Page:Philosophical Transactions - Volume 145.djvu/136

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.



to endeavour to find some one resident in Cairo who might be capable of conducting the contemplated operations, explaining my views to him in the following terms:—

"I am anxious to investigate in a more satisfactory manner than has yet been done, the frequently agitated question, how far the sedimentary deposits of the Nile afford a chronometric scale that will carry us back beyond what may be termed the known zero of authentic historical time. There is every reason to believe, that, reckoning from century to century, the average increments of the deposits are pretty regular, due care being taken to make the observations in a part of Egypt where there is not likely to exist any abnormal state of the solid contents held in suspension in the Nile water, from the breaking down of a part of its banks. But I have not been able to discover that any borings have been made with much care since those by the French in Upper Egypt in 1799 and those recently at the Barrage of the Nile by Mougel Bey. What is wanted is this: to have a pit sunk in a situation where the Nile deposit has accumulated over or close to some of the most ancient works of art known to exist, and the date of the foundation of which is known with tolerable certainty, such as the Obelisk at Heliopolis; the strata in such a pit being regularly marked as to their several thickness and their composition, and specimens of each variety being taken. This being done, to the lowest part of the foundation of the monument, the excavation to be continued as far downwards as any sediment is found having the known characters of the Nile deposit, carefully noting the dimensions of the several layers gone through below the lowest part of the artificial structure, or foundation of the same. Such an examination could not be carried on with trustworthy value except by or under the immediate superintendence of some one capable of directing it, and of ensuring accuracy in all the successive excavations."

Mr. Harris applied to his friend Hekekyan Bey, an Armenian gentleman resident in Cairo, who had been educated and long resident in England, and who, as a Civil Engineer, had occupied some important positions in the service of the Viceroy Mehemet Ali, especially as Chief of the Polytechnic School in Cairo. Hekekyan Bey most readily accepted the proposal, evincing an earnest desire to be employed in a scientific inquiry of this nature. How fortunate I have been in obtaining such valuable cooperation will fully appear in the sequel. But nothing could be done without the previous consent of the then Viceroy Abbas Pacha, the more especially as the spot where I wished the excavation to be made, close to the Obelisk of Heliopolis, is in a garden belonging to the Pacha, into which the site of the renowned city has been converted. Through the active intervention of the Hon. Charles Augustus Murray, at that time Her Majesty's Agent and Consul-General in Egypt, and who, during the remainder of his stay in the country, took a warm interest in the inquiry, and continued to give me his powerful support, the consent of the Viceroy was obtained. His Highness not only acceded to the request, but directed his ministers to place at the disposal of Hekekyan Bey, whom he appointed to conduct the opera-