As the Sun rises over southern Egypt next week, it will illuminate a 3200-year-old sanctuary. For a few minutes, the Sun will cast its rays upon the statues of three Egyptian gods — a powerful reminder of the religion of ancient Egypt, and of the great skill of its architects.
The sanctuary is part of the Great Temple at Abu Simbel. It was carved into a mountainside at the direction of Ramses the Great. The temple was dedicated to Re-Harakhte, the god of the rising Sun.
The Sun was one of the most important objects in ancient Egypt. The king was considered a son of Re, the Sun god. In fact, the name Ramses means “Re Has Fashioned Him.” The rising Sun was especially important because it brought the daily rebirth of the world.
The temple of Abu Simbel faces the rising Sun. Four giant statues of Ramses guard the entrance. So does a smaller statue of Re-Harakhte.
The temple’s innermost chamber extends 185 feet into the mountainside. It contains images of the Sun and Moon, including a scarab beetle with a Sun disc, and Ramses offering tribute to the Sun and Moon gods.
The temple also contains statues of four gods: Re-Harakhte; Amun-Re, the greatest of all the gods; a deified Ramses himself; and Ptah. In a remarkable feat of engineering, the temple is aligned so that twice each year the rising Sun briefly illuminates all but Ptah. He was isolated from the Sun’s rays because he was a god of the underworld — who never saw the light of day.
Script by Damond Benningfield, Copyright 2013
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