Destruction of Egyptian Cultural Heritage: Environmental Population

The one thing that has always kept Egypt constantly thriving is also the one thing that can hurt it the most: the Nile. This river has the ability to sustain life while simultaneously being able to destroy the past. Archaeologists have been locked in a constant struggle for ages trying to protect and preserve archeological sites threatened by the watery powerhouse. This is a massive subject to cover; therefore, this paper will specifically focus on the effects caused by the building of the dam at Aswan.

There are some very important questions to be considered on this topic. Why is cultural heritage being destroyed by the Nile, why specifically the Aswan Dam? As a result, what of significance has been lost? What, if anything can be recovered? What is being done today to prevent any further annihilation of archeological sites surrounding the dam?

Why does this matter? Because of the building of the Aswan Dam, numerous sites were about to be compromised and as a result some of them were dismantled, transported to a new location, and then reassembled for permanent residence. This massive effort also aided in the discovery of sites that may have never been found if not for the Nubian campaign held by UNESCO. Since the effort for removal and preservation was so expansive, there was an impact on the development of different, new, and improved archaeological field methods.

One of the main focuses of this rescue effort was the two temples of Ramses II at Abu Simbel. The carved temple itself and four colossal statues of the pharaoh were sawed into huge blocks and reconstructed on higher ground. The smaller temple, four statues of Ramses II, and two of Nefertiti were subject to the same process.

Another site that was removed from its original location was the temple complex on Philae Island.  This site was a little more complicated because it was submerged by the construction of the first Aswan Dam and had to be fortified and the water pumped out before the relocation to Agilkyia Island could begin.

Equally as important as the temples of Ramses II and the complex on Philae Island is the site of Qasr Ibrim in Lower Nubia. Why? Because it is the ONLY ancient settlement not forced underwater by the forming of Laker Nasser during the construction of the Aswan High Dam. Even so, it is not entirely safe forever as some of the site has been affected by high lake levels in the recent past.

This was an effort of rescue archaeology and was the first large-scale effort to do so anywhere in the world. Such a process was increasingly used into the 20th century because of the growing danger caused by population expansion and economic development.

Hopefully this paper will bring home the thought that Egypt’s cultural heritage is still important and must be saved at all costs. The Nile has done wonders for Egyptian society and life but it cannot be allowed to simply destroy significant archaeological sites without an effort to prevent the damage.


Bard, Kathryn. (2008). An Introduction to the Archeology of Ancient Egypt. Malden: Blackwell.

Egypt’s Cultural Heritage under Threat of Destruction. Egyptian Cultural Heritage Organisation. Retrieved from

Hassan, Fekri. (2007). The Aswan High Dam and the International Rescue Nubia Campaign. New York, NY: Springer.

Neher, Kelly. (2005). Assessing the Impact of the Aswan High Dam on Archeological Monuments in Egypt. University of Wisconsin.

Neville, Tove. (1960). Past Threatened by Aswan Dam. Washington, D.C.

3 thoughts on “Destruction of Egyptian Cultural Heritage: Environmental Population

  1. I think that the topic of your research paper is really interesting, as well as extremely important. When we talked in class about the archeology that took place before the construction of the high dam, I was amazed by the number of sites that were found… but later destroyed. Though it’s true that the construction of the dam was beneficial to the Egyptians living in Egypt currently, it is also the source of devastation to Ancient sites. I know that the Aswan high dam is one big example of archeological destruction due to environmental population, there are several more sites that are continually threatened by overpopulation and agriculture.

    When I did my site report on Tell el-Amarna, there was mention of a whole temple site that was destroyed because of agricultural flooding. I know that agriculture is important for sustaining Egypt, but it is threatening the archeological legacy within Egypt. I think that your research paper is a really important topic, and I believe that it will illustrate the importance of protecting these archeological sites.

  2. I really enjoyed reading about your topic choice! Your idea of watching obscure movies along with re-watching the more popular movies about ancient Egypt will be very helpful in determining how cinema portrays this region in time. Hollywood has had a great impact in shaped the views on ancient Egypt through their films! The inclusion of newspaper articles will also enhance your understanding of the portrayal. Did you consider including other sources of popular media, for example, magazines, that are less news oriented, and lean towards entertainment? I am curious to learn how the other movies that you have chosen portray ancient Egypt? Are the similar to The Mummy or Raiders of the Lost Ark? Or do they attempt to be more accurate in their interpretation? I also did not know much about ancient Egypt before this class, except what I had gained from popular media. I am very excited to ready what you come up with after watching the movies! It will be interesting to learn the accuracies and the disinformation that is included in the cinemas representation of ancient Egypt! Good luck with your paper, and I hope that you have fun watching all of the fun ancient Egypt movies!

  3. Jodes, you have a great paper topic! I think it has the ability to be developed into something great, and of course, you’ll do a great job with it. When we discussed the effects of the Aswan and Aswan High Dams, I always took an interest as to the results of their construction. I assumed that native Egyptians might be frustrated with the new structures because they do pose such a problem in regards to cultural heritage. I myself am a little bothered that numerous archeological sites were now submerged by water and disintegrating at the complete mercy of the Nile River. I am excited to read your paper because I know it will clear up a few questions I have; maybe it will even give me different opinion of the entire construction process of the dam. I am curious to learn more about the local opinion and sites ruined by the dam. How have the opinions of local Egyptians affected the construction of as well as decisions regarding upkeep and etc. of the Aswan dams? Are they taken into account? Are there any plans to recover underwater sites? How has Egyptian culture been altered by the construction of the dams? Good luck, Jodi, you will be great!

Comments are closed.