Abu Simbel temple, the secret

#1
Have you visited Abu simbel temple? If you have let us know of your experience. Most of its hisotry is shrouded in fantasy. However recent history is that as recently as 1960, abu simbel temple in egypt was about to go underwater and they had to refix the entire vast structure on a plateau above the water level.
That is an incredible work of architecture. So I mean literarily peice by peice Abu simbel temple was reconstructued to where it sits today.
The real secret is, can anybody explain the missing face on the second statue of the abu simbel entrance?
What caused that?
 
Jan 2015
2,933
MD, USA
#2
Sorry, "secret"? That piece of the sculpture fell off and lies at the feet of the statue. It clearly happened hundreds of years before the temple was found half-buried in sand by early modern European explorers. Presumably there was some flaw in the rock. But the fallen head was placed by the rebuilders exactly as it had been found, no attempt was made to restore it to its original position.

The very fact that Abu Simbel was sliced up and moved to the top of the bluff to keep it from being submerged means that this temple has far fewer "secrets" than most other Egyptian sites!

Matthew
 

Corvidius

Ad Honorem
Jul 2017
2,923
Crows nest
#3
Indeed, and in the early 19th Century the artist David Roberts made a number of paintings of Abu Simbel, the external views showing the damaged pieces of the inner left hand statue laying in the sand. I will say however, that I don't know why with modern techniques the broken pieces, which are substantial, cannot be put back in place.
 
Likes: Edratman
Jan 2015
2,933
MD, USA
#4
Oh, I'm sure they *could* be put back in place, though no doubt some filler would be needed to replace stone lost through weathering. But it was decided to keep the temple in its condition as "found", like most other ancient structures. No one has suggested restoring the casings on the pyramids, for example.

Matthew
 

Corvidius

Ad Honorem
Jul 2017
2,923
Crows nest
#5
It's this romanticism that has held sway over us from certainly the 19th Century, and perhaps beginning in the 18th. We like old ruins sometimes better than how they looked when new. Stonehenge is an example, as are places like Fountains Abbey and Corfe Castle, to name just a tiny few. A ruin gives a better sense of time, and in the case of Egypt an immense gap between them and us. Yet they would be appalled at the ruins littering the land. We can see beauty in ruins like Corfe Castle, yet the place is modern compared to Egypt, and the gap between us and when the castle was wrecked in the Civil War is only a fraction of the gap between the construction of the Giza pyramids and Great Sphinx, and the restorations carried out in the 18th Dynasty.

Of course the pyramids cannot be refurbished with the stone that was taken from them as parts of Cairo would have to be demolished, and new casings would look fake, as would a rebuild of the Great Sphinx. So we wouldn't do this, but they would, and did. What is the difference between us? That they refurbished their own still living cultural heritage, while we like to wallow in romantic sentimentality. We can wander around the ruins in Rome and admire them, and imagine what they used to be like, but if they were as new, then I think the spell would be broken and we would see them as no different to a modern working building, and probably less tasteful. Are we hypocrites and snobs imposing our romantic sentimentality on the past? possibly. Karnak is stunning, but as a complete and working temple complex it may feel oppressive, frightening even, to modern sensibilities, so we leave it as a majestic and unthreatening ruin, deserted now by the old frightening demons gods.

I'm not for rebuilding old ruins by the way, unless it can be done properly and not look fake. A rebuild of the Great Sphinx would look terrible, but perhaps putting the original face back on Ramesses II may work. But, people in Egypt still, if given the chance, smash statues of Sekhmet as she instills fear in them down through the millennia.
 
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Likes: Futurist
Mar 2018
736
UK
#6
It's this romanticism that has held sway over us from certainly the 19th Century, and perhaps beginning in the 18th. We like old ruins sometimes better than how they looked when new. Stonehenge is an example, as are places like Fountains Abbey and Corfe Castle, to name just a tiny few. A ruin gives a better sense of time, and in the case of Egypt an immense gap between them and us. Yet they would be appalled at the ruins littering the land. We can see beauty in ruins like Corfe Castle, yet the place is modern compared to Egypt, and the gap between us and when the castle was wrecked in the Civil War is only a fraction of the gap between the construction of the Giza pyramids and Great Sphinx, and the restorations carried out in the 18th Dynasty.

Of course the pyramids cannot be refurbished with the stone that was taken from them as parts of Cairo would have to be demolished, and new casings would look fake, as would a rebuild of the Great Sphinx. So we wouldn't do this, but they would, and did. What is the difference between us? That they refurbished their own still living cultural heritage, while we like to wallow in romantic sentimentality. We can wander around the ruins in Rome and admire them, and imagine what they used to be like, but if they were as new, then I think the spell would be broken and we would see them as no different to a modern working building, and probably less tasteful. Are we hypocrites and snobs imposing our romantic sentimentality on the past? possibly. Karnak is stunning, but as a complete and working temple complex it may feel oppressive, frightening even, to modern sensibilities, so we leave it as a majestic and unthreatening ruin, deserted now by the old frightening demons gods.

I'm not for rebuilding old ruins by the way, unless it can be done properly and not look fake. A rebuild of the Great Sphinx would look terrible, but perhaps putting the original face back on Ramesses II may work. But, people in Egypt still, if given the chance, smash statues of Sekhmet as she instills fear in them down through the millennia.
Whether or not to reconstruct is always an interesting debate. It's also interesting to note that it is fundamentally a western one: When I was in China a few years ago I was shocked to find that the Temple of Heaven in Beijing is being continuously updated and reconstructed, and that the local authorities have no qualms about replacing worn down stone buildings with modern concrete ones. Imagine the furore if the spire of Notre Dame de Paris was replaced with a crude concrete structure!

I think your notions of it being due to romanticism are part of it. Another aspect I believe is import is authenticity, we attach value to something because it is authentic and real. A copy is somehow a fake, and less valuable or desirable for it. Even if I could make an exact duplicate of the Mona Lisa down to the last atom, the Louvre would still prefer its original to my version. To repair a ruin is half way to replacing it, it is modifying something whose intrinsic value and worth is solely due to it being original.

Somewhat linked to this is a feeling of humility. Who are we to judge whether future generations want the casing on the great pyramid replaced? If we make the decision to modify the structure, we are removing that choice from them. Enough damage has been done to ancient structures a century ago (Arthur Evans in Crete springs to mine) that we are more cautious about making changes now. Note that this argument does not apply when it comes to preventing further damage from happening, which is why few are squeamish about emergency repairs to prevent ancient monuments from collapsing.
 
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