Monday, August 17, 2009

Saving Abu Simbel

The saving and reconstruction of both Ramesses the greats temples at Abu Simbel required five years and $40 million. Begun on November 16, 1963, the first of the 1,041 blocks was moved on may 21, 1965, while the first block to be laid at the new site was set on January 4 of the following year.

Three weeks later engineers installed the four gods in the inner sanctuary of the temple placing beneath them a foundation deposit including among other things copies of the Koran, newspapers and some coins. On September 14, 1966, a highlight the reunification of the face with the rest of the body of the first of the three 67 foot statues of the great king, this one being the farthest to the left.

By the following fall, the baboons on the cornice of the great temple were once again in place after an absence of two years. The Aswan dam of the 1960's created a new lake and drowned the original sites of more than two dozen ancient monuments while completely drowning the Nile's less impressive architectural monuments such as a number of mud brick Middle Kingdom forts.

The dam with its twelve generators has created massive amounts of needed electricity as well as mitigating floods and droughts since its completion in 1970. As expected however more than forty years later the dam is silting up, these silts used to flow down the river to stabilize the coast of the Nile delta. Along with the silt came the nutrients which used to attract a now dying fishery on Egypt's Mediterranean coast.

It may now be time to undue damages before they get worse but I know that's just crazy talk. Perhaps moving the Abu Simbel temples again to raise the damn still further higher is only as crazy as erecting the dam in the first place.

No simple solution

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