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Monday, November 22, 2010

Temples at Abu Simbel

Abu Simbel just above the Sudanese border

When a new larger dam was built by the Egyptians and Russians in Aswan in the 1960s it was clear than many archeological treasures would be lost as the waters rose in the new Lake Nasser.  A global collection was taken up and with $40 million contributed by many nations, UNESCO organized a multinational team of archeologists, engineers, and heavy equipment operators to move some, but not all of the drowning temples.  The most famous of these were the two Temples of Abu Simbel.

 approach from the lake...

Over four years (1964-1968), the temple was carefully deconstructed, cut into large 20-30 ton blocks, dismantled, and moved to its new location 65 meters higher and 200 meters back from the river.  The undertaking is widely considered to be one of the greatest archaeological engineering feats in history.  In appreciation of help from the U.S. the Egyptian government later gave the New York Metropolitan Museum the Temple of Dendur which was also saved from the rising waters.

A great pic (from wikipedia) showing a model of the old (under water) and new locations of the temples.

The face of the second Ramesses fell off in an ancient earthquake.  The decision was made to leave it as it had fallen although some repairs were made to other parts of the statues as can be seen below.

The complex consists of two temples; the larger one (above) dedicated to three of Egypt's gods of the time, Ra-Harakhty, Ptah, and Amun, and featuring four large statues of Ramesses II guarding the entrance to both the temple and Egypt (don't even think about trying to invade oh Nubians of the south!  I will crush you with my superior might and godliness).  The smaller temple is dedicated to the goddess Hathor and Nefertari, most favored wife of Ramesses. 

The temple of Nefartari (if you click to enlarge you can see all the "cutting lines" of the blocks).


 The insides of the temples are amazing, seemingly acres of wall covered with carved and painted hieroglyphics and bas-reliefs telling the stories of Ramesses' exploits and accomplishments.  Unfortunately, no photography.  And, if you ever happen to be in Abu Simbel, I highly recommend the light show, unlike the one at Giza which is cheeeeezy....

Next, how I got here....the totally awesome boat M. S. Eugenie.