History : Jul-Aug 2019
NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC HISTORY 19 of Ramses II had become an iconic image of Egypt. The engineering feats and the expense were daunting. The team had a hard deadline, as Lake Nasser would reach full capacity in 1966. In 1963, after numerous ideas were proposed and rejected, it was decided that Ramses’s tem- ples would be cut into more than a thousand blocks and relocated to a higher spot. The mis- sion required complex infrastructure. A tem- porary dam was built around the site to keep it dry. A network of supply roads had to be laid, an electricity-generating station had to be installed, and accommodations had to be provided for the thousands of laborers involved in the project. Dismantling concluded in April 1966. Re- construction followed, and National Geographic magazine documented the colossal effort of excavating the new site, moving the blocks, and putting the pieces back together. After more than two years of painstaking work, Abu Simbel was inaugurated in its new, higher location on September 22, 1968. This effort remains unequalled in the history of archaeology. The former director of the Egyp- tian Monuments of Nubia Service later wrote: “Thus the most imposing monument ever hewn out of rock, and the jewel of the Nubian trea- sures, had been saved. At the same time, the transfer of the temples fulfilled King Ramses II’s dream of immortalizing his temple.” GEORGE STEINMETZ/GETTY IMAGES ESTHER PONS IS A CURATOR IN THE DEPARTMENT OF EGYPTIAN ANTIQUITIES AT SPAIN’S NATIONAL ARCHAEOLOGICAL MUSEUM IN MADRID. SAFE ON DRY LAND The temples salvaged on the island of Philae were reconstructed on nearby Agilkia Island (above). The complex was completed in 1979, a year before UNESCO formally declared the Nubian project successfully accomplished.