Sphinx of Taharqo
|Discovered||Northern Dongola Reach|
|Present location||G65/10, British Museum, London|
The Sphinx of Taharqo is a granite gneiss statue of a sphinx with the face of Taharqo, a Nubian pharaoh who was one of the Twenty-fifth Dynasty (about 747-656 BC) rulers of Kush who also dominated Ancient Egypt. It is currently housed in the British Museum.
Taharqo was the last Nubian king who ruled over Egypt. He was defeated by the Assyrian kings Esarhaddon and Aššurbanipal. His reign lasted from 690 when he succeeded Shebitqo to his death in 664. He was the son of Piye and Abar and the father to his daughter, Amenirdis II. Taharqo was one of the rulers of Kush who dominated Egypt as the Twenty-fifth Dynasty. He was a significantly important ruler, initiating a golden age for his new kingdom. Although Taharqo was not of Egyptian decent, he worshipped the Egyptian god Amun, built pyramids and temples in the Egyptian model, and had his officials write in Egyptian hieroglyphics.
The statue is a sphinx, representing here the immense power of the Egyptian and Kushite pharaoh Taharqo, whose face is shown. The headdress bears with two uraei, the symbols of kingship, and Taharqo's name appears in a cartouche on the sphinx's chest. The statue is called "a masterpiece of Kushite art."
The statue was excavated at Temple T, in the area east of the south-eastern part of the Temple of Amun at Kawa (now Gematon), in Nubia (now Sudan), during excavations there by the Archaeological Mission of the University of Oxford during the 1930s. Construction of the stone temple was started in 683 BC by Taharqo.
The statue is a British Museum "Highlight" object and was selected as the twenty-second object in the series A History of the World in 100 Objects selected by British Museum director Neil MacGregor and broadcast on BBC Radio 4 in 2010.
While the Sphinx of Taharqo is significantly smaller than those of Giza, it carries an importance with its infusion of Egyptian and Kush culture. The lion portrayed in the sphinx is done in classic Egyptian style while the face of the Sphinx is clearly an african male pharoah. The hieroglyphics on the statue spell out: this is a portrait of the great King Taharqo, the fourth pharaoh to rule over the combined kingdoms of Kush and Egypt. The sphinx is made of sandy grey granite.
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- British Museum page on the statue
- More detailed British Museum page
- BBC Radio 4's A History of the World in 100 Objects page on Taharqo's Sphinx
- This article is about an item held in the British Museum. The object reference is EA 1770 / Reg No. 1932,0611.1.