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The Aswan Dam.-A glance at the general configuration of the bed of the First Cataract will show the traveller that in remote times the progress of the Nile must have been obstructed at the southern end by a rocky barrier, which prevented the flow of the stream to a very considerable extent. A careful examination of the granite rocks on each side of it will further show him that this barrier has been eaten through by the action of wind and water, and that as a result the Nile flood flowed to waste for centuries, and that the life-giving waters rushed to the sea, leaving unwatered vast tracts of land on each side of the river, which might have been turned into fertile fields could only the surplus waters have been made to flow on to them. During the first half of the XIXth century this waste of water was regarded with grave concern by the eminent French engineers who were in charge of the irrigation schemes of Egypt, but the only attempt made to regulate the flow of the Nile is represented by the Barrage which was designed by Mougel and built a little to the north of Cairo. When the British irrigation officials had repaired Mougel's work, and had turned it from a useless monument of Muḥammad 'Ali's impatience into a useful machine for regulating the water supply of the Delta, they set to work to devise some scheme which should benefit the agriculture of the whole country between Aswân and the sea, and, after much careful thought and examination of sites, it was decided that it was necessary to build a dam near the southern end of the First Cataract. It was further decided that about 88,300,000,000 cubic feet of water must be stored up at this place, that the maximum head of water must be 85 feet, and that the level of the water held up must be 374 feet above sea level.
Now it was evident that if these proposals were carried out, the buildings on the island of Philæe would be submerged to a depth of several feet each year, and that they would stand in water so long as the reservoir was full. As
soon as this fact was recognized, a great outcry was raised by a few archæologists who, quite regardless of the fact that the general welfare of Egypt was of paramount importance, demanded that the proposed Dam should not be built. In answer to the outcry the responsible British officials pointed out that it was impossible to add to the water supply for the crops unless the Dam were made, and that if it were made the general income of the inhabitants would be increased by about £E.2,600,000 annually. Lord Cromer and Sir Williamı Garstin were as anxious as the most enthusiastic archæologist to preserve the buildings at Philæ, but it was evident to every
fair-minded person that the progress of Egypt must not be retarded by mere archæological sentimentalism. There were two ways out of the difficulty :
:-1. To reduce the level of the water in the reservoir. 2. To remove the temples and other buildings at Philæ to a neighbouring site. The first of these was chosen, and it was decided to build the Dam, but to reduce the level of the water to be held up from 374 feet to 348 feet above sea-level. In 1898 the Egyptian Government made a contract with Messrs. John Aird and Co. for the building of the Dam and a Barrage at Asyûț, and Sir Ernest Cassel undertook to take over the bonds as issued, and to wait for repayment until the works were completed. Bonds were issued for £4,716,780, and repayment was to be made in sixty half-yearly instalments of £78,613
The foundation of the Dam was laid by the Duke of Connaught on February 12th, 1899, and the work was finished in 1902.
The actual cost of the Dam was £2,400,000. The first superintendents of works were Mr. John A. C. Blue, and Mr. M. Fitzmaurice, C.M.G., etc. During the building of the Dam the Egyptian Governmer: carried out some important works at Philæe with the object of strengthening the foundations of the temples there, at a cost of about £22,000. In 1903 the reservoir was filled
for the first time, and it was found that the waters of the Nile rose above the thresholds of the doors of the temples at Philæ. When the reservoir was emptied, a careful examination of the portions of the temples which had been submerged was ordered, and it was found that immediately above the water-line there was a band of saturated stone, from 2 ft. to 2 ft. 6 in. deep, in which salts deleterious to the masonry had made their appearance. If these salts be not removed annually grave damage will be done to the buildings. Sir William Garstin tells us that these salts will come away easily if the stone be carefully washed as soon as the waters have subsided, and that the stability of the temples, etc., will be unimpaired, and we may be certain that he will cause the cleansing of the stone to be carried out with all promptitude. The success of the Dam was proved to be so great during the first year of its existence, and its benefit to the agriculture of the country was so evident, that the Egyptian Government decided to consider the raising of the dam, in order that Upper Egypt might more fully participate in an increased water supply, and that the reclamations of land might go on there pari passu with those in the Delta.
From Sir William Garstin's Report," published in August, 1904, we learned that he was prepared to recommend the raising of the Dam to such a height that the water held up in the reservoir might be 112 metres deep instead of 106 metres as at present, and at a meeting of the Council of Ministers held in October, 1904, it was resolved to ask the Khedive to order the raising of the Dam at Aswân, and the construction of a Barrage at Esna. The former work will cost about £E.500,coo, and the latter about £E.136,000. This being so, there is no reason for doubting that the raising of the Dam will be carried out in the near future, and it follows as a matter of course that the temples and buildings at Philæe will be submerged to a further depth of 6 metres, i.e., about 19 ft. 6 in. The Egyptian Government is undoubtedly right in carrying out works which are of such direct benefit to the whole Egyptian nation, and however much we may regret the result, which will prevent travellers from landing on the Island of Philæ during the winter months, and exploring its wonderful ruins, it is quite clear that the depth of the water in the reservoir must be increased, and that the progress of the development of the agriculture of the country must not be hindered. We may be sure that the British Advisers of the Khedive will spare no pains to preserve the stability of the temples and buildings at Philæ, but the tourist will only be able to examine them thoroughly in the summer.
It is difficult not to think that the Egyptian Government would be justified in removing the temples bodily to another site in the immediate neighbourhood of Philæ, where they could be visited at all seasons of the year. This suggestion was made when the construction of the Dam was first proposed, and the writer believes that an eminent engineer prepared an estimate of the cost of the work, which would have been relatively small. Had the temples been removed then, they would have escaped the partial submersion which they have already suffered, they would have been rebuilt in a manner which would have made them more stable than they had ever been before, the cost of underpinning, etc., would have been avoided, and Sir William Garstin would have constructed the Dam according to the original plans. As it is, the clamour of the small body of archæologists who opposed the building of the Dam has only delayed—not prevented--the annual submergence of the temples for several months to the depth of from 20 to 25 feet, and it seems as if the injury which they must suffer sooner or later from the waters of the Nile will be due to the exertions of those who were most anxious to preserve them.
Philæ is the name given by the Greeks and Romans to the two islands which situated at the head of the First Cataract, about six miles south of Aswân ; the larger island is called Biggah, the Senemet mm of the Egyptian texts, and the name Philæ now generally refers to the smaller island, on which stands the group of ancient buildings of the Ptolemaic and Roman periods. The name Philæ is derived from the Egyptian words P-å-lek, o
&, i.e., “the Island of Lek,” or
; from these words the Copts formed
the name hileke, and the Arabs the name Bilâk, jl. A well-known name for Philæ in the inscriptions is "the city of Isis," and one text speaks of it as the “interior of
; that it was held to be a most holy C site is evident from its titles, Åset ābt
Holy Island” respectively.
Of the history of the Island of Philæ during the Early and Middle Empires nothing is known; only it is certain that the Egyptians made use of it for military purposes in very early times. Whether they built forts upon
it cannot be said, but the site was an excellent one for a garrison. Judging by analogy, shrines to local gods, or temples, must have stood upon one or both of the islands, for it is impossible to imagine that such a well-protected and picturesque spot for a temple or