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 Location: Lake Nasser, Egypt.  Grid Reference: 24� 24' 00" N, 33� 01' 00" E


      Abu Simbel: (Rock-cut Temples).

Two massive rock-cut temples on the western bank of lake Nasser in the reign of Ramasses II.

Dedicated to Rameses II and his wife Nefertari.

The whole complex was taken apart piece by piece and moved further uphill in the 1960's, following the development of the Aswan Dam.


(Click here for Map of site)



   Abu Simbel: (Temple of Ramesses)

('Hwt Ramesses Meryamun', 'Temple of Ramesses, beloved of Amun', 'Nubian Mountains')

The 'Great Temple' at Abu Simbel, was completed around year 24 of the reign of Ramesses the Great (which corresponds to 1265 BCE). It was dedicated to the gods Amun, Ra-Horakhty, and Ptah, as well as to the deified Ramesses himself (2).The temple of Hathor and Nefertari, also known as the Small Temple, was built about one hundred meters northeast of the temple of Ramesses II and was dedicated to the goddess Hathor and Ramesses II's chief consort, Nefertari.



   Moving the Temples:

When the conservation efforts to preserve the temple from the soon-to be built High Aswan Dam and its rising waters were begun in the 1960s, images of the colossal statues filled newspapers and books. The temples were dismantled and relocated in 1968 on the desert plateau, 200 feet above and 600 feet west of their original location.

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 $40 million. Between 1964 and 1968, the entire site was cut into large blocks (up to 30 tons averaging 20 tons), 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. Some structures were even saved from under the waters of Lake Nasser. 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.


The Orientation of the 'Great' temple:

The axis of the temple was positioned by the ancient Egyptian architects in such a way that twice a year, on October 20 and February 20, the rays of the sun would penetrate the sanctuary and illuminate the sculpture on the back wall, except for the statue of Ptah, the god connected with the Underworld, who always remained in the dark. (2) These dates are allegedly the king's birthday and coronation day respectively, but there is no evidence to support this, though it is quite logical to assume that these dates had some relation to a great event, such as the jubilee celebrating the thirtieth anniversary of the pharaoh's rule. In fact, according to calculations made on the basis of the heliacal rising of the star Sirius (Sothis) and inscriptions found by archaeologists, this date must have been October 22. This image of the king was enhanced and revitalized by the energy of the solar star, and the deified Rameses Great could take his place next to Amun Ra and Ra-Horakhty.

The following extract from the Pall Mall Gazette (20th April, 1892) offers an eye-witness testimony to the phenomena before the temples were moved uphill to their new resting place:

"I was fortunate in seeing another wonderful thing during my visit to Abu Simbel... on two days of the year the sun is said to rise at such a point that it sends a beam of light through both halls till it falls on the shrine itself in the very holy of holies....It was on the 26th February. The great hall, with its eight Osiride pillars was wrapped in semi-darkness. Still darker were the inner hall and shrine. Behind the altar sat the four gods, Amen, Horus, Ptah and Rameses himself, now deified. All the east was a deep rosy flush; then that paled, and a hard white light filled the sky. Clearer and whiter it grew, till, with a sudden joyous rush, the sun swung up over the low ridge of hill, and in an instant, like an arrow from the bow of Phoebus Apollo, one level shaft of light pierced the great hall and fell in living glory straight upon the shrine itself". (1)

It is widely believed that this event now occurs several days later than it did originally due to the displacement of the Temples.



   Gallery of Images:

Images of the original temple, in its original setting.

The two temples were still separated by a bank of sand in 1906.


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1). Emmekine Plunket. Calendars and Constellations of the Ancient World. 1997. Senata Books.
2). Alberto Siliotti, Egypt: temples, people, gods. 1994.


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