ARCE Chicago: Abu Simbel: Anatomy of a Temple, Epitome of a Reign

Presented by: Dr. Peter J Brand; Professor of Egyptology & Ancient History, University of Memphis

  • 3:00 PM CTIllinois
  • In-person/ZoomBreasted Hall at the Oriental Institute
    1155 E 58th St, Chicago, IL 60637
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Lecture Information 

This lecture explores the temples of Abu Simbel as a shrine to all aspects of Ramesses II’s reign and his legacy down to modern times when UNESCO salvaged it in the 1960s. We will do a virtual tour of the most significant architectural, decorative, and textual elements of the temple from the giant statues on its facade, to scenes depicting Ramesses II’s wars including the Battle of Kadesh. Other imagery reveals how the king “showcased” his large family and reveals the pecking order among his many wives and children. An important inscription also tells of his marriage to a Hittite Princess. 

Along with the imperial solar deities Amun-Re & Re-Horakhty, we will see how the divine Ramesses II himself is one of the paramount gods worshipped in the great temple. Likewise, Ramesses consecrated the smaller temple of Abu Simbel to the worship of his favored consort Queen Nefertari as an avatar of Hathor. Since its rediscovery in 1813, Abu Simbel has captured the imagination of a world-wide public fascinated by its grandeur and that of its builder Ramsses II, aka “The Great.”

Speaker Bio

Since 2001 Dr. Brand has served as the Director of the Karnak Great Hypostyle Hall Project sponsored by the University of Memphis, which aims to record and publish all the monumental inscriptions and reliefs from this huge building. 

His area of focus in Egyptology is the history and culture of the New Kingdom, particularly in the late 18th Dynasty and the Ramesside Period. He is also interested in methodological questions, especially pertaining to epigraphic techniques and methodology, as well as historical method and historiography in Egyptology. 

His fourth book, Ramsses II: Egypt’s Ultimate Pharaoh, Lockwood Press 2023, is a comprehensive and well-illustrated account of this legendary pharaoh. He is now researching his fifth book, which will investigate how Egyptian pharaohs used gold to enhance their authority, influence, and prestige.