Ancient Egypt / Religion / Cult centres /
There are two rock temples here, the largest is called Sun Temple of Ramses 2, the other the Hathor Temple of Queen Nefertari. The temples here were built in commemoration of his alleged victory at the Battle of Kadesh (against the Hittites), and aimed at scaring Nubians from attacking Egypt.
The Sun Temple was dedicated to the sun gods Amon-Re, Re-Harakhty, Ptah and the deified Ramses 2.
The facade of the Sun Temple is 33 metres high and 38 metres wide. It is fronted by 4 seated Ramses colossi, each 21 metre high. Three of them are in near perfect condition, the one to the left of the entrance was made headless from an earthquake. At Ramses feet, his wife, mother and children are also represented.
On the wall above the entrance, a statue represents a falcon-headed Re-Harakhty, with two worshipping Ramses 2 carved into the walls on either sides.
The facade is topped by 22 baboons apparently worshipping the sun, having their hands raised up.
The temple runs for some 56 metres into the mountain, having 3 consecutive halls, plus 8 side chambers. It is noted for its floors rising considerably the deeper you get. The first hall contains 8 Osiride statues, representing the king.
The arrangement and shape of the temple allows the morning sun to cast its rays all the way into the innermost sanctuary, twice every year (February 22 and October 22).
The Hathor Temple is fronted by 6 standing colossi, 10.5 metre high, 4 represent Ramses 2 and 2 his queen, Nefertari. The equality in size between the queen statues and the king's is quite remarkable, reflecting Ramses love and respect for his wife.
The design of the interior of this temple is rather crude, and runs only 20 metres into the rock. In the inner chamber a small Hathor statue stands.
The construction period of the temples is estimated to have lasted almost 30 years, possibly being completed in 1244. While the stone work is excellent, the quality of the wall carvings are mediocre, reflecting that the era of Ramses 2 was one of deteriorating workmanship. This may have come from too many ongoing projects straining a limited supply of well-trained artists.
Following the formation of Nasser Lake, after the completion of the Aswan High Dam, the original temples were about to be inundated. Between 1963 and 1968, they were disassembled, and relocated to the new site 60 metres higher. This was made to look as equal as possible to the original site, and an artificial mountain was built here.
The temples at Abu Simbel were absolutely unknown to the outside world until 1813, when the Swiss researcher Johann Ludwig Burckhardt came here. At this time, they were almost fully engulfed by sand. The advancing sand may have forced the temples to be abandoned already in the 6th century BCE. Italian explorer Giovanni Belzoni cleared the temples in 1817, but had also all valuable and movable items removed from the area.
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