John Baptist Belzoni
After examining the extensive ruins of Medinet Aboo, which he describes best worthy the attention of the traveler of any on the west of Thebes,' and penetrating into several tombs which he discovered in the valley of Beban el Malook, Belzoni returned to Luxor with the intention of putting on board the colossal head, which, after many impediments, he effected on the 17th of November. On the 15th of December he arrived at Cairo, with the bust and other antiquities; the latter of which he left, according to the instructions of Mr. Salt, at the consulate, and with the former, departed for Alexandria, where he saw it safely deposited in a British transport. Having accomplished this important object, he proceeded to resume his operations at the Temple of Ybsambul, stopping on his way thither at Thebes, where he found the agents of Mr. Drouetti in the act of completing many of the excavations he had begun, and removing several statues and sphinxes from the ruins. With some difficulty our traveler procured sufficient workmen to pursue his excavations at Carnak, where he discovered a magnificent temple, dedicated to the great God of the creation; on entering which, he says, my mind was impressed with ideas of such solemnity, that for some time I was unconscious whether I were on terrestial ground, or in some other planet.'
From Carnak he again proceeded to Gornou, a tract of rocks two miles in length, and formerly the burial place of the city of Thebes; of which subterranean abodes, the most wonderful in the world, he thus speaks In some places there is not more than a vacancy of a foot left, which you must contrive to pass through in a creeping posture, like a snail, on pointed and keen stones, that cut like glass. Once I was conducted from such a place to another resembling it, through a passage of about two feet in length, and no wider than a body could be forced through. It was choked with mummies, and I could not pass without putting my face in contact with that of some decayed Egyptian; but as the passage inclined downwards, my own weight helped me on, however, I could not avoid being covered with bones, legs, arms, and heads rolling from above; at the same time my throat and nose were choked with dust; but, though fortunately I am destitute of the sense of smelling, I could taste that the mummies were rather unpleasant to swallow.' After collecting several papyri from the shrouds of the mummies, and purchasing a pair of beautiful brazen vessels, which he describes as two of the finest articles of metallic com position, that ever were to be found in Egypt,' he returned to Carnak, where, among other discoveries, he dug up, and sent to England, a colossal head of red granite, still larger than that of the younger Memnon. About this time he was joined by Captains Mangles and Irby, with whose assistance he succeeded in entering the temple at Ybsambul, which he found to be one hundred and seventeen feet wide, and eighty-six feet high, and enriched with beautiful intaglios, paintings, colossal figures, etc.' His next and most important discovery was in the valley of Beban el Malook, of a vast and magnificent tomb, described by him as a new and perfect monument of Egyptian antiquity, which can be recorded as superior to any other in point of grandeur, style, and preservation.' Speaking of the day on which he discovered this tomb, he says, I may call it one of the best, perhaps, of my life; it led me to the fortunate spot which has paid me for all the trouble I took in my researches.'
On his return to Cairo, he was much annoyed to hear that the credit of the discoveries he had made had been usurped by others, who had been announced, by name, in the English journals, as the means of bringing to light the principal temples which he had so long been employed in excavating. Accordingly he resolved, in future, to keep his operations as secret as possible; and with this view, went alone, to inspect the second great pyramid of Ghizeh, that enormous mass which, for so many ages, has baffled the conjectures of ancient and modern writers;' and which, whether one solid mass, or possessing any cavity in the interior, no one had yet been able to ascertain. Notwithstanding, however, the difficulty of the attempt, and the uncertainty of success, he resolved on making an effort to discover an entrance to the tomb; a project for the undertaking of which, £20,000 had been considered by Mr. Drouetti necessary, while Belzoni determined to begin it with the small sum of £200, all he, at that moment, possessed. Having procured the requisite number of workmen, he commenced his operations, and after a month's labor, to his inexpressible delight, found a passage, and penetrated into the centre of the pyramid. So unsuccessful, however, were his attempts at first, that those who came to see him at work, ridiculed the idea of his proceeding further, and the Count de Forbin, says Belzoni, requested, in a kind of sarcastic manner, when I had succeeded in opening the pyramid, (which, no doubt, he supposed I never would,) that I would send him a plan of it.' Accordingly Belzoni sent it to the count, who taking advantage of the opportunity, on his arrival in Paris, caused it to be published in the newspapers, that he himself had penetrated into the pyramid, and produced the plan as an evidence.