In professor Watrall’s lectures last week, he mentioned that modern Egypt built the Aswan Dam in an attempt to try to contain and minimize the impacts of the annual rising and falling of the water levels of the Nile that for centuries has caused fluctuations in the productivity of agriculture on the flood lands along the river. Due to the construction of the dam, many archaeological sites we threaten by the flooding that would result from the construction of the dam. One of the most famous sites that were threatened was the Abu Simbel temples located in Nubia. For those who are not familiar with the temples, the temples are located on the west bank of the Nile, just southwest of Aswan and were originally constructed during the time period of the Pharaoh Ramses II (around 1257 BCE).
The Abe Simbel temples are spectacular! In the past I had read about them and have grown quite fond of the temples themselves. The temples were discovered in 1813 and were explored in 1817 by Giovanni Battista Belzoni. The temples themselves were actually carved into a face of a cliff, much like our very own Mount Rushmore here in the United States. Instead of 5 faces of past presidents, the Abu Simbel temples’ front face shows four colossal seated figures of Ramses himself, all about 67 feet in height. It has been said that the construction of the temple took about 20 years to complete.
When the proposal of the construction of the Aswan Dam begun and discussions about the area at which would most likely flood started, it became imperative to move the Abel Simbel temples to a location that they would be safe from the rising water levels of Lake Nassar. So in 1959, an international donations campaign to save the monument began. According to one resource, the actual saving and reconstruction act for the temples required 5 years of time and approximately $40 million dollars. On Nov. 16,1963, the disassembling of the temples began. With the help of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and the Egyptian government, the temples were successfully moved and reconstructed on top of a cliff another 200 feet above the original site.
During my search, I ran across a link for a video that discussed some of the tactics used to disassemble the temples. I thought it was extremely interesting and entertaining so I thought I would share it with you.
Food for thought:
Even though the Aswan dam caused havoc for many archaeologists in terms of moving sites such as the Abu Simbel temples, it must be noted that without the dam construction, surveys of the surrounded area would not have been conducted and it is quite possible that the many archaeological findings found in the area would have never been found if the dam idea had never even been proposed.