DATA RE ABU SIMBEL IN EGYPT - PAGE 2

On an earlier page, page 1, I indicated that I would assemble some more extensive descriptive material for you about Abu Simbel. On this page I hope to let you read of the amazing UNESCO project, which saved the Temples of Abu Simbel from inundation by the waters of Lake Nasser. Links to additional Abu Simbel data are at the bottom of the page.

These page will further expand as I introduce additional data. But a reminder as always. This page and the site to which the above link takes you, are designed for a 1024 x 768 screen setting.

But first on this page another composite image that I hope you will enjoy. At top left is another image taken on an expedition conducted in the early 1900s by the Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago. This 1906 image is, of course, of the head of Ramesses II. It shows Dr. James Henry Breasted, along with his wife Frances & son Charles measuring the statue. I am sure that the image is still somewhere on the University of Chicago site. But I cannot locate it in 2009, as this site must move to a new location. Beneath that is the cover of the Oct. 23, 1965 issue of 'Life Magazine' which contained, I understand, an article about the Temple relocation project. The main image is of the Great Temple as it was before the 'move', from an old issue of 'Horizon' magazine, I understand. And last, but not least, a couple of small images ~ the Temple depicted on an Egyptian 1 pound bank note & a camel. How's that for variety!

I was interested to read that the original plan to save Abu Simbel was to leave it 'in situ' & build a dam around it to hold back the waters of Lake Nasser. For reasons unknown to me, but probably due to cost considerations, that plan was shelved.

The following words (slightly modified from the original) describe better than I can, the relocation project for the Abu Simbel temples. What I repeat here is a part only of an article that appeared in 'Horus', the inflight magazine of Egyptair. The author is Dr. Zahi A. Hawass, presently, I believe, Secretary General of the Supreme Council of Antiquities and Director of the Giza Pyramids Excavation. A familiar face indeed to me & probably to you also from his many television appearances, his speeches around the world & his obvious enthusiasm for his subject. His book about Abu Simbel was, it would seem, published in 2001 by the American University in Cairo Press.


"In the 1950s, the Egyptian government decided to replace the current small dam at Aswan with a much larger dam. This was to be constructed of rock, and was to measure 3,600 metres long, 40 metres wide, 180 metres at its base, and rise to a height of 104 metres above sea level. Floods to a height of 182 metres can be held back by the dam. The artificial lake created by the dam ~ "Lake Nasser" ~ extends 500 km. in length, south beyond the Second Cataract, and is up to 25 km. in width.

The building of the Aswan High Dam began in 1960 and was completed in 1964. It represents one of Egypt's most successful national projects since the age of the pyramids. Despite the many benefits of the projected High Dam, Egypt faced the huge problem of saving the archaeological sites that would disappear under the waters of the expanded reservoir. These monuments included not only major temples such as those of Abu Simbel, but also chapels and settlement remains, stelae, inscriptions, and as-yet undiscovered sites. The Egyptian government recognized that a timely salvage campaign must be devised with international support, and the help of UNESCO was sought. The response was overwhelming: committees and researchers from over twenty countries worked together for twenty years on the salvage of the Nubian monuments.

The successful Nubian campaign prompted other countries to petition UNESCO to help save their own monuments. Campaigns were mounted to help preserve Venice, Italy, the Acropolis in Greece, the ancient city of Mohenjodaro in Pakistan, Barabudur in Indonesia, and Fez in Morocco. The salvaging of the Abu Simbel temples was carried out in seven stages:

1) A temporary dam was built in front of the two temples to protect them from the rising water. This dam was 730 metres long and 37 metres high, and was built from 38,000 cubic metres of sandstone. The front of the Great Temple was covered with sand to protect the giant statues from the pressure that resulted when the walls behind them were covered with scaffolding to prepare them for removal.

2) More than 150,000 cubic metres of rock was moved from the two cliffs above the temples.

3) The stones, statues, and columns of the temples were cut into giant pieces ranging from 3 to 20 tons in weight, each with a height of 3 metres and a length of 5 metres. The great Temple was cut into 807 pieces, while the small Temple was cut into 225 blocks.

4) After the new site was prepared, the large blocks from the temple were lifted to the new chosen site.

5) The two temples were rebuilt on their new site, with the original orientations reproduced carefully. The most moving moment of this operation was in March of 1967, when the crowns of Ramesses II were placed atop the giant statues in front of the temple. This was a great moment that no one involved in the project will ever forget: the most advanced technology of the 20th century was used to save one of the most amazing achievements of a civilization that preceded it by 3,300 years.

6) Two concrete domes were built above the temples to protect them from the weight of the rocks that were piled above them. The dome above the Great Temple is the largest manmade dome in the world, with a circumference of 60 metres and a height of 22 metres.

7) Artificial hillocks were built above the two temples to recreate their original setting. These hillocks used a total of 230,000 cubic metres of sandstone.

The project cost 42 million dollars and was concluded in less than five years. It was started in November of 1963 and finished in September 1968, - months before the ending date that was originally estimated. No stone was lost or damaged, no changes were made, and the temples appear exactly as they were uncovered by Belzoni a century and half earlier.

These two temples are some of the most remarkable achievements of the ancient world, only slightly less impressive than the Great Pyramid of Khufu. They were first seen by modern Western eyes in 1813, when the Swiss traveller Jean Louis Burckhardt noted them, and first partially cleared in 1817 by Belzoni, who was the first modern Egyptologist to enter the temples. The temples were visited by other early Egyptologists such as Champollion, Lepsuis, and Rossilline; in 1910, the Italian engineer Barsanti succeeded in clearing the sand completely away from the facade of the Great Temple. A steady trickle of visitors continued to make the journey into Nubia to see the temples, but it was not until the UNESCO Salvage Campaign that the temples became one of the most popular sites for travelers to Egypt. In the book stores in Egypt you will find my most recent book on the site called, "The Mysteries of Abu Simbel: The Temples of the Rising Sun".


And next another painting, of the main interior passage of the Great Temple, by David Roberts, R.A. (1796-1864). I was interested to read that the artist, who also painted the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem, was permitted to do so only after ridding his brushes of hogs' hairs.

And below, a composite image which could be termed "Day and Night". On the left (below) a fine image of a Spanish tour group, from Valencia, I believe, at the main temple. I trust nobody will object to my using the image here. And on the right a night image taken, I presume, during a "Sound and Light" performance. As I see the group image, & in particular the gentleman in Arab dress in the back row, I am reminded of the fancy dress evening on our boat trip on the Nile. I was persuaded to dress in a similar costume which we purchased in the market at Esna. Let us just say that I did not look as good as an Arab Sheik as did Peter O'Toole in 'Lawrence of Arabia'! But our Spanish friend does look good. Ole!

I could not locate, for these pages, an image of Peter O'Toole, but I did find the 'original'. At left above is a portrait of T. E. Lawrence by James McBey, the Official War Artist, painted in Damascus in Oct. 1918, on the day before Lawrence returned to England.

Some links:

The battle of Kadesh

back to Mt. Rushmore Lake Applet Page. ~ Abu Simbel Data Pages 1, 3, 4, 5, 6 & Special Pages Index.