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The Abu Simbel temples
Abu Simbel temples
are two massive rock temples at Abu Simbel (Arabic: أبو سمبل‎), a village in Nubia, southern Egypt, near the border with Sudan. They are situated on the western bank of Lake Nasser, about 230 km southwest of Aswan
Aswan
(about 300 km by road). The complex is part of the UNESCO
UNESCO
World Heritage Site
World Heritage Site
known as the "Nubian Monuments",[1] which run from Abu Simbel downriver to Philae
Philae
(near Aswan). The twin temples were originally carved out of the mountainside in the 13th century BC, during the 19th dynasty reign of the Pharaoh
Pharaoh
Ramesses II. They serve as a lasting monument to the king and his queen Nefertari, and commemorate his victory at the Battle of Kadesh. Their huge external rock relief figures have become iconic. The complex was relocated in its entirety in 1968, on an artificial hill made from a domed structure, high above the Aswan
Aswan
High Dam reservoir. The relocation of the temples was necessary or they would have been submerged during the creation of Lake Nasser, the massive artificial water reservoir formed after the building of the Aswan
Aswan
High Dam on the Nile
Nile
River.

Contents

1 History

1.1 Construction 1.2 Rediscovery 1.3 Relocation 1.4 Great Temple

1.4.1 Solar alignment 1.4.2 Greek Graffito

1.5 Small Temple

2 Climate 3 Gallery 4 See also 5 Notes 6 Further reading 7 External links

History[edit] Construction[edit]

Geneva architect, Jean Jacquet, a Unesco expert, makes an architectural survey of the Great Temple
Temple
of Rameses II ( 1290 - 1223 B.C.).

Construction of the temple complex started in approximately 1264 BC and lasted for about 20 years, until 1244 BC. Known as the " Temple
Temple
of Ramesses, beloved by Amun" it was one of six rock temples erected in Nubia
Nubia
during the long reign of Ramesses II. Their purpose was to impress Egypt's southern neighbours, and also to reinforce the status of Egyptian religion in the region. Rediscovery[edit] With the passage of time, the temples fell into disuse and eventually became covered by sand. By the 6th century BC, the sand already covered the statues of the main temple up to their knees. The temple was forgotten until 1813, when Swiss orientalist Jean-Louis Burckhardt found the top frieze of the main temple. Burckhardt talked about his discovery with Italian explorer Giovanni Belzoni, who travelled to the site, but was unable to dig out an entry to the temple. Belzoni returned in 1817, this time succeeding in his attempt to enter the complex. A detailed early description of the temples, together with contemporaneous line drawings, can be found in Edward William Lane's Description of Egypt
Egypt
(1825–1828).[2] Tour guides at the site relate the legend that 'Abu Simbel' was the name of a young local boy who guided these early re-discoverers to the site of the buried temple which he had seen from time to time in the shifting sands. Eventually, they named the complex after him. Relocation[edit]

The statue of Ramses the Great
Ramses the Great
at the Great Temple
Temple
of Abu Simbel is reassembled after having been moved in 1967 to save it from flooding.

A scale model showing the original and current location of the temple (with respect to the water level) at the Nubian Museum, in Aswan

A close-up of one of the colossal statues of Ramesses II wearing the double crown of Lower and Upper Egypt

The collapsed colossus of the Great Temple
Temple
supposedly fell during an earthquake shortly after its construction. On moving the temple, it was decided to leave it as the face is missing.

In 1959, an international donations campaign to save the monuments of Nubia
Nubia
began: the southernmost relics of this ancient human civilization were under threat from the rising waters of the Nile
Nile
that were about to result from the construction of the Aswan
Aswan
High Dam. One scheme to save the temples was based on an idea by William MacQuitty to build a clear fresh water dam around the temples, with the water inside kept at the same height as the Nile. There were to be underwater viewing chambers. In 1962 the idea was made into a proposal by architects Jane Drew
Jane Drew
and Maxwell Fry
Maxwell Fry
and civil engineer Ove Arup.[3] They considered that raising the temples ignored the effect of erosion of the sandstone by desert winds. However the proposal, though acknowledged to be extremely elegant, was rejected. The salvage of the Abu Simbel temples
Abu Simbel temples
began in 1964 by a multinational team of archeologists, engineers and skilled heavy equipment operators working together under the UNESCO
UNESCO
banner; it cost some USD $40 million at the time (equal to $300 million in 2017 dollars). Between 1964 and 1968, the entire site was carefully cut into large blocks (up to 30 tons, averaging 20 tons), dismantled, lifted and reassembled in a new location 65 meters higher and 200 meters back from the river, in one of the greatest challenges of archaeological engineering in history.[4] Some structures were even saved from under the waters of Lake Nasser. Today, a few hundred 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 complex consists of two temples. The larger one is dedicated to Ra-Harakhty, Ptah
Ptah
and Amun, Egypt's three state deities of the time, and features four large statues of Ramesses II in the facade. The smaller temple is dedicated to the goddess Hathor, personified by Nefertari, Ramesses's most beloved of his many wives.[5] The temple is now open to the public. Great Temple[edit]

View of the partially excavated Great Temple
Temple
from the right, with a human figure for scale

Front view of the Great Temple
Temple
before 1923

Interior of the Great Temple, before cleaning

Interior of the Great Temple, after cleaning

Human figures standing at the entrance to the Great Temple, sometime before 1923

The Great Temple
Temple
at Abu Simbel, which took about twenty years to build, was completed around year 24 of the reign of Ramesses the Great (which corresponds to 1265 BC). It was dedicated to the gods Amun, Ra-Horakhty, and Ptah, as well as to the deified Rameses himself.[6] It is generally considered the grandest and most beautiful of the temples commissioned during the reign of Rameses II, and one of the most beautiful in Egypt. Four colossal 20 meter statues of the pharaoh with the double Atef crown of Upper and Lower Egypt
Egypt
decorate the facade of the temple, which is 35 meters wide and is topped by a frieze with 22 baboons, worshippers of the sun and flank the entrance.[7] The colossal statues were sculptured directly from the rock in which the temple was located before it was moved. All statues represent Ramesses II, seated on a throne and wearing the double crown of Upper and Lower Egypt. The statue to the left of the entrance was damaged in an earthquake, leaving only the lower part of the statue still intact. The head and torso can still be seen at the statue's feet. Next to the legs of the colossi, there are other statues no higher than the knees of the pharaoh.[6] These depict Nefertari, Ramesses's chief wife, and queen mother Mut-Tuy, his first two sons Amun-her-khepeshef, Ramesses, and his first six daughters Bintanath, Baketmut, Nefertari, Meritamen, Nebettawy
Nebettawy
and Isetnofret. The entrance itself is crowned by a bas-relief representing two images of the king worshipping the falcon-headed Ra Harakhti, whose statue stands in a large niche.[6] This god is holding the hieroglyph "user" and a feather in his right hand, with Ma'at, (the goddess of truth and justice) in his left; this is nothing less than a gigantic cryptogram for Ramesses II's throne name, User-Maat-Re. The facade is topped by a row of 22 baboons, their arms raised in the air, supposedly worshipping the rising sun. Another notable feature of the facade is a stele which records the marriage of Ramesses with a daughter of king Hattusili III, which sealed the peace between Egypt
Egypt
and the Hittites. The inner part of the temple has the same triangular layout that most ancient Egyptian temples follow, with rooms decreasing in size from the entrance to the sanctuary. The temple is complex in structure and quite unusual because of its many side chambers. The hypostyle hall (sometimes also called a pronaos) is 18 meters long and 16.7 meters wide and is supported by eight huge Osirid pillars depicting the deified Ramses linked to the god Osiris, the god of the Underworld, to indicate the everlasting nature of the pharaoh. The colossal statues along the left-hand wall bear the white crown of Upper Egypt, while those on the opposite side are wearing the double crown of Upper and Lower Egypt
Egypt
(pschent).[6] The bas-reliefs on the walls of the pronaos depict battle scenes in the military campaigns the ruler waged. Much of the sculpture is given to the Battle of Kadesh, on the Orontes river in present-day Syria, in which the Egyptian king fought against the Hittites.[7] The most famous relief shows the king on his chariot shooting arrows against his fleeing enemies, who are being taken prisoner.[7] Other scenes show Egyptian victories in Libya
Libya
and Nubia.[6] From the hypostyle hall, one enters the second pillared hall, which has four pillars decorated with beautiful scenes of offerings to the gods. There are depictions of Ramesses and Nefertari
Nefertari
with the sacred boats of Amun
Amun
and Ra-Harakhti. This hall gives access to a transverse vestibule in the middle of which is the entrance to the sanctuary. Here, on a black wall, are rock cut sculptures of four seated figures: Ra-Horakhty, the deified king Ramesses, and the gods Amun
Amun
Ra and Ptah. Ra-Horakhty, Amun
Amun
Ra and Ptah
Ptah
were the main divinities in that period and their cult centers were at Heliopolis, Thebes and Memphis respectively.[6] Solar alignment[edit] It is believed that the axis of the temple was positioned by the ancient Egyptian architects in such a way that on October 22 and February 22, the rays of the sun would penetrate the sanctuary and illuminate the sculptures on the back wall, except for the statue of Ptah, a god connected with the Underworld, who always remained in the dark. People gather at Abu Simbel to witness this remarkable sight, on October 21 and February 21.[6][7][clarification needed] These dates are allegedly the king's birthday and coronation day, respectively. There is no direct evidence to support this. It is logical to assume, however, that these dates had some relation to a great event, such as the jubilee celebrating the thirtieth anniversary of the pharaoh's rule.[citation needed] In fact, according to calculations made on the basis of the heliacal rising of the star Sirius
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 Ramesses the Great could take his place next to Amun
Amun
Ra and Ra-Horakhty.[6] Due to the displacement of the temple and/or the accumulated drift of the Tropic of Cancer
Tropic of Cancer
during the past 3,280 years, it is widely believed[by whom?] that each of these two events has moved one day closer to the Solstice, so they would be occurring on October 22 and February 20 (60 days before and 60 days after the Solstice, respectively).[citation needed] Greek Graffito[edit] A well-known graffito inscribed in Greek on the left leg of the colossal seated statue of Ramesses II, on the south side of the entrance to the temple of the temple records that:

"When King Psammetichus (i.e., Psamtik II) came to Elephantine, this was written by those who sailed with Psammetichus the son of Theocles, and they came beyond Kerkis as far as the river permits. Those who spoke foreign tongues (Greek and Carians who also scratched their names on the monument) were led by Potasimto, the Egyptians by Amasis.[8]

Kerkis was located near the Fifth Cataract of the Nile
Nile
"which stood well within the Cushite Kingdom."[9] Small Temple[edit]

The Small Temple
Temple
from below and left, before 1923

The Small Temple
Temple
after relocation

The temple of Hathor
Hathor
and Nefertari, also known as the Small Temple, was built about one hundred meters northeast of the temple of pharaoh Ramesses II and was dedicated to the goddess Hathor
Hathor
and Ramesses II's chief consort, Nefertari. This was in fact the second time in ancient Egyptian history
Egyptian history
that a temple was dedicated to a queen. The first time, Akhenaten dedicated a temple to his great royal wife, Nefertiti.[6] The rock-cut facade is decorated with two groups of colossi that are separated by the large gateway. The statues, slightly more than ten meters high, are of the king and his queen. On either side of the portal are two statues of the king, wearing the white crown of Upper Egypt
Egypt
(south colossus) and the double crown (north colossus); these are flanked by statues of the queen.

The gods Set (left) and Horus
Horus
(right) blessing Ramesses in the small temple at Abu Simbel

Remarkably, this is one of very few instances in Egyptian art where the statues of the king and his consort have equal size.[6] Traditionally, the statues of the queens stood next to those of the pharaoh, but were never taller than his knees. Ramesses went to Abu Simbel with his wife in the 24th year of his reign. As the Great Temple
Temple
of the king, there are small statues of princes and princesses next to their parents. In this case they are positioned symmetrically: on the south side (at left as one faces the gateway) are, from left to right, princes Meryatum
Meryatum
and Meryre, princesses Meritamen
Meritamen
and Henuttawy, and princes Rahirwenemef and Amun-her-khepeshef, while on the north side the same figures are in reverse order. The plan of the Small Temple
Temple
is a simplified version of that of the Great Temple.

Nefertari
Nefertari
offering sistrums to seated goddess Hathor, frieze inside the Small Temple

As the larger temple dedicated to the king, the hypostyle hall or pronaos is supported by six pillars; in this case, however, they are not Osiris
Osiris
pillars depicting the king, but are decorated with scenes with the queen playing the sistrum (an instrument sacred to the goddess Hathor), together with the gods Horus, Khnum, Khonsu, and Thoth, and the goddesses Hathor, Isis, Maat, Mut
Mut
of Asher, Satis and Taweret; in one scene Ramesses is presenting flowers or burning incense.[6] The capitals of the pillars bear the face of the goddess Hathor; this type of column is known as Hathoric. The bas-reliefs in the pillared hall illustrate the deification of the king, the destruction of his enemies in the north and south (in this scenes the king is accompanied by his wife), and the queen making offerings to the goddess Hathor
Hathor
and Mut.[7] The hypostyle hall is followed by a vestibule, access to which is given by three large doors. On the south and the north walls of this chamber there are two graceful and poetic bas-reliefs of the king and his consort presenting papyrus plants to Hathor, who is depicted as a cow on a boat sailing in a thicket of papyri. On the west wall, Ramesses II and Nefertari
Nefertari
are depicted making offerings to god Horus
Horus
and the divinities of the Cataracts — Satis, Anubis
Anubis
and Khnum. The rock cut sanctuary and the two side chambers are connected to the transverse vestibule and are aligned with the axis of the temple. The bas-reliefs on the side walls of the small sanctuary represent scenes of offerings to various gods made either by the pharaoh or the queen.[6] On the back wall, which lies to the west along the axis of the temple, there is a niche in which Hathor, as a divine cow, seems to be coming out of the mountain: the goddess is depicted as the Mistress of the temple dedicated to her and to queen Nefertari, who is intimately linked to the goddess.[6] Each temple had its own priest that represents the king in daily religious ceremonies. In theory, the Pharaoh
Pharaoh
would have been the only celebrant in daily religious ceremonies performed in different temples throughout Egypt. In reality, the high priest also played that role. To reach that position, an extensive education in art and science was necessary, like the one pharaoh had. Reading, writing, engineering, arithmetic, geometry, astronomy, space measurement, time calculations, were all part of this learning. The priests of Heliopolis, for example, became guardians of sacred knowledge and earned the reputation of wise men. Climate[edit] Köppen-Geiger climate classification system
Köppen-Geiger climate classification system
classifies its climate as hot desert (BWh).

Climate data for Abu Simbel

Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year

Average high °C (°F) 23.6 (74.5) 26 (79) 30.2 (86.4) 35.3 (95.5) 39.1 (102.4) 40.6 (105.1) 40.2 (104.4) 40.2 (104.4) 38.7 (101.7) 36 (97) 29.7 (85.5) 24.9 (76.8) 33.71 (92.73)

Daily mean °C (°F) 16.4 (61.5) 18.2 (64.8) 22.1 (71.8) 27 (81) 31 (88) 32.7 (90.9) 32.7 (90.9) 32.9 (91.2) 31.4 (88.5) 28.8 (83.8) 22.7 (72.9) 18.1 (64.6) 26.17 (79.16)

Average low °C (°F) 9.2 (48.6) 10.4 (50.7) 14.1 (57.4) 18.8 (65.8) 23 (73) 24.8 (76.6) 25.3 (77.5) 25.7 (78.3) 24.2 (75.6) 21.6 (70.9) 15.8 (60.4) 11.4 (52.5) 18.69 (65.61)

Average precipitation mm (inches) 0 (0) 0 (0) 0 (0) 0 (0) 0 (0) 0 (0) 0 (0) 0 (0) 0 (0) 0 (0) 0 (0) 0 (0) 0 (0)

Average rainy days 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0

Mean daily sunshine hours 10 10 10 10 11 11 11 11 10 10 10 10 10.3

Source #1: Climate-Data.org[10]

Source #2: Weather to Travel[11] for sunshine and rainy days

Gallery[edit]

Temple
Temple
of Ramesses II

Earliest photo, 1854 by John Beasley Greene

Temple
Temple
of Ramesses II, photo taken in 2007

Close-up of the leftmost statue at the temple of Rameses II

Central, inset statue of Ra-Horakhty
Ra-Horakhty
at the Great Temple

Baboon
Baboon
carvings above the heads of the statues of Ramses at the Great Temple

View of the Great Temple
Temple
from the right, photo credited to William Henry Goodyear (before 1923)

Front view of the Great Temple
Temple
from before 1923

View of the rightmost statue at the Great Temple, partially excavated, with a human figure (possibly William Henry Goodyear) for scale

View of the Great Temple's colossal statues from the right, partially excavated

Interior of the Great Temple, before cleaning

Colour photo of the Great Temple
Temple
from the right, partially excavated, from before 1923

The Great Temple
Temple
from the right, from before 1923

Abu Simbel temple, four statues of divinities in sanctuary

Temple
Temple
of Nefertari

Earliest photo, 1854 by John Beasley Greene

Earliest photo, 1854 by John Beasley Greene

The Small Temple
Temple
in its relocated context, 1999

Closer view of the Small Temple, 2007

Ramesses offering to seated god Ptah. Frieze
Frieze
inside the Small Temple.

Abu Simbel

Inscription at the entrance to the Great Temple. Hooper Brooklyn Museum Archives

The Small Temple
Temple
in context, before relocation. Goodyear Brooklyn Museum Archives

Statues in the sanctuary of the Great Temple

Interior of one of the temples at Abu Simbel, with graffiti

View of the Nile
Nile
from Abu Simbel, before 1923. Brooklyn Museum Archives

See also[edit]

List of archaeoastronomical sites sorted by country Luxor Temple

Notes[edit]

^ Centre, UNESCO
UNESCO
World Heritage. "Nubian Monuments from Abu Simbel to Philae". whc.unesco.org. Retrieved 2018-02-24.  ^ Lane E, "Descriptions of Egypt," American University in Cairo Press. pp.493-502. ^ Fry Drew Knight Creamer, 1978, London, Lund Humphries ^ Spencer, Terence (1966). The Race to Save Abu Simbel Is Won. Life magazine, December 2, 1966. ^ Fitzgerald, Stephanie (2008). Ramses II: Egyptian Pharaoh, Warrior and Builder. New York: Compass Point Books. ISBN 978-0-7565-3836-1 ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m Alberto Siliotti, Egypt: temples, people, gods,1994 ^ a b c d e Ania Skliar, Grosse kulturen der welt-Ägypten, 2005 ^ "king Psammetichus II (Psamtik II)". Touregypt.net. Retrieved 2011-11-20.  ^ Britannica, p.756 ^ "Climate: Abu Sinbil – Climate graph, Temperature graph, Climate table". Climate-Data.org. Retrieved 14 August 2013.  ^ "Abu Simbel Climate and Weather Averages, Egypt". Weather to Travel. Retrieved 12 July 2013. 

Further reading[edit]

Berg, Lennart (1978). "The Salvage of the Abu Simbel Temples" (PDF). International Council on Monuments and Sites. Retrieved 7 March 2015.  - Highly detailed article describing the process of saving and creating a new location for the temples.

External links[edit]

Wikimedia Commons has media related to Abu Simbel temples.

Wikivoyage has a travel guide for Abu Simbel.

Wikisource
Wikisource
has the text of the 1921 Collier's Encyclopedia
Collier's Encyclopedia
article Abu-Simbel.

Google
Google
(20 February 2016). "Abu Simbel archeological site" (Map). Google
Google
Maps. Google. Retrieved 20 February 2016.  Abu Simbel at the website of Egypt
Egypt
State Information Service Abu Simbel at Aldokkan Abu Simbel temples' plan Abu Simbel temples
Abu Simbel temples
images Abu Simbel map, images and info Abu Simbel UNESCO
UNESCO
page

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