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International Campaign to Save the Monuments of Nubia

International Campaign to Save the Monuments of Nubia
International Campaign to Save the Monuments of Nubia.pdf
LocationAswan Governorate, Egypt
RegionNubia
Official nameNubian Monuments from Abu Simbel to Philae
TypeCultural
Criteriai, iii, vi
Designated1979 (3rd session)
Reference no.88
RegionArab States

The International Campaign to Save the Monuments of Nubia was the relocation of 22 monuments in Lower Nubia, in southern Egypt and northern Sudan, between 1960 and 1980. The success of the project, in particular the creation of a coalition of 50 countries behind the project, led to the creation 1972 World Heritage Convention, and thus to the modern system of World Heritage Sites.

The project began as a result of the building of the Aswan Dam, at the Nile's first cataract (shallow rapids), a location which defined the traditional boundary of Ancient Egypt and Nubia. The building of the dam was to result in the creation of Lake Nasser, which would submerge the banks of the Nile along its entire 479 km (298 mi) length south of the dam – flooding the entire area of historical Lower Nubia. Vittorino Veronese, director general of UNESCO described it in 1960: "It is not easy to choose between a heritage of the past and the present well-being of a people, living in need in the shadow of one of history’s most splendid legacies, it is not easy to choose between temples and crops."

It was described in the UNESCO Courier as "the greatest archaeological rescue operation of all time".

In April 1979, the monuments were inscribed on the World Heritage List as the Nubian Monuments from Abu Simbel to Philae, as one of the second group of properties added to the list (the first 12 had been added in 1978).

Description

A scale model showing the original and current location of the temple (with respect to the water level) at the Nubian Museum, in Aswan

In 1959, an international donations campaign to save the monuments of Nubia began: the southernmost relics of this ancient human civilization were under threat from the rising waters of the Nile that were about to result from the construction of the Aswan High Dam.

The number of relocated monuments have been stated as 22 or 24 depending on how an individual site is defined. The list of relocated monuments is as follows:

Two temple groups moved nearby to nearly identical sites:

  1. Abu Simbel (two temples)
  2. Philae temple complex

Eleven temples rebuilt and grouped in three oases overlooking Lake Nasser:

New Amada
  1. Temple of Amada
  2. Temple of Derr
  3. Tomb of Pennut at Aniba
New Kalabsha
  1. Temple of Kalabsha (excluding its gate, see below)
  2. Temple of Gerf Hussein
  3. Kiosk of Qertassi
  4. Temple of Beit el-Wali
New Wadi es-Sebua
  1. Temple of Dakka
  2. Temple of Maharraqa
  3. Temple of Wadi es-Sebua

Seven temples placed in two museums:

Nubian Museum, Aswan
  1. Horemheb Temple at Abu Oda
National Museum of Sudan
  1. Temple of Aksha, Sudan
  2. The temples in the fortified town of Buhen
  3. The temples at Semna East and West fortresses

Five sent to Western museums as “grants-in-return” for technical and financial assistance:

  1. Temple of Debod (Madrid, Spain)
  2. Temple of Dendur (Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, United States)
  3. Temple of Taffeh (Rijksmuseum van Oudheden in Leiden, the Netherlands)
  4. Temple of Ellesyia (Museo Egizio, Turin, Italy)
  5. Kalabsha Gate (Egyptian Museum of Berlin, Germany) - part of the Temple of Kalabsha

Timeline

A timeline of the key dates of the campaign is shown below:

Diplomacy Relocation work Aswan Dam
6 April 1959 Egypt appeals to UNESCO
24 October 1959 Sudan appeals to UNESCO
9 January 1960 Work on the Aswan High Dam officially begun
8 March 1960 Director-General of Unesco appeals to the international community
Summer 1960 Temples of Taffa, Dabod and Kertassi dismantled by the Egyptian Antiquities Service
Nov. Dec. 1962 Unesco's General Conference creates Executive Committee for the International Campaign
1962-63 Temple of Kalabsha dismantled, transferred and re-erected
Spring 1964 Work begins on transfer of Abu Simbel temples
14 May 1964 Diversion of Nile to feed the turbines of the High Dam
September 1964 Lake Nasser begins to fill
22 September 1968 Completion of the Abu Simbel operation
6 November 1968 UNESCO launches International Campaign to save the Temples of Philae
1970 Construction of Aswan High Dam completed
1972 Work begins on Philae rescue operation; monuments to be transferred to nearby island of Agilkia
May 1974 Cofferdam around the island of Philae is completed and water is pumped out
April 1977 Foundations of the Philae monuments ready on the island of Agilkia and reconstruction work begins
August 1979 Completed at Agilkia
10 March 1980 Overall project completion

Abu Simbel

One scheme to save the Abu Simbel temples was based on an idea by William MacQuitty to build a clear freshwater dam around the temples, with the water inside kept at the same height as the Nile. There were to be underwater viewing chambers. In 1962 the idea was made into a proposal by architects Jane Drew and Maxwell Fry and civil engineer Ove Arup. They considered that raising the temples ignored the effect of erosion of the sandstone by desert winds. However, the proposal, though acknowledged to be extremely elegant, was rejected.

The salvage of the Abu Simbel temples began in 1964 by a multinational team of archeologists, engineers and skilled heavy equipment operators working together under the UNESCO banner; it cost some US$40 million at the time (equal to $300 million in 2017 dollars). Between 1964 and 1968, the entire site was carefully cut into large blocks (up to 30 tons, averaging 20 tons), dismantled, lifted and reassembled in a new location 65 metres higher and 200 metres back from the river, in one of the greatest challenges of archaeological engineering in history. Some structures were even saved from under the waters of Lake Nasser.

Wider archaeological campaign

Given the impending flooding of a wide area, Egypt and Sudan encouraged archaeological teams from across the world to carry out work as broadly as possible. Approximately 40 teams from across the world came to the region, to explore and area of approximately 500km in length.

World Heritage Site

In April 1979, the monuments were inscribed on the World Heritage List as the "Nubian Monuments from Abu Simbel to Philae". The inscribed area includes ten sites, five of which were relocated (all south of the city of Aswan, and five of which remain in their original position (near to the city of Aswan):

Relocated sites, south of Aswan

Sites in their original location, north of Aswan – although these five sites are grouped within the "Nubian Monuments from Abu Simbel to Philae", they are neither Nubian, nor between Abu Simbel and Philae

Gallery

Bibliography

UNESCO publications

  • A Common trust: the preservation of the ancient monuments of Nubia, 1960, UNESCO CUA.60/D.22/A
  • Save the treasures of Nubia: UNESCO launches a world appeal, 1960, UNESCO Courier
  • Abu Simbel: now or never, 1961, UNESCO Courier
  • Victory in Nubia: the greatest archaeological rescue operation of all time, 1980, UNESCO Courier
  • Säve-Söderbergh, Torgny (1987). Temples and Tombs of Ancient Nubia: The International Rescue Campaign at Abu Simbel, Philae and Other Sites. Thames and Hudson. ISBN 978-92-3-102383-5. Retrieved 2022-10-12.
  • Success stories, 2019, UNESCO

Other publications


This page was last updated at 2022-11-04 23:37 UTC. Update now. View original page.

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