied on his instinct. This instinct drove him into dark alleys in the evenings, forced him to visit the back rooms of the bazaars, and finally brought him into contact with an Egyptian, who offered him several seemingly genuine and valuable objects.
Today, every guide considers it his duty to warn tourists against buying antiques on the black market, doing so with good reason, because most of the so-called rarities are products of quite modern production, in most cases Egyptian, but sometimes European. What tricks speculators resort to to convince the buyer of the authenticity of their goods! Even such a connoisseur of antiquities as a German art critic Julius Meyer-Graefe, and he once fell for their bait. He found right in the sand, not suspecting that he was led to this place by a rogue guide, a small statuette. Meyer-Graefe had no doubts that it was genuine - of course, he found it himself! He hastened to bribe the guide so that he would not blab out, and, hiding the statuette under his jacket, brought it to the hotel. But he needed to find a stand for her, and he went to the merchant; here he could not resist and asked the merchant how he liked the find. The merchant laughed, and then, as Meyer-Graefe himself writes, “he invited me into the back of his shop, opened the closet and showed me four or five of exactly the same figurines. Each of them was covered with sand thousands of years ago. They are made in Bunzlau, but he got them from a Greek dealer in Cairo."
What incredible tricks, not to mention the manufacture of false antiquities, which constitute an entire branch of production, science has to take into account! André Malraux's autobiographical account gives a correct idea of this; there is no reason to doubt the veracity of his words, but this case, of course, should not be regarded as an example to follow - we just cite it as a curiosity. In 1925, Malraux met in one of the bars in Singapore with a certain collector who traveled at the expense of the Boston Museum, buying all kinds of works of art for him. He lined up in front of Malraux five small ivory elephants, which he had just acquired from a Hindu. “You see, my dear friend,” he said, “I buy elephants. When we excavate, I put elephants in it before filling this or that tomb. If, in fifty years, other researchers open the tomb again, they will find these elephants, which by that time will have time to cover themselves with a green film and lose their new appearance, and they will not a little break their heads over this find. For those who come after me, I willingly ask such puzzles; on one of the towers of Angkor Wat I have engraved, my dear friend, a very indecent Sanskrit inscription and have smeared it over so that it looks very old. Some rogue will decipher it. The simple-minded should be a little angry …"
Let us return, however, to our American, who, although he was an amateur, nevertheless possessed some special knowledge in the field of Egyptology. The Egyptian's proposal excited him, and he immediately, without even entering, as is required by custom in the East, into a long bargaining, acquired the papyrus offered to him of amazing preservation and rare beauty. Having hidden it in a suitcase, the American immediately departed, having managed to fool both the police and customs authorities. When he, having arrived in Europe, showed this papyrus to an expert, it turned out that he not only brought an invaluable treasure, but also set in motion, however, without any effort on his part, one curious case. We will now talk about this, but first we need to familiarize ourselves, at least briefly, with the extraordinary history of the Valley of the Kings.
The Valley of the Kings (or the Royal Tombs of Biban al-Muluk) stretches on the western bank of the Nile, opposite Karnak and Luxor, the very same Luxor, where the colossal colossal halls and temples of the time of the New Kingdom rise to the sky; it is part of the vast, now deserted area, on which the Theban necropolis was once located. During the New Kingdom, rock tombs for the nobility were built here, memorial temples were erected in honor of the kings and in honor of the god Amun. The supervision of order in this huge city of the dead, as well as the constant work to expand it, required colossal personnel, who were subordinate to a special official - the prince of the west and the chief of the guard of the Necropolis. The guards were housed in barracks, and in the houses, on the site of which small settlements later arose, excavators, construction workers, stone cutters, artists, artisans and, finally, embalmers, who, taking care of the eternal repository for "Ka", protected the bodies of the dead from destruction …
It was during the New Kingdom that the most powerful Egyptian pharaohs, the "sons of the Sun" - Ramses I and Ramses II ruled. It was the epoch of the XVIII, but above all the XIX dynasty (from about 1350 to 1200 BC). In those days in Egypt, the same thing happened that happened in Rome in the era of the Caesars, when the entire monumental culture of Greece, having finally exhausted itself, was reduced to gigantomania in buildings; the grandeur of the pyramids of Ancient Egypt ultimately boiled down to the arrogance of the buildings of Karnak, Luxor and Abydos. We observe the same in Nineveh - "Assyrian Rome" - during the time of Sinacherib, at the Chinese Caesar Hoang-ti and in the giant Indian buildings built after 1250.
The expansion of the Valley of the Kings, the greatest city of the dead in the world, and in particular the beginning of construction work, is associated with one of the most outstanding decisions made by Thutmes I (1545-1515 BC). This decision played a role in the history of the subsequent ruling dynasties of Egypt, moreover, it is likely (although the study of this issue, which goes beyond the framework of archeology itself, has hardly been carried out), is of no small importance for determining the historical period during which the traditional, spiritualized Egyptian culture has become a civilization that denies any tradition and destroys all established norms.
Thutmes I was the first pharaoh who decided to separate his tomb from the memorial temple (the distance between them was at least one and a half kilometers) and to bury his mortal remains not in a luxurious giant tomb visible from afar, but in a secret chamber-crypt carved into the rocks. This decision seems unimportant to us now. Meanwhile, it signified a break with the tradition of seventeen centuries.
Separating the grave from the memorial temple, in which the sacrifices necessary for the existence of the Ka were made on holidays, Thutmes created completely unforeseen difficulties - the consequences of which could hardly have been predicted - for his Ka, and thus for his existence in the other world … But he believed that by such a measure he would be able to ensure his safety, which his predecessors had never been able to achieve - this was eloquently testified to by the desecrated tombs. This was the main reason that prompted him to make this decision.
The instructions that he gave to his architect Ineni were based on fear, the inextinguishable fear that possessed him, the fear that his mummy would be destroyed, that his tomb would be desecrated. By the beginning of the reign of the 18th dynasty, it was hardly possible to find in all of Egypt at least one royal tomb that would not have been plundered, at least one mummy of some significant person, from which, at best, part of those “magic covers”In which she was wrapped, and thus not defiled or reviled. The robbers could be caught only occasionally; more often, they were probably frightened away, and then they left part of their prey to the mercy of fate. Five hundred years before Thutmes, one malefactor dismembered the mummy of the wife of King Jer in order to make it easier to carry, but was disturbed by someone or something; in haste, he thrust one of the queen's withered hands into a hole in the wall of the tomb; there she was found in 1900 safe and sound by English archaeologists - even a magnificent bracelet made of amethyst and turquoise was in place.
The main architect of Thutmes was named Ineni. We can only guess what the pharaoh demanded of him. Deciding to break with tradition, Thutmes probably quickly realized what the only way to avoid the fate of his predecessors was to keep the secret of the burial place and the location of the tomb. We owe some information about how the construction of the tomb of Thutmes proceeded only to the vanity of the architect Ineni: on the walls of his tomb, he left an autobiographical inscription and a report on the construction of the first royal rock tomb. “I alone watched the construction of the tomb in the rocks, intended for His Majesty. Nobody saw it, nobody heard about it. " However, the modern archaeologist, one of the best connoisseurs of the Valley of the Kings, a man who perfectly understands all the difficulties associated with construction work in this area, Howard Carter, believes that while Ineni, undoubtedly, should have had at least a hundred workers at his disposal. Without giving this fact a moral assessment, he dispassionately writes: “It is quite obvious that a hundred or more workers, initiated into the greatest secret of the pharaoh, could no longer divulge it: Ineni, one must think, found a means to silence them. The possibility that prisoners of war took part in the work is not excluded. At the end of it, they were all killed."
Did this sharp break with tradition lead to the result that Thutmes was striving for? His tomb is the first in the Valley of the Kings, it is located in the steeply descending wall of this secluded, gloomy bowl-shaped valley. Ineni cut a staircase into the rock and placed the tomb in the same way as all the architects of the pharaohs did for the next five hundred years. The ancient Greeks, based on the shape of these graves, resembling a fire hose, called them "syringi" from the word syrinkx - a long shepherd's pipe. Strabo, the famous Greek traveler of the last century BC e., described forty such "worthy tombs to see."
We do not know how long Thutmes enjoyed peace, but one can be sure of one thing: his peace could not have been especially long, of course, on the scale of Egyptian history. The mummies of Thutmes, his daughters and other mummies were pulled out of the tomb one day not by robbers, but by those who tried to protect the royal remains from robbers, for by that time even a stone bag could no longer be considered a sufficiently reliable refuge. The pharaohs switched to a new tactic: they began to place their tombs, walled up in the rocks, as close as possible to one another; it was now easier for the guards to observe, their attention was not scattered. Nevertheless, the robberies continued.
The robbers invaded the tomb of Tutankhamun ten to fifteen years after his death. In the tomb of Thutmes IV, where the robbers also entered a few years after his death, they even left business cards: notches, scribbles, various slang words scrawled on the walls; in addition, they destroyed the tomb so thoroughly that a hundred years later the pious Haremkheb, in the eighth year of his reign, gave the order to the official Kay: "Restore the tomb of the late King Tutmes IV in its precious abode in Western Thebes."
But the robbery of tombs reached its climax during the XX dynasty. Passed the brilliant years of the reign of the First and Second Ramses, the First and Second Seti. The next nine kings did not in any way resemble their predecessors, although they bore the proud name of Ramses. They were weak rulers and were always in danger of falling. Bribery and corruption have become a formidable force. The cemetery watchmen entered into a deal with the priests, the overseers - with their superiors, and even the chief of Western Thebes himself, the chief chief of the Necropolis' security, one day turned out to be an accomplice to the grave robbers. And today, thanks to the finds of papyri of the time of Ramses IX (1142-1123 BC), we are witnessing a process that aroused great interest at that time, eyewitnesses of the trial of the tomb robbery, which took place three thousand years ago and in during which the robbers anonymous were finally named.
One day Peser, chief of Eastern Thebes, received a report of massive robberies in tombs located in the western part of the city. The chief of Western Thebes - Pevero was, obviously, as little disposed to Peser as he was to him. Peser probably seized on the opportunity to discredit an equal in position in the eyes of Hamuas, the governor of the whole region of Thebes. * (* We follow Howard Carter, who based his story on documents published in a magnificent collection of (See sources in Ancient Records of Egypt published by Brasted.)
And nevertheless, things turned out badly for Peser, who made the mistake of naming exactly the number of tombs where the intruders entered: "Ten royal tombs, four tombs of the priestesses of Amun, not to mention many private ones." Meanwhile, some of the members of the commission sent by Hamuas to check the facts, the head of this commission and even the governor himself, undoubtedly (and this indicates Pevero's caution), were interested persons who received income from the robbers. They, as we would say today, received interest on the profits and, probably, before they could cross the river, they already knew what they would write in their decision. They really settled the matter, rejecting the denunciation on purely formal legal grounds - even without entering into a discussion of the issue whether there were robberies or not, they began to prove that Peser's data did not correspond to reality, because, as it turned out, not ten royal tombs, but only one, and not four tombs of priestesses, but only two.
True, the fact of the robbery of almost all private tombs was difficult to deny, but the commission did not consider this a sufficient reason to prosecute such a distinguished official as Pevero. The denunciation was challenged. The next day, the triumphant Pevero (we can imagine him very realistically) gathered the overseers, the administration of the city of the dead, artisans, the guard of the Necropolis and sent this crowd to the east side with the order to arrange a "meeting" there; at the same time he instructed them not to avoid Peser's house at all, but, on the contrary, to stay close to him.
It was too much for Peser! With good reason, he regarded everything that was happening as one hundred percent provocation and, in a fit of rage, made a second, this time decisive mistake. He entered into a fierce altercation with one of the leaders of this impromptu "meeting" and, reaching the highest degree of irritation, declared in the face of numerous witnesses that he would report all this monstrous matter through the head of the governor directly to Pharaoh.
Pevero was just waiting for this. He immediately brought to the attention of the governor about this incredible statement of Peser, who planned to violate the established chain of command. The vizier called a court and forced the ill-fated Peser to preside over it as a judge - he had to convict himself of perjury and plead guilty.
The court found them guilty; Peser's testimony was confirmed by facts, since among the tombs, the robbery of which was now officially recognized, there was one of those that Peser once spoke of.
At the same time, as far as this can be judged, this trial and a number of others were unable to stop the systematic, organized robbery of the Valley of the Kings. We know from the court verdicts that the tombs of Amenhotep III, Seti I, Ramses II were hacked. “In the dynasty that followed, attempts to guard the tombs seemed to have been abandoned altogether,” writes Carter, sketching a grim picture of the robbery incursions into the Valley of the Kings.
“This valley saw a lot of unusual things, and the events played out here were daring. You can imagine how plans are pondered over many days, how they are discussed at secret night meetings on a rock, how guards are bribed or soldered, how they dig intensely in the dark, hardly crawl through a narrow tunnel to the burial chamber, and then with a faint flicker the fire is frantically looking for jewels, such that they could take with them; in the early morning gloom, robbers return home with their spoils. We can imagine all this and at the same time understand how inevitable it was. After all, Pharaoh, taking care to bury his mummy in a dignified manner and in accordance with his dignity, thereby doomed her to death. The temptation was too great. The tombs contained treasures that surpassed even the wildest dreams, and in order to get them, it was only necessary to find a way. And the robbers sooner or later came to their goal."
However, the other picture worries even more. We talked so much about tomb robbers, about traitor priests, about bribe officials, about the corrupt fathers of the city, about this network of thieves that had engulfed almost all segments of the population - Petrie was the first to suspect its existence when he followed the trail of the robbers in the tomb of Amenemkhet. - that the reader could get the impression that in Egypt, especially during the 20th dynasty, there were no honest people at all, no believers who paid tribute to the memory of the deceased kings.
And meanwhile, at the very time when robbers under cover of night crept along some paths with their prey, small groups of people faithful to their duty sat in ambush on others. Willy-nilly, they had to use the methods of their opponents, albeit for directly opposite purposes. In order to successfully fight the robbers, it was necessary to get ahead of them - they fought against robberies with the help of robberies. This preventive war between the few remaining faithful priests and incorruptible officials against superbly organized thieves demanded even more preparation and even more secrecy than the actions of robbers.
Let us call on all the power of our imagination to help: we will hear a hot whisper, we will see the shaded light of a torch over an open sarcophagus and figures crouching for fear of being noticed. If they are caught, they themselves are not in danger: they are not doing anything reprehensible, but one look of a traitor - and the robbers will be aware that the remains of some king have been carried to a safe place and, thus, escaped from their hands. We must try to imagine the procession of the priests: together, at best three, they hurriedly follow the guard, one of the few remaining faithful to his duty, which shows them the way - they carry the embalmed remains of their dead kings. So these mummies are dragged from place to place to save them from the robbers. As soon as the priests learn of new conspiracies, they are forced to repeat their nocturnal forays again. Dead kings, whose mummies should have been in eternal rest, begin to travel!
Sometimes it happened differently, perhaps even in broad daylight: guards cordoned off the valley; with the help of porters and beasts of burden, the sarcophagus was transferred from an unreliable shelter to a new place, then soldiers appeared, and, perhaps, again many witnesses had to pay with their lives to keep the secret a secret.
Ramses III was transferred from one place to another three times. Yahmes, Amenhotep I, Thutmes II and even Ramses the Great travel. In the end, due to the lack of reliable shelters, the three of them end up in the same tomb. "In the 14th year of the third month of the second season of the year, on the 6th day, Osiris, the king of Usermar (Ramses II), was brought and buried in the tomb of Osiris, king Menmaatr (Seti I), by the high priest of Amun - Painojem."
But even here one cannot vouch for their safety: Seti I and Ramses II are placed in the grave of Queen Inkhapi. In the grave of Amenhotep II, there were at least thirteen royal mummies in the end. Others, at the first opportunity, were removed from their original burial sites or from the shelters where they were hidden, carried along a deserted, lonely path winding along the mountainside (it can be seen even now), from the Valley of the Kings and buried in a grave carved into the rocks of Deir al-Bahari, not far from the gigantic temple, which Queen Hatshepsut, the unfortunate co-ruler and sister of Thutmes III, began to build.
Here mummies lay undisturbed for three thousand years. The exact location of the burial was apparently forgotten; in this, probably, one of those accidents played a role, thanks to which, after the first, in general, superficial, robbery, the tomb of Tutankhamun remained undisturbed: for example, a heavy downpour, after which the entrance to a part of the valley was covered with clay. Another accident - a trip already in our day by an American collector to Luxor - we owe the fact that this colossal common tomb of the pharaohs was discovered in 1875 AD.
Excerpt from the book by K. Keram "Gods, tombs and scientists", 1994 St. Petersburg