Egyptology, Oriental Travel And Discovery -- By: Joseph P. Thompson

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 021:82 (Apr 1864)
Article: Egyptology, Oriental Travel And Discovery
Author: Joseph P. Thompson


Egyptology, Oriental Travel And Discovery

Joseph P. Thompson

The great event of the year 1863, in the department to which these pages are devoted, was the discovery of the source of the White Nile, in the equatorial lake Victoria N’yanza.1 The geographical problem of centuries approaches its solution; the proverb Nili quaerere caput has lost its point. This discovery confirms substantially the guesses and traditions concerning the lake region of inner Africa, which have come down from a remote antiquity; confirms the almost discarded report of the snowy mountains of the moon; and also confirms in the main the geological hypothesis advanced by Sir Roderic Murchison in 1852, that “the whole African interior is a vast watery plateau-land of some elevation above the sea,” — “a net-work of lakes and rivers,” discharging themselves, by transverse gorges, through the loftier mountains of the coast-lines. This hypothesis was suggested before Dr. Livingstone had traced the course of the Zambesi; and when, in 1858, Captain Speke reported his famous discovery of the Victoria N’yanza, Sir Roderic expanded his hypothesis with regard to the outlets of the “central reservoirs “of the continent, so as to allow of a possible connection between this reservoir and the Nile. “If the great N’yanza shall really be found to flow into the White Nile, it is simply because there is no great eastern transverse fracture, like that of the Zambesi, by which the waters can escape; so that, subtended on that flank by lofty and continuous mountains, the stream has no course open to it but northwards.” It was largely due to the enlightened zeal of Murchison that the discoverer of the Victoria N’yanza was enabled to verify his own confident belief that this vast inland sea “gave birth to that interesting river, the source of which has been the subject of so much speculation, and the object of so many explorers.”2

Before giving the details of captain Speke’s discovery, and in order that we may measure its exact scientific value, it is well to remind ourselves of the state of the Nile question previous to his first expedition with Burton. “Of the sources of the Nile no one can give any account,” was the despairing conclusion of Herodotus, after a careful digest of all the opinions upon this point that were brought to his knowledge in Egypt.3 Strabo

compiled, from Egyptian sources, an imperfect account of the Astaboras or Atbara (Taeazze) and of the junction of the Astapus (Bahhr el Azrek or Blue Nile) and the Astasobas (Bahhr el Abiad ...

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