Due to rising levels of water on Lake Nassar, the Egyptian government voted to have the immense statues moved farther on the cliff. In 1964, the construction movers started the four year process of deconstructing and relocating the colossal statues. Today, Abu Simbel is a place of reverence and worship, as well as a popular tourist site due to it's massive size.
Abu Simbel is a pair of colossal temples cut into a solid rock cliff.
The temples themselves were made to celebrate the triumph over the Hittites in 1274 BCE. The temples themselves were created from 1264-1224 BCE.
The site was discovered by Jacob Burckhardt in 1813 CE. He was allegedly led to the site by a small boy named Abu Simbel, and the site was later named after the boy. At the time, the temples were buried in many layers of sand and silt from the flooding of the massive River Nile. The excavation of the temples would take more than one year.
Giovanni Belzoni, a friend of Burckhardt's, later excavated or looted the site in 1817 CE. He is more commonly credited with the "discovery", rather than Abu Simbel or Burckhardt.
The Great Temple ( the larger of the two ) stands at 98 feet tall and 115 feet long. It has two large statues on either side, each depicting Ramses II. Below them are statues of his conquered enemies.
The Small Temple is nearly 30 feet tall and 92 feet long. On either side of the doorway, larger than life statues depict Ramses II and his wife, Nefertari.
The Small Temple also shows Ramses II and Nefertari making offerings to the goddess Hathor.
The statues depict multiple seated figures of Ramses, most of them accompanied by baboons.
The temples were threatened with submersion due to rising water levels in nearby Lake Nassar.
The Egyptian government voted to disassemble statues and move them to a higher up cliff area, where they were safe from definite destruction by the roiling surf of the lake. This plan was carried out in 1964.
Aswan Governate was a sacred place even before the temples were built.
In both temples Ramses II is depicted as a god, and his wife a goddess.
The temples are positioned so on February 21 and October 21 the sun shines directly down on the statues of Ramses II and Nefertari.
These dates are thought to correspond with Ramses II's birthday and coronation.
Sun aligned sacred places were common in the ancient world, and Abu SImbel was well known for this.
The statue of the god Ptah, the god of darkness, is aligned so he is never illuminated by the shaft of sunlight.
Film + Popular Culture
Abu Simbel, being both picturesque and large, has had a lot of media attention in popular culture. Some of these include:
1) James Bond-The Spy Who Loved Me- headquarters of M16, Q's office, Bond's office
2) The Mummy Returns- the entrance into the Otherworld Vortex
3) Sims 3- can be toured by the virtual avatar in an expansion pack
4) Abu SImbel was on the cover of Earth, Wind and Fire's album, All 'n All
5) In Team America World Police, the protagonists accidently blow up Abu Simbel in an elaborate anti-terrorist scheme
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Catherine. “The Marvels of Abu Simbel.” The Go Fever. The Go Fever, 21 Dec. 2015. Web. 11 Feb. 2016.
Jarus, Owen. “Abu Simbel: Temples of Ramesses.” Live Science. Live Science, 11 June 2013. Web. 16 Feb. 2016. <http://www.livescience.com/37360-abu-simbel.html>.
Mark, Joshua J. “Abu Simbel.” Ancient History Encyclopedia. Ancient History EU, 6 Jan. 2013. Web. 17 Feb. 2016. <http://www.ancient.eu/Abu_Simbel/>.
“Role and Contribution of Ramesses II.” Weebly. Weebly, n.d. Web. 17 Feb. 2016. <http://roleandcontributionoframesses2.weebly.com/religion.html>.
Smith, Earl Baldwin. “Sacred Places: Abu Simbel.” Witcombe. Witcombe, n.d. Web. 10 Feb. 2016. <http://witcombe.sbc.edu/sacredplaces/abusimbel.html>.