When construction began on the high Dam at Aswan, in southern Egypt, it was realized that the temples of Abu Simbel would be completely submerged as the waters to the Nile rose behind the dam to create a much needed reservoir.
In 1959 Egypt and its southern neighbor Sudan appealed for help to the United Nations educational, scientific and cultural organization. The first archaeological surveys began in 1960 and U.N.E.S.C.O’s response grew into what was to become the biggest archaeological rescue operation in history.
Abu Simbel consists of three temples of Rameses II built more than 3,000 years ago. The most important and impressive temple included four gigantic seated statues of the king, each 65 feet high. By 1968 these four enormous monuments to Rameses had been cut out of the rock and reconstructed, exactly as they were, high up on a cliff.
Six more great statues of Rameses and his queen (about 30 feet high) were also excavated and moved to a dry sanctuary above the old river bed, along with everything else that could be salvaged.