Temple of Ramesses II in Abu Simbel Temples – Aswan

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Abu Simbel (Ar. Abu Sunbul),  a corruption of the ancient name Ipsambu], is located (52km) Below Qasr Ibrim,

the massive Temple of Ramesses II, dedicated to Re-Harakhte, Amun, and the deified Ramesses II. It was built by the king before his 34th reignal year on the site of a shrine to a local form of Horus. The location in the Hill of Libations Was chosen with great precision so that twice a year (22 February and 22 October) the first rays of the rising sun illuminated the innermost wall of the sanctuary and the seated statues of the four gods there. The rock-cut temple was discovered by Burckhardt in 1813 almost completely sanded up and Belzoni cleared it in 1817. When the rising waters of Lake Nasser threatened this temple, it was decided to move it to a new location. In 1964 a team of West German, Italian, French, and Swedish engineers under the auspices of UNESCO began the work. A cofferdam was erected and the whole temple dismantled. It was re-erected inside a concrete shell 210m further inland and 65m higher. By the time the temple was reopened on 22 September 1968 the operation had cost $40 million.


The façade, 35m wide and 30m high, beyond a Terrace [А]. is dominated by four Seated Colossi (20m high) of Ramesses ll. Each wears the double crown and nemes headcloth and is accompanied by three smaller figures of his wives, daughters, and sons, standing beside his legs. From left to right they are (a) Princess Nebtawi, Bant Anta and another unnamed, perhaps, Esenofre; (b) which is headless (upper section lying in front of the temple), Queen-mother Muttuy, Queen Nefertari and Prince Amunhirkhopshef; there is also a Greek inscription giving an account of an expedition by mercenaries to Abu Simbel in the reign of Psamtik II (26 Бул.]; (c) two figures of Queen Nefertari and one of Prince Ramessesu; (d) Queen-mother Muttuy, Queen Nefertarí, and Princess Merytamun. On the sides of the thrones of the colossi flanking the entry are figures of Nile gods entwining the plants representing Upper and Lower Egypt and below are the Nine Bows, enemies of Egypt, shown as bound Asiatics and Nubians. In a niche above the entrance stands the figure of Re Harakhte. Along the summit of the façade is a row of baboons.

Abû Simbel Temples
Façade of the rock-cut Temple of Ramesses II

At the S end of the terrace is the Hittite Marriage Stele (e) recording the marriage of Ramesses II to Princess Ma’at-Her—Neferure, daughter of the Hittite king Hattusilus II. Just beyond each end of the terrace is a small chapel. The N Chapel (NC), facing the rising sun, consists of an open court and an altar; the rock-cut S Chapel (SC) is larger.

(1—2) Double scene, Ramesses preceded by standards runs with hap and oar to Amun Re and Mut gives vases to Re Harakhte and Wert-Hekau. ‚(З—4) Inner Door, the king before Re Harakhte and Sekhmet and before Amun Re and Nut, he offers cloth to Amun—ReC and bouquets to Rec-Harakhte.

A door bearing Ramesses II’s cartouches leads into a large rock-cut Hall (B) (16.4m by 17.6m). Supporting the roof are eight massive square pillars, in two rows of four. Each of these is fronted by a 9m figure of the king in Nubian Osiride form, wearing a short kilt. Those on the N side are wearing the double crown and those on the S the white crown of Upper Egypt. Between pillars, III and IV is a stele of Ramesses II’s 34th regnal year recording the erecting of a temple of Ptah at Memphis.

Scenes on the pillars are: (I) The king offers incense to deified self, Queen Nefertari offers incense to Hathor of Abhishek, the king offers flowers to Min and incense to Isis. (II) The king offers Ma’at to Amun Re and incense and libations to Ptah, bread to Sobek Re, and flowers to Amun-Re. (III) The king stands before Isis and receives heb-sed from Hathor, Princess Bant Anta offers sistrum and flowers to Anuket. (IV) The king offers wine to Re Harakhte and stands before Amun-Re, offers wine to the noble of Hermopolis’ and libation and incense to Osiris. (V) The king offers ointment to Menhit and Ma’at to Shu. (VI) The king offers wine to Horus of Baki (a local Nubian deity) and flowers to Mut. (VII) E face, the king offers flowers to Thoth. N face, the king offers bread to Amun Re and flowers to Horus of Ha (local Nubian deity). W face, the king offers bread to Anubis and incense and a libation to Khnum. (VIII) E face, the king offers Ma’at to Amun-Rec and flowers to Re Harakhte.

The ceiling of the central aisle is decorated with vultures with outstretched wings, that of the side aisles with stars. On the walls, the scenes are lively and well-carved, and painted. (5) The king followed by ka accompanied by eight sons kills Nubian and Hittite prisoners before Amun—Reª. (6—7) Upper register, offering scenes; lower register, Nubian and Syrian wars, the king attacks a Syrian fort. (8) The king presents two rows of Nubian prisoners to Amun-Re and (9) two rows of Syrian príoners to Re Harakhte. (10—1 1) Battle of Kadesh in four registers; upper register, the advance of Ptah Division, the king in the chariot; middle register, the town of Kadesh, the king in the chariot; lower register, chariot fight, reception of spies; below, camp and chariot, the arrival of recruits with reinforcements. (12) The king followed by ka kills prisoners before Re Harakhte; accompanied by nine daughters. Beneath the reliefs is a short inscription saying that they were made by the sculptor Mery-Amun Piyay son of Khanufer.

Off this hall open a number of side chambers, which must have been used as store-rooms for the temple linen, plate, and clothing. Unlike the later temple, the functions of the rooms are not stated. On the N side of the hall are two side chambers. In the first (C) the W wall is decorated with reliefs showing the king before the gods. The second room (D) has all its walls decorated with similar scenes. These include Hathor, Isis, Rec-Harakhte, Amun—Rec, Ptah, Khonsu, and Ma’at.

Two side chambers open off the NW corner through a vestibule (E), embellished with offering scenes with the king offering to Thoth, Amun-Re, the Theban Triad, Atum, Montu, Isis, and Re. The rooms (F) and (G) show the king before Ma’at, Wepwawet, Amun-Re, Khnum, Ptah, Thoth, and Montu, Four calves are driven before Khnum; cloth, wine, linen, ointment, and vases are offered to the other deities. From the SW corner opens another vestibule (H) leading to two more side chambers (I and K). Here again, the paintings are mainly concerned with religious subjects.

(13) Lintel. the king runs with hap and oar before Arnun Re and Mut; left jamb offers lettuces to Min; right jamb offers wine to Ptah; in the thickness, texts of year I.

At the entrance to the Second Half (L), 10.9m by 7.0m, two sandstone sphinxes originally stood; just beyond was found a headless seated sandstone statue of Pesiur II, Viceroy of Kush (all now in BM). This room has four square columns and is also decorated with religious and offering scenes.

(14) The king offers flowers to Amun-Re and Mut with a deified Ramesses ll placed between them at later date. (15) The King and Queen Nefertari offer to the boat of Amun Re. (16) The king in front of Amun Re. (17) The king receives heb-sed from Re Harakhte. (18) The king and queen before boat of deified Ramesses II. (19) The king offers lettuces to Amun-Min and Isis. The Vestibule (M) must have been mainly for offerings as wine, fruit, and flowers are shown on the walls.

(20) The king before deified self. (21) The king receives life from Amun Re and deified self. (22) The king offers wine to Horus. (23) The king offers incense to Amun-Rec. (24) The king offers flowers to Ptah in the kiosk. (25) The king on either side.

Three doors open off the rear wall of the vestibule. The two side chapels are undecorated but the Sanctuary (N) has paintings and statues of the patron gods and in the center an altar of Ramesses II. (26) The king before boat of Amun Re and anointing Amun—Min. (27) The king before boat of deified self and before his deified self, (28) Niche with four statues (left to right), Ptah, Amun Re, deified Ramesses II, and Re Harakhte.

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