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Great Pillared Hall, Temple of Ramses II, Abu Simbel

Abu Simbel: This Enormous Temple of the Great Ramesses II Was Buried for 3,000 Years

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 great and powerful Ramesses II. Whilst 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

The entrance into the Great Temple of Abu Simbel, with four statues of Ramesses II ( UNESCO)

The Beginning of the Great Temple

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 20m/65ft 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 10m (33ft) in height.

Nefertari’s temple at Abu Simbel

Nefertari’s temple at Abu Simbel ( public domain )

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 21 st of February and the 22 nd of October in present times, the Sun’s rays would find its 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 19 th century. The re-discovery was allegedly made by the Swiss traveller and geographer Johann Ludwig Burckhardt (most famous for his discovery of Petra, Jordan). According to one version of the story, in 1813, Burckhardt was travelling 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, though to no avail. In 1817, Battista returned, succeeded in uncovering the temple, and took from the temple all that was valuable and portable.

Picture of a print from David Roberts' Egypt & Nubia, issued between 1845 and 1849, showing the Great Hall of Abu Simbel buried in sand

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 )

Picture of a print from David Roberts' Egypt & Nubia, issued between 1845 and 1849, showing the Great Hall of Abu Simbel buried in sand

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 )

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, and 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 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 )

Top image: Great Pillared Hall, Temple of Ramses II, Abu Simbel ( Terry Feuerborn / flickr )

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

Mark, J. J., 2013. Abu Simbel. [Online]
Available at: http://www.ancient.eu/Abu_Simbel/

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

GREAT AFRICAN HISTORY DATING BACK MORE THAN 3,000 YEARS AGO, AS WELL AS 1,500 + YEARS LATER THAN WHEN KING NARMER UNIFIED BOTH UPPER AND LOWER EGYPT, ALSO KNOWN AS KEMET….

Charles Bowles

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

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

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.

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

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