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The Temple of Soleb

Date of Submission: 01/02/2022
Criteria: (ii)(iii)(iv)
Category: Cultural
Submitted by:
Sudanese National Commission for Education, Science and Culture
State, Province or Region:
Northern Sudan
Coordinates: 20° 26' 10.7" N, 30° 20' 01.9 E
Ref.: 6596

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The Temple of Soleb is a pharaonic temple located 50 km between the second and the third cataracts on the west bank of the Nile. The area of Soleb had a long history of use; near the temple are prehistoric graves, a Nubian A-Group, Kerma Culture, New Kingdom Necropolis, and a Meroitic cemetery. The temple of Soleb, constructed during the reign of Amenhotep III (1378-1348 BC), was dedicated to Amun, but after Akhenaten assumed power, it was rededicated to Aten. An inscription of the official Ramessu dating to the reign of Ramesses III was found there, indicating that the temple continued in use over the next several generations. The temple was built of sandstone with its plans conforms to the Egyptian Traditions, with a peristyle court and hypostyle hall leading to the sanctuaries. The temple can be entered through a pylon doorway and proceeds down long avenue of ram sphinxes leading to a small courtyard with four pillars, and through a second pylon doorway into a sun court with pillars (peristyle court). The walls of the first courtyard display several religious scenes as well as Sed-Festival scene, or the Jubilee, which was intended to renew the king’s royal powers and to re-affirm his divine nature. This sun court leads to hypostyle court with thirty-six pillars. Continuing along the main axis, one enters the inner hypostyle hall with twenty-four pillars. During the Eighteenth Dynasty Soleb is considered to be as one of the major expressions of the Egyptian presence in Nubia at the time the region was being integrated into the Egyptian kingdom. Due to its high economic and commercial potential as a central area providing gold and its access to the sub-Saharan product, Soleb was governed by the Viceroy of Nubia, the King’s son of Kush.

Amenhotep III s reign was also marked by an extraordinary level of artistic production, evidenced by numerous statues, reliefs and other items. Decorations display different styles, showing an evolution throughout his reign from the conservative representation inherited from Thutmose IV to a more naturalistic rendering of human form and, at the end of his life, emphasizing portraits depicting a much younger pharaoh than previously.

The temple is protected by the Antiquities Protection Ordinance of 1999 and the regional degree from the Parliament of the northern Sudan. It is also protected by local guards and tourism police. The temple is protected, conserved, and presented by a fund allocated by the Qatar Sudan Archaeological Project. The National Corporation for Antiquities and Museums is fully engaged in the sustainable protection and development of the property to be presented to the public.

Justification of Outstanding Universal Value

The Temple of Soleb is a unique edifice in Nubia that reflected the coexistences of Egyptian and Nubian Gods and Goddess portrayed in the walls of the Temple. The temple is a unique testimony of the change of believes from God Amun to God Aten. 

Criterion (ii): The temple of Soleb represents an important interchange of pharaonic and Kushites values and cultural ideas that lasted until the 11th century BC during the New Kingdom. This interchange also led to the foundation of a series of fortified towns extending as far upstream as Jebel Barkal, the southern ancestral home of the State God Amun.

Criterion (iii): The temple of Soleb is an exceptional testimony of Middle Kingdom civilization which had disappeared since 1500 BC.

Criterion (iv): The Temple of Soleb is an outstanding and significant type of a building in Nubia built from the sacred Nubian sandstone. It is a unique testimony which reflects and demonstrates the coexistence of believes and harmony of relations between the Nubians and the Egyptian as represented by the conflation of Egyptian and Nubian gods and goddesses portrayed on temple walls. The change of religious believes from the workshop of Amun to Aten (Sun God).

Statements of authenticity and/or integrity

The temple of Soleb retains all the attributes and the true cultural expressions of authenticity with regards to architectural forms, design, location and setting in the natural environment.

The Temple of Soleb is a best-preserved temple in the northern Sudan. It retains its integral parts with regards to size and building material without inappropriate interventions or any significant changes since their abandonment in 1500 BC. The core and the buffer zones are well defined, and they are intact and protected.

Comparison with other similar properties

The temple of Soleb is compared to temples constructed by Ramesses II at Abu Simbel ''Nubian Monuments from Abu Simbel to Philae" (WH ref. 88).