The Temples of Abu Simbel are the most famous rock-cut temples in Egypt. These temples exist near the modern village of Abu Simbel, at the Second Nile Cataract. In other words, it lies at the border between Lower and Upper Nubia. There are two of them: The Great Temple belongs to Ramses II, while he dedicated the Small Temple to his wife, Queen Amun-her-Khepeshef.
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. In other words, these temples stand on the western bank of Lake Nasser, about 230 km southwest of Aswan.
History of the Temples of Ramses II at Abu Simbel
The Ancient Egyptians carved out the twin temples of Abu Simbel out of the mountainside in the 13th century BC. In other words, they built it during the 19th dynasty reign of the Pharaoh Ramses II. During his reign, Ramses II built several grand temples in Nubia. Politically, Ramses II did this to impress upon Nubian Egypt’s might. Thus, he can secure the mines 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. They named it “Temple of Ramses, beloved by Amun during ancient Egypt.”
Abu Simbel temples after the 5th century AD
After the Aswan High Dam building on the Nile River, the relocation of the temples was reasonably necessary. A massive artificial water reservoir was about to form behind that Dam – Lake Nasser. Otherwise, the rising waters of Lake Nasser would submerge them. Therefore, they moved these twin temples before the creation of this lake.
Rescue of the Temples
In 1959, an international donations campaign to save the monuments of Nubia began. Indeed, the southernmost relics of this ancient human civilisation were under threat. The waters were rising behind the Aswan High Dam.
The rescue of the Abu Simbel temples began in 1964 by a multinational team of archaeologists, engineers and experienced heavy equipment operators. This team worked together under the UNESCO flag. At that time, it cost about USD 40 million. Between 1964 and 1968, engineers carefully cut the entire site into large blocks (up to 30 tons, on average 20 tons). Then they dismantled and raised it. Finally, they reassembled in a new location at 65 meters and 200 meters from the river. Indeed, it was one of the biggest dilemmas of archaeological engineering in history. Archaeologists saved some structures even from under the waters of Lake Nasser.
In 1968, Polish archaeologist Kazimierz Michalovski migrated the complex entirely to an artificial hill. This hill was a domed structure standing high above the Aswan Dam reservoir.
The collapsed colossus of the Great Temple supposedly fell during an earthquake shortly after its construction. Therefore, when moving the temple, the engineers decided to leave it. Also, its face is missing.