Roberts reached Abu Simbel on the 8 November 1838. He noted in his journal ‘By daybreak I was in the celebrated temple… which has often been described. There are four colossal figures in a sitting posture carved on the face of the rock. This is said to be the oldest of the Egyptian temples. If so, in what a labyrinth does it involve the history of these stupendous edifices! The beauty of the workmanship and colossal dimensions are not surpassed even by those at Thebes’
The temple of Rameses II, rediscovered for the West by Jacob Christoph Burckhardt in March 1813, was at the time of Roberts’s visit almost completely obscured by sand. It was excavated by Giovanni Belzoni in 1817 but had to be cleared on several occasions during the nineteenth century. In 1964, when the rising waters of Lake Nasser threatened to submerge the temple, the entire complex was moved to higher ground.