Viewing Cailliaud’s engravings of the pyramids of Meroe at the Biodiversity Heritage Library

The first modern visitor to the pyramids of the black pharaohs at Meroe was the 18th century Scotsman, James Bruce.  In 1821 the ruler of Egypt, Mohammed Ali, sent a huge army up the Nile and occupied the Sudan.

The next visitor, therefore, was the Frenchman Frédéric Cailliaud, who marched with the army.  Cailliaud wrote an account in 4 volumes, with a larger 2 volume Atlas of engravings. I was unable to access the latter when I wrote about him here.

But a kind correspondent has drawn my attention to the fact that the two volumes of the Atlas are indeed online at the Biodiversity Heritage Library, here and here.

I find that a PDF can be downloaded of each.  Unfortunately these are locked; but it is still vastly easier to scan through the volumes this way, than online.  JPGs of the pages are also available, but it is a 3Gb download, served at a miserable 400kbs.  My rather nice 60mbs broadband is therefore effectively throttled; and IE says it will take two and half hours to download.

However you can select pages online, and request a PDF of them be created, for you to download.  This I did, for 30-odd pages, and … the generated PDF is not locked!  That means that we can view some of them together.

The original image sizes are good, high resolution, which means that on-screen the engravings are, quite frankly, imposing.  The ones in the PDF that is generated are much lower, but still usable.

The Meroe pyramids are not listed under that name, but rather under the name of the nearby town of Assour.  They begin at plate 31, with a map of the whole area, with the pyramid fields – “Pyramides principales” at the lower right.  Plate 32 is a map of the ruined pyramids close to the Nile – these presumably are the western cemetery, and plate 33 is a depiction of the view.  Plate 34 is plans and elevations of these pyramids.

Plate 35 is a map of the main pyramid fields, north and south.  Here it is:

Plate 35: the principal pyramids of Meroe. 1821. Frederic Cailliaud.

Plate 36 is an imposing view of the north pyramids from the north-east:

Plate 36. F. Cailliaud. The North Pyramids at Meroe, from the NE

Plate 37 is the same prospect from the South East.  The pyramids at this time still had their tops, not yet blown off by gunpowder.

Plate 37. F. Caillaud. The north pyramids of Meroe, from the SE. 1821.

But there are very many further engravings, plans and elevations, as far as plate 46; and then engravings of the pyramids of Nuri, ancient Napata, where is the pyramid of the Black Pharaoh Taharqa, once ruler of Egypt and Nubia; and then more at Gebel Barkal.

I won’t reproduce them all.  But I will attach a PDF of the Meroe ones here:

I’ve rotated the pages so that you can view them easier on screen.  Well worth downloading – enjoy!


2 thoughts on “Viewing Cailliaud’s engravings of the pyramids of Meroe at the Biodiversity Heritage Library

  1. When I first encountered the Biodiversity Heritage Library, I suspected that it may be simply linking to images hosted at the Internet Archive because many of the digitized books there have a similar background colour. I didn’t look further into it until I read this blog entry. Upon closer inspection, I discovered that when one clicks the “Download Contents” menu on the Biodiversity Library, there is an option that says “View at Internet Archive.” For the sake of convenience, here are the Internet Archive links to these two atlas volumes. Hopefully this will be easier to work with. At least the downloadable PDF files hosted on the Archive are far more compact.

  2. Thank you very much for these links. It looks as if they have contributed a version to as well; the file names suggest it. I think the full size versions at Biodiversity are valuable to have. (The jpg tar files did download ok after a couple of hours).

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