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Great Pillared Hall, Temple of Ramesses II, Abu Simbel

Abu Simbel: The Great Temple of Ramesses II was Almost Lost

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The Abu Simbel Temple is an enormous rock temple complex located on Egypt’s border with Sudan. The two temples of this complex were built in the 13th century BC during the reign of the powerful Ramesses II . While this temple complex is known today as the Abu Simbel Temple, it was referred to in the past as the “Temple of Ramesses, Beloved by Amun.” During the 1960s, the Aswan High Dam reservoir was built, which resulted in the creation of Lake Nasser . This threatened the existence of the Abu Simbel Temple, and it was completely relocated in 1968.

The entrance into the Great Temple of Abu Simbel, with four statues of Ramesses II. ( auimeesri /Adobe Stock)

The Creation of the Great Temple of Abu Simbel

The Abu Simbel Temple consists of two huge temples (the Great Temple and the Small Temple) that were carved into the mountainside. The temple complex was commissioned by Ramesses II, one of ancient Egypt’s most renowned pharaohs.

According to some scholars, work on the Abu Simbel Temple began around 1264 BC. This is based on the fact that the artwork decorating the interior of the Great Temple indicates that the monument was created to celebrate, to a certain extent, the victory of Ramesses II over the Hittites at the Battle of Kadesh in 1274 BC. Alternatively, the year 1244 BC has also been suggested as the year when the construction of the Abu Simbel Temple commenced. According to this hypothesis, the temple is located on the border with the conquered lands of Nubia, and thus was built following the military campaigns carried out by the pharaoh against the Nubians.

In any event, it has been agreed that the construction of the Abu Simbel Temple took 20 years to complete. At the entrance of the Great Temple, four colossal seated statues of Ramesses II (measuring 20 meters or 65 ft. in height) gaze upon all who approach it. As for the Small Temple, which may have been built for Nefertari, the wife of Ramesses II, its entrance is guarded by two statues of the queen, and four of the pharaoh, each measuring 10 meters (33 ft.) in height.

Nefertari’s temple at Abu Simbel. ( matiplanas /Adobe Stock)

Sun Shines into the Holy Inner Sanctum

One of the most fascinating aspects of the Abu Simbel Temple is the inner sanctum of the Great Temple. In this sacred space, four statues can be found – Ra, Amun, Ptah, and Ramesses himself. The temple was built in such a way that twice a year, the 21st of February and the 22nd of October in present times, the Sun’s rays would find their way directly into the inner sanctum and illuminate three of the statues .

The statue of Ptah was kept in darkness, a possible reason being that he was a deity associated with the Underworld. The two dates are traditionally thought to correspond with the birthday and coronation of the pharaoh, though there is no evidence to support this. In any case, these two dates are accepted to be related to some major events in the Ramesses II’s life.

Abu Simbel temple, four statues of divinities in the Inner Sanctum

Abu Simbel temple, four statues of divinities in the Inner Sanctum. ( CC BY SA 3.0 )

Lost in the Sands

The Abu Simbel Temple was eventually abandoned, and was buried under millennia of desert sand . This monument was forgotten, and was only rediscovered during the early part of the 19th century. The re-discovery was allegedly made by the Swiss traveler and geographer Johann Ludwig Burckhardt (most famous for his discovery of Petra, Jordan).

According to one version of the story, in 1813 Burckhardt was traveling down the Nile when he saw the top of the Great Temple, which had not been covered by the sand. In another version of the tale, the Swiss scholar was led to the site by an Egyptian boy named Abu Simbel, and later named the site after him. Burckhardt himself was unable to uncover the temple. He mentioned the site to his friend, Giovanni Battista , and the two tried to excavate the monument, to no avail. In 1817, Battista returned, succeeded in uncovering the temple, and took everything that was valuable and portable out of the temple.

Top: picture of a print from David Roberts' Egypt & Nubia, issued between 1845 and 1849, showing the Great Hall of Abu Simbel buried in sand. ( Public Domain ) Bottom: Picture of a print from the same source, showing the Great Hall of Abu Simbel buried in sand. ( Public Domain )

Saved from Destruction

During the 1960s, the Abu Simbel Temple was threatened by the construction of the Aswan High Dam. It was decided that the monument should be saved, and proposals on how this should be done were accepted. In the end, it was decided that the temple be dismantled, and then reassembled at a new location.

This undertaking, which began in 1964, was completed in 1968, after eight years of international effort involving 1000 workers. Ashley Cowie explains how the re-location began, “the two Abu Simbel temples “were cut into 1,035 blocks each weighing between 20 and 30 tonnes” and the four colossal statues of a seated Ramses II, and six more of him standing up, were sawn into pieces.” They were then hoisted to the top of the cliff, “64 meters (210 feet) from their original location” and “reassembled to reconstitute the two temples exactly as they were.” Finally, Cowie writes that “artificial hills were built around the site as a protective barrier against the river.”

The dismantling and reassembly of the Abu Simbel task was a massive feat of engineering

The dismantling and reassembly of the Abu Simbel task was a massive feat of engineering. ( Public Domain )

That is considered by many to be one of the greatest feats of archaeological engineering . The temple is today part of a UNESCO Heritage Site known as the ‘Nubian Monuments from Abu Simbel to Philae,’ and is a popular tourist site. According to one source, the Abu Simbel Temple is the most visited site in Egypt after the Pyramids of Giza .

The Great Temple of Rameses II in Abu Simbel from above, Egypt. ( rayints /Adobe Stock)

Top Image: Great Pillared Hall, Temple of Ramses II, Abu Simbel, Egypt. Source: chemistkane /Adobe Stock

By Wu Mingren

References

emdrichardson, 2017. The Temple of Abu Simbel. [Online]
Available at: http://www.atlasobscura.com/places/the-temple-of-abu-simbel-egypt

Jarus, O., 2013. Abu Simbel: Temples of Ramesses II. [Online]
Available at: https://www.livescience.com/37360-abu-simbel.html

Sacred Destinations, 2017. Abu Simbel, Aswan Governorate. [Online]
Available at: http://www.sacred-destinations.com/egypt/abu-simbel

UNESCO, 2017. Nubian Monuments from Abu Simbel to Philae. [Online]
Available at: http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/88

www.ancient-egypt-online.com, 2017. Abu Simbel. [Online]
Available at: http://www.ancient-egypt-online.com/abu-simbel.html

Comments

AintGottaClue's picture

It is not my intent to "downplay"the accomplishments of "Black Africans," nor promote "Caucasoid development." I just attempt to see things as they are, not how someone (anyone) "wants them to be," or "wishes they were." If an ancient civilization was"Black, "it was "Black," if it was "Caucasoid," it was "Caucasoid," etc., and there is little point in trying to "make it otherwise," just to satisfy some politically correct garbage that 90% of the time isn't "correct" to begin with. It is what it is, whether anyone likes it or not. The "Olmecs" are a good example....some say they are African Blacks, some say they are Asian, some say they are indigenous natives....and no one knows for sure, because the archaeological evidence is mixed. Some research indicates that the Olmecs did NOT "pre-date" the Maya, and that the Maya were actually contemporaries of the Olmecs, and may well have been responsible for wiping them out. As to whether the Olmecs were "Blacks"from Africa, I haven't a clue....there does seem to be a lot of evidence pointing in that direction, however. Hell, half the "Phoenicians" were "Black," but very few people will acknowledge or admit THAT, either, and the Phoenicians were world-wide travelers, no telling who wound up where. I just don't particularly care for those who try to promote things that aren't factually backed up by actually valid research. There is no doubt that Blacks were among early explorers...but there is also no doubt that none of the ancient, advanced civilizations such as those in Sumeria, in Northwestern India, in Northwestern China and Siberia were Caucasoid. Egyptian civilization is "up in the air," and may well have involved both Blacks and Caucasoid peoples....the evidence favors some sort of co-development, as there were both "Caucasoid and Negroid" Pharaohs, though very few ever mention the "Negroid" Pharaohs. Ignoring them does not make them "go away," it just means they are being ignored. I, personally, could care less who started what, when...I just want to know WHO/WHEN. The "alien intervention" theory is an area of interest to me for the simple reason there is a ton of evidence supporting that theory, and it DOES explain quite a number of historical anomalies that are VERY difficult to explain otherwise (if they are to be explained at all). I get on your case because you push the "Black thing" in areas where there is no support for your views, and it comes off as overt racism.. I have a tendency to push the "Caucasoid" side, as there is much evidence to support that, as opposed to making claims that can't be supported.
BTW: DNA analysis can distinguish racial markers. I'm not sure if AO's "spam" filters will let the following link come through, but if not, Google "Guide to Ethnic DNA Testing: How to Prove Your Ancestors' Ethnicity" and go to "dna-testing-adviser" OK,I'll try to post the link now, and we'll see if it goes through AO's filter.
http://www.dna-testing-adviser.com/EthnicDNATesting.html
History is nowhere near as well known as we think it is.

History is nowhere near as well known as we think it is.

AINTGOTTACLUE   SO YOU DO AGREE THAT BLACK AFRICANS WERE THE FIRST ANATOMICALLY MODERN HUMANS, BUT YOU DISAGREE THAT ANCIENT BLACK EGUYPTIANS AND SUMERIANS WERE BLACK PEOPLE, AND THAT THEY WERE WHITE PEOPLE FROM SWEDEN OR NORWAY, RIGHT?   WELL THE ANCIENT EGYPTIAN “BOOK OF THE DEAD” STATES WHERE THE ANCIENT EGYPTIANS CAME FROM, AND IT READS:   “ WE CAME FROM WHERE THE NILE BEGINS AND WHERE GOD HAPI DWELLS, AT THE FOOTHILLS OF THE MOUNTAIN OF THE MOON”  hunefer payrus      THERE ARE ONLY TWO MOUNTAINS IN ALLOF AFRICA CALLED "MOUNTAINS OF THE MOON” AND THEY ARE THE KILIMANJARO IN TANGANYIKA AND THE RWEZORI IN UGANDA, AND THEY ARE BOTH LOCATED IN EAST/CENTRAL AFRICA NEAR THE GREAT LAKES AREA, WERE THE FIRST OF THREE NILE RIVERS BEGAN.   IN THIS AREA, PEOPLE HAVE BEEN PRACTICING THE CRANUAL ART OF "LIPOMBO” WHICH IS CAUSING THE ARTIFICIAL ELONGATION OF THE SKULL INTO A “CONE-LIKE SHAPE” WHICH WAS MEANT TO DISTINGUISH THE ROYAL NOBILITY BLACK AFRICANS FROM THE COMMON CITIZENS.  THIS PRACTICE WAS DONE ON THE LIKES OF KING TUT, QUEEN NEFERTITI, KING AKHNATEN AND MANY OTHER ROYAL BLACK EGYPTIANS.    THIS PRACTICE CONTINUES TODAY AMONG THE MANGHETTI TRIBE OF THE CONGO AFTER THOUSANDS OF YEARS OF PRACTICE AMONG THE ROYAL LEADERSHIP OF TRIBES...THERE IS NO DOCUMENTED PROOF THAT THE PRACTICE OF “LIPOMBO” HAS EVER BEEN PRACTICED BY ANY ASIATIC/EUROPEAN LEADERS IN ANY PART OF HUMAN HISTORY….OH YEAH THE ANSIENT SUMERIANS, ALSO KNOWN AS “SAGIGGA” MEANING “BLACK BALD HEADED PEOPLE WERE ALSO BLACK, AND THEY CALLED THEIR LAND “KENGI’ WHICH MEANT “LAND OF THE CIVILIZED PEOPLE”…...YOU NEED TO DO MORE RESEARCH BEFORE GOING AROUND CALLING BLACK ANCIENT EGYPTIANS AND SUMERIANS CAUCASOIDS...

Charles Bowles

AintGottaClue's picture

Charles Bowles is correct in saying the first anatomically modern humans were from Africa. However, the first advanced civilizations are either Egyptian or Sumerian, and neither was started by Black Africans. Mr. Bowles comments in virtually all his posts are designed to lead one to believe that "Blacks" created "civilization," while in reality nothing could be further from the truth. Whether Mr. Bowles likes it or not, the first advanced advanced civilizations, complete with advanced knowledge from "A - Z," were formed by Caucasoid people, and every single one of those advanced civilizations left records of direct interaction with "gods (aliens)," who taught them everything they knew. Such interaction could,and probably does,explain the Rh Negative blood factor controversy as well. Mr. Bowles may be "Afro-centric," but genuine researchers are not.

History is nowhere near as well known as we think it is.

Bubba, well now you know big buddy, that the beginning of human history began in Africa with the worlds first and only 100% modern human (homo sapiens), and spread throughout the rest of the world.  So the AFRICAN CENTER  is where it all began.  Now see there, you can learn something new every day if you keep your eyes and ears open with an incredible mind...

Charles Bowles

I did not realize this was becoming an afro centric history site Chuck.

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