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wonders, indeed, of ancient Asia are yet but partially re vealed. While we write, her long buried and forgotten ruins are being explored, and, for centuries to come, it seems probable that fresh discoveries shall continue to be made, serving as new revelations of elder history and fresh confirmation of the fulfilment of prophecy and the truth of Scripture.
Time's gnomons rising on the banks of Nile,
Tue records of sacred history establish the priority of the kingdoms and cities of Babel and Assur among the earliest of earth's recorded empires. History, however,
. preserves to us a far more ample narrative of the early annals of Egypt than of either of the first Asiatic empires, while the vast pyramids and imperishable monuments along the valley of the Nile have preserved records of ancient times, which are now being decyphered and translated, and converted into new materials of history.
It may naturally excite surprise that the remotest evidences of civilization should be discovered on the African continent. All writers, however, who have investigated the subject, agree in assigning a Semitic origin to the ancient Egyptians. Their features, their language, and many of their peculiarities, clearly point to their complete affinity with the Asiatic rather than with the African Negro race. The formation of the skulls of mummies found in the catacombs no less distinctly exhibit the characteristics of the Caucasian variety, which so remarkably contrasts with all the cranial developments of the true African race. We are left to conjecture in assigning that remote period during the infancy of nations, when the first Asiatic colony settled on the banks of the Nile. It is sufficient, however, to know that, from the ascertained dates of its early history, there can be no doubt Egypt was one of the first countries brought under a fixed social and political system, and where an associated community successfully pursued the arts of civilization. It has even been suggested that Egypt may have owed its origin to a detachment from the Noaick race, peaceably departing from the first home of the postdiluvian race, or wandering by chance into the fertile valley of the Nile, prior to the ambitious plans of the Babel builders in the plain of Shinar, and the violent dispersion of the human race, amid the astonishing confusion of tongues.
But the most remarkable features of ancient Egypt are its vast and durable monuments, pertaining to periods, the earliest dates of which are still subject to uncertainty and discussion. As a civilized people there seems every reason for regarding the claim of the Egyptians to priority as well founded. The elaborate and learned researches of Major Rawlinson and others into the Assyrian antiquities, it has been seen from the relations of previous chapters, tend, as yet, in no degree to establish any priority of Asiatic over African civilization; nor has such a view been thought in any way inimical to the description of
the sacred narrative, by the ablest Biblical critics. “No nation,” says Dr. Keith, “whether of ancient or modern times, has ever erected such great and durable monuments. While the vestiges of other ancient monarchies can hardly be found amidst the mouldering ruins of their cities, those artificial mountains, visible at the distance of thirty miles, the pyramids of Egypt, without a record of their date, have withstood, unimpaired, all the ravages of time. The dynasty of Egypt takes precedence, in antiquity, of every other. No country ever produced so long a catalogue of kings. The learning of the Egyptians was proverbial. The number of their cities, and the population of their country, as recorded by ancient historians, almost surpass credibility. Nature and art united in rendering it a most fertile region. It was called the granary of the world.”
Were it not that long familiarity with the monuments of Egypt has prevented their astonishing magnificence and durability from being felt to their full extent by most men, it would be regarded as a subject of never lessening wonder, that, along the banks of the African Nile, and amid the barren sands still stand the enduring monuments of the world's earliest civilization. It would almost seem as if the locality wherein civilization and arts, and a written language, should be first developed, had been specially chosen as that wherein its fruits would longest endure; while as if to carry out still further the same preconceived design, the vast plains of Egypt tempted the builders to the erection of such enduring pyramids and huge monolithic temples as no natives of a hill country would ever attempt. But it is the inscriptions of the Egyptian monuments which form the real source of their interest and value. There, amid the strange scenery of the Nile valley, still stand the temples and palaces of an empire wliose native dynasty had passed away, while the banks of the Tiber bore only their marshy reeds; and yet we can now read on their columns and obelisks the records of their earliest dynasties, back even to that remote era where truth and fable seem to mingle, and the philosophic historian turns in doubt from the written records of a founder whose era seems to precede that of our earth.
We have considered, in the previous chapters, the remarkably interesting investigations now making by some of our ablest scholars, into the records of ancient Assyrian empire, as contained in the remarkable cuneiform inscriptions of Babylon, Nineveh, Koyunjik, Nimroud, and other ancient seats of Asiatic empire. But it was the arduous and successful investigations of Young, Champollion, and other European scholars, into the hieroglyphic records on the Egyptian monuments which paved the way for these latter discoveries, and rendered them comparatively easy. The mystery which for so many ages had hung over the engraven records of Egypt had indeed sufficed to clothe them with an exaggerated value. It was believed that the hieroglyphic inscriptions on the Egyptian monuments included a complete record of all early science, nor was it doubted by many that they embodied numerous truths long lost to the world. Could the secret of their characters be recovered, it was anticipated that they would be found to contain a summary of the most important mysteries of nature, and the rudiments of knowledge partially indicated in the most valued heirlooms of Grecian and Roman learning. The Christian looked to find in their records new illustrations of the sacred writings and fresh proofs of their truth; while the sceptic was not without a secret hope that the evidences of a civilization far older and more complete than the Mosaic history allows, and of a mythology and philosophic creed embodying doctrines hitherto believed to be of comparatively recent origin, and of direct Divine annunciation, would enable him to combat, with new weapons, the advocates