Horneman was anxious to explore some ruins which he had noticed, for he could obtain little information from the natives. But every time he penetrated to any distance in the ruins, he was followed by a number of the inhabitants, who prevented him from examining anything in detail. One of the Arabs said to him, "You must still be a Christian at heart, or you would not so often visit the works of the infidels."
This remark put a speedy end to Horneman's further explorations. As far as his superficial examination enabled him to judge, it was really the oasis of Ammon, and the ruins appeared to him to be of Egyptian origin.
The immense number of catacombs in the neighbourhood of the town, especially on the hill overlooking it, indicate a dense population in ancient times. The traveller endeavoured vainly to obtain a perfect head from one of these burial-places. Amongst the skulls he procured, he found no certain proof that they had been filled with resin. He met with many fragments of clothing, but they were all in such a state of decay that it was impossible to decide upon their origin or use.
After a stay of eight days in this place, Horneman crossed the mountains which surrounded the oasis of Siwah, and directed his steps towards Schiatah. So far no misfortune had interrupted his progress. But at Schiatah he was denounced as a Christian and a spy. Horneman cleverly saved his life by boldly reading out a passage in the Koran which he had in his possession. Unfortunately, his interpreter, expecting that his baggage would be searched, had burned the collection of fragments of mummies, the botanical specimens, the journal containing the account of the journey, and all the books. This loss was quite irreparable.
A little further on, the caravan reached Augila, a town mentioned by Herodotus, who places it some ten days' journey from the oasis of Ammon. This accords with the testimony given by Horneman, who reached it in nine days' forced march. At Augila a number of merchants from Bengasi, Merote, and Mokamba had joined the caravan, amounting altogether to no less than a hundred and twenty persons. After a long journey over a sandy desert, the caravan entered a country interspersed with hills and ravines, where they found trees and grass at intervals. This was the desert of Harutsch. It was necessary to cross it in order to reach Temissa, a town of little note, built upon a hill, and surrounded by a high wall. At Zuila the Fezzan country was entered. The usual ceremonies, with interminable compliments and congratulations, were repeated at the entrance to every town. The Arabs appear to lay great stress upon these salutations, little trustworthy as they are, and travellers constantly express surprise at their frequent recurrence.
Upon the 17th of November, the caravan halted at Murzuk, the capital of Fezzan. It was the end of the journey. Horneman says that the greatest length of the cultivated portion of Fezzan is about three hundred miles from north to south, but to this must be added the mountainous region of Harutsch on the east, and the various deserts north and west. The climate is never pleasant; in summer the heat is terrible, and when the wind blows from the south, it is all but insupportable, even to the natives, and in winter the north wind is so cold that they are obliged to have recourse to fires.
The produce of the country consists principally of dates and vegetables. Murzuk is the chief market; there are collected the products of Cairo, Bengazi, Tripoli, Ghâdames, Ghât, and the Soudan. Among the articles of commerce are male and female slaves, ostrich feathers, skins of wild beasts, and gold-dust or nuggets. Bornu produces copper; Cairo silks, calicoes, woollen garments, imitation coral, bracelets, and Indian manufactures. Fire-arms, sabres, and knives are imported by the merchants of Tripoli and Ghâdames.
The Fezzan country is ruled by a sultan descended from the scherifs, whose power is limitless, but who, nevertheless, pays a tribute of four thousand dollars to the Bey of Tripoli. Horneman, without giving the grounds of his calculation, informs us that the population amounts to seventy-five thousand inhabitants, all of whom profess Mohammedanism.
Horneman's narrative gives a few more details of the manners and customs of the people. He ends his report to the African Society by saying that he proposes visiting Fezzan again in the hope of obtaining new facts.
We learn, further, that Frendenburg, Horneman's faithful associate, died at Murzuk. Attacked by a violent fever, Horneman was forced to remain much longer than he desired in that town. While still only partially recovered, he went to Tripoli for change and rest, hoping there to meet with Europeans. Upon the 1st of December, 1799, he returned to Murzuk, and left it finally with a caravan upon the 7th of April, 1800. He was irresistibly attracted towards Bornu, and perished in that country, which was to claim so many victims.
During the eighteenth century, Africa was literally besieged by travellers. Explorers endeavoured to penetrate into it from every side. More than one succeeded in reaching the interior, only to meet with repulse or death. The discovery of the secrets of this mysterious continent was reserved for our own age, when the unexpected fertility of its resources has astonished the civilized world.
The facts relating to the coast of Senegal needed confirmation, but the French superiority was no longer undisputed. The English, with their earnest and enterprising character, were convinced of its importance in the development of their commerce, and determined upon its exploration. But before proceeding to the narrative of the adventures of Major Houghton and Mungo Park, we will devote a small space to the record of the work done by the French naturalist, Michel Adanson.