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1 Comment | Vintage
Original B&W photo from the Library of Congress.
In 1902 the construction of the Aswan Low Dam caused Philae Island and its temple complex to flood for most of the year. Tourists could explore the partially submerged ruins by rowboat and the temple foundations were strengthened to help them withstand the annual flood damage. However, the bricks became encrusted with river silt and the colors of the temple’s fabulous reliefs were washed away. When plans for the Aswan High Dam were revealed in 1954, it became clear that Philae Island would soon be fully submerged — and its ancient treasures lost forever.
As a result, UNESCO launched their International Campaign to Save the Monuments of Nubia in 1960. The project excavated and recorded hundreds of sites and recovered thousands of artifacts that would soon disappear beneath the water. It also made plans to relocate several of the region’s more important temples – including Abu Simbel (located on the shores of Lake Nasser) and the Philae temple complex. At Philae, a coffer dam was built to keep the river water at bay while the monuments were cleaned, measured and dismantled.
The temple and its accompanying shrines and sanctuaries were moved brick-by-brick to nearby Agilkia Island and painstakingly reconstructed on higher ground. In the name of authenticity, Agilkia was even landscaped to match the temple’s original setting on Philae Island.