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Fascinating Places: The Temples of Abu Simbel

by Bren Parks on 13/01/09 at 1:48 am

This incredible archaeological treasure is Ramses II’s tribute to the sun god Ra. The colossal statues of the pharaoh depict him upon his throne wearing his double crown of Upper and Lower Egypt and sporting a royal beard. Incredibly, these marvelous temples were the source of an international controversy in the 1970s.

The Temples of Abu Simbel recall the era of Ramses II and can truly be considered one of the wonders of the ancient world. Constructed in Egypt by the pharaoh and his wife Nefertiti in 1250 BCE, they were literally carved out of the sandstone cliffs, much like the Ancient City of Petra.

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In 1956, the Egyptian government decided to build a dam on the Nile River in order to control the rising levels of the great waterway that is the nation’s life blood. The dam would help cultivate the surrounding arid land and generate electricity.

It also meant that the ancient temples situated along the river would be flooded by a giant lake approximately 310 miles in length.

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Realizing the threat, the entire world mobilized and a coalition of fifty countries (including Italy, the United States, Great Britain and France) allied to save these great temples.

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Alhough many of the temples could be dismantled and transported without difficulty, the two at Abu Simbel were partly built into the sandstone cliffs, making a viable displacement plan almost impossible without destroying them.

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These marvelous and imposing statues are masterpieces of pharaoh art and therefore had to be preserved. The largest of the statues are four statues, standing sixty five feet high, depicting Ramses II standing guard over the entrance.

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Scaffolding and cranes were used to build a mound of concrete with identical proportions to those of the sandstone containing the temples. The sculpted rock was then cut and then each stone was carefully numbered in order to ensure accurate reconstruction.

It took a total of just eight years of hard work to save the Abu Simbel temples from the rising waters. This goal was achieved in the nick of time just before the opening of the dam. Ironically the project was considered equal in difficulty to their original construction.

Other articles by Bren Parks include:

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21 Comments

denus

Jan 13th, 2009

Really great read.

enjoyed it.

cheers,

denus

Jojo Skeene

Jan 13th, 2009

I could sense that u love traveling , ehh? Those were nice pictures and so historical!

Glynis Smy

Jan 13th, 2009

Spectacular! I can take a day trip to see them from here, oneday we will go,especially now I have read this great article.

Dendro Azures

Jan 13th, 2009

Amazing, I had no idea this had to be done. Thanks for sharing.

postpunkpixie

Jan 13th, 2009

Gah I just finish my dissertation on Egyptian amulets and then you post this! lol. You missed the early Greek graffiti in Linear B on on of the statue’s legs though!

Jenny Heart

Jan 13th, 2009

Wonderful information! Great pictures!

lindalulu

Jan 13th, 2009

Great information Bren. I have always wanted to visit there.

s hayes

Jan 13th, 2009

fantastic article – very interesting place – on my travel wish list

writingares

Jan 13th, 2009

sounds interesting. lol i was sort of kind of into eyptian things but i still dont know to spell it eyptian =
nice article hope you make more

M Ashley

Jan 13th, 2009

Awesome. Awesome. Awesome. Thanks for sharing.

rutherfranc

Jan 13th, 2009

I feel like I`m watching “The Mummy V”…

derrickblogs

Jan 15th, 2009

This is a nice article, I gotta do some more reading concerning these issues because some people never take the time to read about history how will you know where your going unless you read about history and the facts.

This is why they have a lot of articles like this I really enjoyed reading and looking at those pictures, this reminds me of history channel.

Stacey T Pollock

Feb 16th, 2009

I saw a documentary on the moving of the temple and all the work that went into it. It was very interesting to watch. It is a good thing that they keep the temple from flooding.

Bill M. Tracer

May 23rd, 2009

I remember as a child seeing my first pictures of Abu Simbel in an issue of National Geographic that told all about that great move of the entire temple, because of that dam they built on the Nile. That issue had a great photo spread, and showed the whole process of them carving up the statues and moving them up. Thanks, Bren, for bringing back those memories.

The Quail

May 24th, 2009

Awesome article my friend.

Don

May 24th, 2009

Another great read just like all your work, thanks.

DA Cournean

May 25th, 2009

Great article Bren. Egypt has always been of interest to me. Not sure why exactly…

Katien

May 25th, 2009

Very interesting article. I’d never heard of this.

Knightvolt

May 26th, 2009

I enjoyed this article for I found it to interesting on length of time involved to save the Temples in Egypt.

Taffy

May 26th, 2009

I want to go!

Anne McNew

May 30th, 2009

thanks for the quick tour. it was very informative

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