National Geographic : 1966 May
inscription inside, for the walls were covered with painted reliefs. "But bad news had also reached Abu Sim bel," Louis Christophe told me. "Ramesses' first chief consort, Iset-nefert, presumably died shortly before or after construction got under way. Bent-Anta, Ramesses' and Iset-nefert's first-born daughter, is portrayed in the Great Temple's Great Hall, sometimes as a princess, sometimes as the queen of her father-husband. As long as Iset-nefert was alive, Ramesses would hardly have elevated her daughter to a position equaling that of Nefertari, his other famous royal spouse." The Small Temple is believed to have been completed ahead of the Great Temple, and was decorated in Nefertari's honor. It pays homage to the queen and the goddess Hathor, and in contrast to the solemnity of the larger shrine, it displays a boudoirlike intimacy and charm. Here, as in the Great Temple, Nefertari's lovely face and figure ap pear repeatedly, usually near her royal spouse, as in our painting (pages 703-5). Buried Temple Sleeps Away the Ages While Ramesses yet lived, Christophe be lieves, the upper portion of the second colos sus from the south side fell to the sands, where it lay through the centuries. Pharaoh's experts had underestimated the fissures and stresses in the rock. A second seated figure and the temple interior required extensive repairs. For a while after Ramesses' death, the priests continued to maintain the temples. But by 1000 B.C. Lower Nubia had begun to fade from the pages of history, and the sands of the Western Desert started to invade the Great Temple. In the sixth century B.C., Greek and Phoe nician mercenaries marching against Nubia climbed the heaped-up sand to carve their names on the seated colossi. Two of the Before salvagers began their task, statues fronting the temples gazed on a serene river scape (top). As work began, a wall of steel pilings-core for a shielding cofferdam fenced the monuments from the Nile (center). Men labored night and day in 1964 to com plete the dam to its 80-foot height when the annual Nile flood rose higher than expected. Corrugated metal conduits formed tunnels into both temples, providing access through the rising sand cover. With protective meas ures completed by 1965, Abu Simbel wore a new face (bottom).