Abu Simbel, definition and study. A-Z index of Cognitio.

Abu Simbel Location of southern Egypt (Nubian). Famous for two rock temples excavated under Pharaoh Ramses II: the major, dedicated to the gods Ammon, Ptah, Ra and the pharaoh himself, preserves four statues of the seated dynasty, 20 m high, carved into the rock. On one of the four giants carved in the facade, Greek inscriptions, caries, and phoenixes are scratched. The minor temple is dedicated to the goddess Hathor and the wife of Ramesses, Nefertari, whose images are carved on the rock face.

Since with the construction of the Sadd el-Ali dam, 6.5 km upstream from Aswan, the temples would have been submerged by water, UNESCO implemented a rescue project in 1968, consisting of rebuilding the temples 65 m higher. The operation provided the opportunity for a meticulous survey of inscriptions and depictions engraved on the walls. When the temple was discovered, almost 200 years ago, only one of the heads was completely visible as it was covered with sand, the second head was partially visible and of the other two, only the crowns could be seen. In 1817 Giovanni Belzoni managed to enter the temple and was the first in the world to enter it. Ancient magnificence and skill met with equally impressive modern technology: at a cost of about 40 million dollars, Egyptian, Italian, Swedish, German and French archaeological groups restored the site to make it accessible to the whole world. A plaque was placed at the entrance to the temple that eloquently describes this result: “Through this restoration of the past, we have contributed to building the future of humanity”.

Greater temple

The terrace

Among the many monuments erected by the Pharaoh Ramses II the great temple of Abu Simbel is generally considered the most impressive and the most beautiful. On the facade, 33 meters high and 38 wide, stand out the four statues of Ramses II, each of which 20 meters high, in each one the Pharaoh wears the pschent or the crowns of Upper and Lower Egypt, the headpiece called “nemes” that falls on his shoulders and has a cobra on his forehead. On the sides of the colossal statues there are others smaller, the mother Tuia and his wife Nefertari while between the legs there are the statues of some of his sons, recognizable by the childish braid to the side of the head.

Greater temple the terrace

Greater temple the terrace

Great hypo-style hall

The entrance of the temple leads to the great hall of the Osireion pillars, eight of which depict the pharaoh with the appearance of Osiris, which are 11 meters tall. In the ceiling there are unfinished drawings representing the goddess Mut, which protects the temple with its outspread wings.

Great hypostyle hall

Great hypo-style hall

Second hall or atrium

From here you enter the smallest room of the temple, called the nobles, with four square pillars covered by reliefs depicting the pharaoh with various deities. On the walls there is the pharaoh while he offers perfumes and incense to Amon’s boat, followed by his wife, Queen Nefertari. This hall leads to the Sancta sanctorum.

Second hall or atrium

Second hall or atrium

Sanctuary

The Sanctuary contains four seated statues that look towards the entrance, which from left to right depict Ptah of Menfi (god of art and crafts), Amon-Ra of Thebes (god of the sun and father of the gods), Ramses II deified and Ra-Harakhti of Heliopolis (the falcon with the solar disk). At the time these constituted the most important deities of the Egyptian pantheon.

Sanctuary

Sanctuary

Minor temple

To the north of the main temple, about a hundred meters, in the hill of a site called Abeshek, is the temple, carved into the rock, dedicated to Hathor of Ibshek (with whom the queen was associated), to Nefertari (wife of Ramses) and other deities in charge of motherhood. The facade, 28 meters wide and 12 meters high, is decorated with six statues 10 meters high, three on each side of the entrance door and separated by hieroglyphic inscriptions indicating the titles of the two sovereigns. The statues depict four times Ramses and two Nefertari. On the sides of the statues of the pharaoh there are the sons in smaller dimensions, while on the sides of Nefertari the daughters are depicted. It is the only Egyptian temple where a queen has the same importance as the pharaoh, the same Ramses did write in an engraving in the reliefs of the facade: … the house of millions of years, no similar construction has ever been excavated.

Minor temple

Minor temple

Moving house

In 1960, the Egyptian president Nasser decided to start work on the construction of the great Aswan Dam, which involved the formation of a huge reservoir. Such a great project risked to cancel numerous works built by the ancient Egyptians including the same temples of Abu Simbel. Thanks to the intervention of UNESCO, 113 countries were activated by sending men, money and technology to save the monument. Several proposals were formulated for this purpose and the one that finally got more consensus was the Swedish one to cut, number and disassemble block by block the whole carved part of the hill on which the temples had been erected and then rebuild the monuments in a new position 65 m higher and 300 m further behind the basin created.

Moving house

Moving house

Legend has it that Queen Nefertari died at the entrance to the great temple and almost certainly died before the completion of the temple dedicated to her.

Abu Simbel, definition and study. A-Z index of Cognitio.

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Abu Simbel, definition and study. A-Z index of Cognitio.

Abu Simbel