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Carved out of the sandstone mountain on the bank of the Nile between 1274 and 1244 BC, the 4 colossal statues of Rhamses II facing the river, was designed as a show of strength watching over any boats sailing into the pharoah's lands from the south. Each statue stands more than 20 meters high and is accompanied by smaller statues of the pharaoh's mother, Queen Tuya, wife Nefertari and and some of their children. Over many centuries, the temple became covered by desert sand and was lost to human memory until in 1813, Swiss explorer Jean-Louis Burkhardt discovered the top most parts of the heads sticking out above the sand.

In the 1960s the entire temple was moved back to higher ground as the waters of Lake Nasser began to rise following completion of the Aswan High Dam.

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