Abu Simbel Abu Simbel is a set of two temples near the border of Egypt with Sudan. It was constructed for the pharaoh Ramesses II who reigned for 67 years during the 13th century BC (19th Dynasty). 320 kilometres from Aswan, is it the most beautiful and imaginative construction of the greatest and most whimsical pharaoh in Egyptian history. This temple is dedicated in theory to Amon-Ra, Harmakis and Ptah, but in practice it was constructed for the greater glory of its builder - Ramses the Great (Ramses II). The facade consists of four statues of the pharaoh seated on his throne and represent his advancing age with the youngest to the left as viewed from the front. Twice a year a ray of sunlight would penetrate the front entrance and 65 metres into the temple. This would illuminate three of the four statues in the shrine at the end - the fourth, Ptah - the God of darkness - would not be lit! When the Aswan dam was constructed this monument would have been submerged by the waters of the newly created Lake Nasser. A massive undertaking moved the entire temple 90 metres up and some way behind its original position. The smaller Temple of Hathor, dedicated to Nefertari, was also moved at the same time.
History Construction Construction of the temple complex started in approximately 1284 BC and lasted for circa 20 years, until 1264 BC. Known as the "Temple of Ramesses, beloved by Amun", it was one of six rock temples erected in Nubia during the long reign of Ramesses. Their purpose was to impress Egypt's southern neighbours, and also to reinforce the status of Egyptian religion in the region. One of the colossal statues of Ramesses II, wear the double crown of Lower and Upper Egypt. Rediscovery With the passing of time, the temples became covered by sand. Already in the 6th century BC, the sand covered the statues of the main temple up to their knees. The temple was forgotten until 1813, when Swiss orientalist JL Burckhardt found the top frieze of the main temple. Burckhardt talked about his discovery with Italian explorer Giovanni Belzoni, who travelled to the site, unable to dig out an entry to the temple. Belzoni returned in 1817, this time succeeding in his attempt to enter the complex. He took everything valuable and portable with him. Relocation 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, and cost some USD $80 million. Between 1964 and 1968, the entire site was cut into large blocks, dismantled and reassembled in a new location – 65 m higher and 200 m back from the river, in what many consider one of the greatest feats of archaeological engineering. Today, thousands of tourists visit the temples daily. Guarded convoys of buses and cars depart twice a day from Aswan, the nearest city. Many visitors also arrive by plane, at an airfield that was specially constructed for the temple complex.
A. Four gigantic statues of the seated king Ramses II, which form the impressive facade of the temple B. Entrance C. Large rock cut hall with eight massive pillars D. Second hall with four square pillars, decorated with religious and offering scenes E. Vestibule (probably for offerings) F Sanctuary with 4 statues of the gods Ptah, Amun-Ra, the deified Ramses II, and Re-Horakhte G.-K. Storerooms (probably), with images of the king offering to various gods L.-M. Chapels N. Stareway to the temple plateau
Great temple of Ramses II at Abou Simbel (Height 110 ft, width 127 ft.) The four colossi representing Ramses II (1290-1223 B.C) are about 67 ft. The entire work is 210 ft. in depth and hollowed out in the mountainside (Photo Unesco/Laurenza 1959) / Grand temple de Ramsès II à Abou Simbel (hauteur 33 m., largeur 38 m. ). Les quatre colosses représentant Ramsès II (1290-1223 avant J.-C.) ont une hauteur d'environ 20 m. L'ensemble dont la profondeur est de 63 m. est entièrement taillé dans le roc (Photo Unesco/Laurenza 1959) Abu Simbel In the past
UNESCO's project The temple was cut out of the sandstone cliffs above the Nile River in an area near the Second Cataract. When the High Dam was being constructed in the early 1960s, international cooperation assembled funds and technical expertise to move this temple to higher ground so that it would not be inundated by the waters of Lake Nasser To avoid the rising waters caused by the construction of the Aswan High Dam in the 1960s, the colossal statues of Ramses II and the temples were cut into 950 blocks and reassembled farther inland. The project, sponsored by UNESCO and funded by more than 50 nations, was completed in 1966.
The facade of the great temple of Ramses II has been covered with sand in order to protect the colossi during the dismantling operations. On the first rank, we observe a fence keeping away the water-flood. Behind the fence, entry of a tunnel allowing the access to the inside temple. On the top of the mountain, preparation of the futur site (Photo Unesco/Nenadovic 1965) / La façade du grand temple de Ramsès II a été recouverte de sable afin de protéger les sculptures durant le découpage des colosses. Au premier plan, on observe une palissade (batardeau) retenant l'inondation. Derrière cette palissade, entrée du tunnel permettant d'accéder à l'intérieur du temple. Au sommet de la montagne, travaux d'aménagement du futur site (PhotoUnesco Nenadovic 1965)
The head of one of the colossi of Ramses II, has been cut in two parts in order to move it toward the new site (Photo Unesco/Nenadovic 1965) / La tête d'un des colosses de Ramsès II vient d'être découpée en deux parties afin d'être transportée sur le nouveau site (Photo Unesco/Nenadovic 1965)
Final step of the dismantling of the colossi from the facade of the great temple (Photo Unesco/Nenadovic 1966) / Phase terminale du découpage des colosses de la façade du grand temple de Ramsès II (Photo Unesco/Nenadovic 1966) Detail of the foot of one colossus, allowing to evaluate the scale of the statue's proportions (Photo Unesco/Laurenza 1959)
Carriage of one osiriac pillar toward the new site of Abou Simbel. This pillar was inside the temple of Ramses II (Photo Unesco/Nenadovic 1966) / Transport vers le nouveau site d'un des piliers osiriaques qui se trouvait à l'intérieur du temple de Ramsès II (Photo Unesco/Nenadovic 1966) Preliminary preparations for the preservation of the two temples of Abou Simbel (Photo R. Keating 1964) / Préparation du chantier en vue du sauvetage des deux temples d'Abou Simbel (Photo R. Keating 1964) Abu Simbel, temple of Ramesses II: during the transfer operation (1964-1968).
Temples The complex consists of two temples. The larger one is dedicated to Ra-Harakhty, Ptah and Amun, Egypt's three state deities of the time, and features four large statues of Ramesses II in the facade. The smaller temple is dedicated to the goddess Hathor, personified by Nefertari, Ramesses's most beloved wife (in total, the pharaoh had some 200 wives and concubines). Abu Simbel Now
The Greater Temple The greater Abu Simbel temple is generally considered the grandest and most beautiful of the temples commissioned during the reign of Ramesses II, and one of the most beautiful in Egypt. The facade is 33 meters high, and 38 meters broad, and guarded by four statues, each of which is 20 meters high. They were sculptured directly from the rock in which the temple was located before it was moved. All statues represent Ramesses II, seated on a throne and wearing the double crown of Upper and Lower Egypt. The statue to the left of the entrance was damaged in an earthquake, leaving only the lower part of the statue still intact. The head and torso can still be seen at the statue's feet. One of the eight pillars in the main hall of the temple, showing Ramesses II as Osiris. Several smaller figures are situated at the feet of the four statues, depicting members of the pharaoh's family. They include his mother Tuya, Nefertari, and some of his sons and daughters. Above the entrance there is a statue of a falcon-headed Ra-Harakhte, with the pharaoh shown worshipping on both sides of him. Below the statue there is an ancient rebus, showing the prenomen or throne name of Ramesses: Waser-ma'at. The facade is topped by a row of 22 baboons, their arms raised in the air, supposedly worshipping the rising sun. Another notable feature of the facade is a stele which records the marriage of Ramesses with a daughter of king Hattusili III, which sealed the peace between Egypt and the Hittites. The inner part of the temple has the same triangular layout that most ancient Egyptian temples follow, with rooms decreasing in size from the entrance to the sanctuary. The first hall of the temple features eight statues of the deified Rameses II in the shape of Osiris, serving as pillars. The walls depict scenes of Egyptian victories in Libya, Syria and Nubia, including images from the Battle of Kadesh. The second hall depicts Ramesses and Nefertari with the sacred boats of Amun and Ra-Horakthy. The sanctuary contains four seated statues of Ra-Horakhty, Ptah, Amun and Ramesses. The temple was constructed in such a way that the sun shines directly on all four statues during two days of the year, February 20 and October 20. These dates are allegedly the king's birthday and coronation day respectively, but there is no evidence to support this. Due to the displacement of the temple, it is widely believed that this event now occurs one day later than it did originally.
The Smaller Abu Simbel Temple The Smaller Abu Simbel Temple is located north of the Greater Temple. It was carved in the rock by Ramesses II and dedicated to Hathor, the goddess of love and beauty, and also to his favorite wife, Nefertari, for "whose sake the very sun doeth shine." The façade is adorned by six statues, four of Ramesses II and two of Nefertari. Most unusually, the six are the same height, which indicates the esteem in which Nefertari was held. The entrance leads to a hall containing six pillars bearing the head of the goddess Hathor. The eastern wall bears inscriptions depicting Ramesses II striking the enemy before Ra-Harakhte and Amun-Ra. Other wall scenes show Rameses II and Nefertari offering sacrifices to the gods. Beyond this hall, there is another wall with similar scenes and paintings. In the farthest depths of the temple is the holy of holies, where a statue of the goddess Hathor stands. This is, indeed, a most awesome sight to the visitor; for here he finds the greatest artificial dome that bears the man-made mountain behind the Temples of Abu Simbel. It shows the great work of Ramesses II.
Twice a year a ray of sunlight would penetrate the front entrance and 65 metres into the temple. This would illuminate three of the four statues in the shrine at the end - the fourth, Ptah - the God of darkness - would not be lit!