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How an ancient Egyptian temple was sawed and carried
How an ancient Egyptian temple was sawed and carried

The rocky temples of Abu Simbel are an unforgettable sight. The walls of these ancient religious buildings are covered with hieroglyphs from floor to canvas, telling about the brilliant victories of Pharaoh Ramses II, who built this miracle. Four huge statues look out from the facade at the sun, which rises at the beginning of each new day over the crystal surface of the lake.

But the story was a little different, the temples, erected in the XIII century. BC, in the middle of the 20th century, they had every chance of being under water, and today people could see this beauty only on the pages of history textbooks.

How the Aswan Dam nearly destroyed the ancient Temples of Abu Simbel

The Aswan Dam, which the USSR erected in Egypt, solved many of the problems of the land of the pharaohs. According to the Soviet project, the width of the dam was 980 meters at the base and 40 meters at the top, and the height was 3600 meters. The main task of the dam was to raise the water level in the artificial reservoir by 63 meters, as a result of which a huge lake should have formed, which today is called Lake Nasser.

President Abdal Gamel Nasser, General Secretary Nikita Khrushchev and Aswan Dam

In addition to the Egyptian lands, the dam also flooded 160 km of the territory of Sudan. In addition, the new lake differed from the previous one in that it did not dry out even with the hottest children. But then there was a problem with ancient monuments. They needed to be saved somehow. Or they would be under the water column forever.

We are talking about the Abu Simbel temple complex, built in 20 years in the XIII century. BC, which is considered one of the greatest ancient temples that have survived to this day. There is a large temple built in honor of Ramzez, and a Small one - built in honor of his wife, Queen Nefertari.

Diagram giving an idea of ​​the original location of the temples of Abu Simbel and their location after the transfer

In the spring of 1959, the Egyptian government asked UNESCO to provide the country with scientific, technical and financial assistance. The director general of this organization, in turn, made an appeal to various organizations and foundations, governments and all people of goodwill. His address ended with the following words: “For many scientists, the first phrase that they translate from the ancient language:

With this appeal, the International Campaign for the Rescue of the Monuments of Nubia began, which lasted for 20 years and ended in triumph in March 1980.

What Egypt was ready to share with foreigners

Shortly after the proclamation was made public, in February 1960, Sarvat Okasha, Egypt's Minister of Culture, created an advisory council. A Soviet representative, Boris Piotrovsky, who at that time was the head of the Leningrad branch of the Institute of Archeology of the Academy of Sciences of the USSR, also entered it.

Work on the transfer of the temple in Abu Simbel

A number of measures have been taken by the Egyptian government to attract museums, universities and research institutes to highly costly research in distant Nubia. The Egyptians announced that organizations that will actively participate in the company will be able to receive a gift from the Egyptian government one of the temples in Taffa, Dabod, Ellissia or Derra.

Okasha called these temples "new ambassadors extraordinary." In addition, foreign archaeological expeditions received the right to export for display and storage in their national museums 50% of the artifacts found in Nubia, except for unique ones.

Antiquities are under the threat of flooding

For the period of the rescue work, the Egyptian Antiquities Service stopped any archaeological expeditions in any regions except Nubia. The main project of the entire rescue campaign was the transfer of rocky monumental temples near Abu Simbel on the border with Sudan. These temples were built during the reign of the 19th dynasty pharaoh Ramser II in honor of the victory over the Hittites in the battle of Kadesh. And Pharaoh dedicated these temples to his wife - Queen Nefertari.

How temples were proposed to be dismantled: dam, domes with elevators and other projects

Surroundings of Abu Simbel

Many interesting solutions have been proposed by various foreign companies. In particular, the Americans proposed to build concrete pontoons under the temples and wait for the water to raise the ancient architectural structures. The Poles suggested leaving the ancient temples in place, and erecting giant concrete piles above them. Inside the domes, according to the project, there were supposed to be elevators on which tourists wishing to see the monuments would move.

Work on the transfer of the temple in Abu Simbel

Thanks to the persistence of a group of UNESCO Egyptologists-experts, among whom the most active position was taken by Christiane Desroches-Noblecourt, Sergio Donadoni, Abd al-Munim Abu-Bakr, one of the main requirements was put forward for projects to save the temples of Abu Simbel - the preservation of monuments in their original geographic, architectural and cultural environment. Thanks to this, projects that involved moving temples to another location were excluded from the competition.

Work on the transfer of the temple in Abu Simbel

The expert commission, which included Egypt, the USA, the USSR, Switzerland and the Federal Republic of Germany, and whose meeting was held in Cairo at the beginning of 1961, presented 2 projects.

The first French - engineers Andre Quan and Jean Belye, who proposed to surround the temples with a dam. But a problem arose: if such a dam was erected, it would hide the facades of the temples from the sun's rays, and this would disrupt the lighting system that was conceived by the ancient Egyptian architects. In addition, the French project required constant pumping of water that would seep into the dam. And this also implied considerable expenses - about 300-400 thousand dollars per year.

Schematic representation of the temple in the new place, after the transfer

The second project was presented by Italians. They proposed to cut both temples out of the rock, place each in a reinforced concrete "box" and raise them 62 m above the level of the Nile on hydraulic lifts. This made it possible to reproduce the original panorama over the years, and besides, between the Nile and the temples, the same perspective would have been preserved, but already at a higher place.

The Egyptian government approved the Italian project, but a problem arose - the cost of this event was estimated at $ 80 million, which made its implementation impossible.

How ancient temples were sawed

Work on the transfer of the temple in Abu Simbel

It was then that Egypt proposed an alternative option - to cut the ancient temples into pieces, raise them by 62 meters and assemble them on the same mountain. The project cost has dropped to $ 32 million. And in the spring of 1963, Egypt made an official announcement that it was opening a project to save the temples in Abu Simbel.

Heads of colossal statues of Ramses II, sawn and prepared for transfer

In the fall of 1963, a team of engineers, hydrologists and archaeologists began to implement the UNESCO plan. It was necessary to break both temples into blocks of a certain size - a small temple by 235 blocks, and a large one by 807. The blocks had to be numbered, relocated and again connected, embedding a facade prepared in a special way in the rock.

Work on the transfer of the temple in Abu Simbel And today the sunbeam travels twice a year the path conceived by the ancient architects

Specialists paid special attention to the exact reproduction of the angle of sunlight. Indeed, according to the idea of ​​the ancient builders, the rays 2 times a year - February 22 (the day Ramses II ascended the throne) and October 22 (his birthday) - the first rays of the sun at sunrise passed through a specially cut narrow opening and illuminated the face and two more statues inside the Bolshoi temple. And the idea of ​​the ancients was preserved.

The head and torso of a colossal statue of Ramses II, recreated in a new location Tourists at the Temple of Ramses in Abu Simbel

It is difficult even to imagine how the work was carried out in the desert in the conditions of unbearable heat. But in September 1968 the project was completed and went down in history as the greatest achievement of engineering and archeology.

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