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November 14, 2023

The Relocation of Abu Simbel Temples, Egypt in the 1960s

The Abu Simbel Temple is an enormous rock temple complex located on Egypt’s border with Sudan. The two temples of this complex were built in the 13th century BC during the reign of the powerful Ramesses II. While this temple complex is known today as the Abu Simbel Temple, it was referred to in the past as the “Temple of Ramesses, Beloved by Amun.”

The Abu Simbel Temple was eventually abandoned, and was buried under millennia of desert sand. This monument was forgotten, and was only rediscovered during the early part of the 19th century. The re-discovery was allegedly made by the Swiss traveler and geographer Johann Ludwig Burckhardt (most famous for his discovery of Petra, Jordan).

During the 1960s, the Abu Simbel Temple was threatened by the construction of the Aswan High Dam. It was decided that the monument should be saved, and proposals on how this should be done were accepted. In the end, it was decided that the temple be dismantled, and then reassembled at a new location.

This undertaking, which began in 1964, was completed in 1968, after eight years of international effort involving 1000 workers. The two Abu Simbel temples were cut into 1,035 blocks each weighing between 20 and 30 tonnes and the four colossal statues of a seated Ramses II, and six more of him standing up, were sawn into pieces. They were then hoisted to the top of the cliff, 64 meters (210 feet) from their original location and reassembled to reconstitute the two temples exactly as they were. Finally, artificial hills were built around the site as a protective barrier against the river. Here, some amazing vintage photographs show the Abu Simbel Temples being relocated, 1964-1968.


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