Also spelled ABO SUNBUL, site of two temples built by the Egyptian king
Ramses II (ruled c. 1304-c. 1237 BC); the four colossal statues of Ramses in
front of the main temple are of the most spectacular examples of ancient
Egyptian art. The temples were salvaged from the rising waters of the Nile
River by a complex engineering feat in the 1960s.
Carved out of a sandstone cliff on the west bank of the Nile, south of
Korosko (modern Kurusku) in the Aswan governorate of Egypt, near the
Sudanese frontier, the temples were unknown to the outside world until their
rediscovery in 1813. They were first explored 1817 by the early
Egyptologist Giovanni Battista Belzoni.
The 67-foot (20-metres) seated figures of Ramses were set against the
recessed face of the cliff, two on either side of the entrance to the main
temple. Carved around their feet were small figures representing Ramses'
queen, Nefertari, and their children. Graffiti inscribed on the southern
pair by Greek mercenaries serving Egypt in the 6th century BC have provided
important evidence of the early history of the alphabet. The temple itself,
dedicated to the sun gods Amon-Re and Re- Horakhte, consisted of three
consecutive halls extending 185 ft into the cliff, decorated with more
figures of the King and with painted relief showing his life and
achievements. It was built so that, on certain days of the year, the first
rays of the morning sun would penetrate its whole length and even illuminate
the shrine in its innermost sanctuary.
Just to the north of the main temple was a smaller one, dedicated to
Nefertari for the worship of the goddess Hathor and adorned with 35-ft
statues of the King and the Queen.
When the reservoir created by the construction of the nearby Aswan High Dam
threatened to submerge Abu Simble in the early 1960s, the United Nations
Educational, scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and the Egyptian
government sponsored a project to save the site. Between 1964 and 1966 a
work force and an international team of engineers and scientists, supported
by funds from more than 50 countries, dug away the top of the cliff and
completely disassembled both temples, reconstructing them on high ground 200
ft above the riverbed.
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