The Temples of Abu Simbel in Aswan

The Temples of Abu Simbel

About the Temples of Abu Simbel

The Temples of Abu Simbel _ the most famous rock-cut temples which are located near the modern village of Abu Simbel, at the Second Nile Cataract, the border between Lower Nubia and Upper Nubia. There are two temples, the Great Temple, dedicated to Ramses II himself, and the Small Temple, dedicated to his wife Queen Amun-her-khepeshef.

The Location of the Temples of Abu Simbel

The Abu Simbel temples are two massive rock temples at the Nubian village of Abu Simbel, Aswan governorate, Egypt. They are situated on the western bank of Lake Nasser, about 230 km southwest of Aswan.

The history of the Temples of Abu Simbel

Abu Simbel temples during ancient Egypt

The twin temples were originally carved out of the mountainside in the 13th century BC, during the 19th dynasty reign of the Pharaoh Ramses II. During his reign, Ramses II built several grand temples, in Nubia, in order to impress upon the Nubians Egypt’s might and to secure source of gold and many other precious trade goods.

The construction of the temple complex started in approximately 1264 BC and lasted for about 20 years, until 1244 BC. It was known as the “Temple of Ramses, beloved by Amun”.

Abu Simbel temples after the 5th century AD

With the prohibition of worshiping ancient deities in Egypt, the temples fell into disuse and eventually became covered by sand. By the 6th century AD, the sand already covered the statues of the main temple up to their knees. The temple was forgotten until 1813, when Jean-Louis Burckhardt found the top frieze of the main temple. Burckhardt talked about his discovery with Italian explorer Giovanni Belzoni, who travelled to the site, but was unable to dig out an entry to the temple. Belzoni returned in 1817, this time succeeding in his attempt to enter the complex.

After the building of the Aswan High Dam on the Nile River, The relocation of the temples was necessary or they would have been submerged during the creation of Lake Nasser, the massive artificial water reservoir formed behind that Dam.

In 1959, an international donations campaign to save the monuments of Nubia began: the southernmost relics of this ancient human civilization were under threat from the rising waters of the Nile that were about to result from the construction of the Aswan High Dam.

The salvage of the Abu Simbel temples began in 1964 by a multinational team of archeologists, engineers and skilled heavy equipment operators working together under the UNESCO banner; it cost some US$40 million at the time. Between 1964 and 1968, the entire site was carefully cut into large blocks (up to 30 tons, averaging 20 tons), dismantled, lifted and reassembled in a new location 65 metres higher and 200 metres back from the river, in one of the greatest challenges of archaeological engineering in history.Some structures were even saved from under the waters of Lake Nasser.

The complex was relocated in its entirety in 1968 under the supervision of a Polish archaeologist, Kazimierz Michałowski, on an artificial hill made from a domed structure, high above the Aswan High Dam reservoir.

The collapsed colossus of the Great Temple supposedly fell during an earthquake shortly after its construction. On moving the temple, it was decided to leave it as the face is missing.

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