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Nubian statue of Taharqa

Nubian statue of Taharqa

The world’s oldest bike rack.

This statue is a superb example of ancient sculpture, made of a hard black stone called grano-diorite. It comes from the area of ancient Egypt and Sudan, and depicts a striding god, which is likely to be a portrait of a reigning king or pharaoh, probably Taharqa, who reigned from 690-664 BC.

This statue was revealed to the world under the Times’ headline “The world’s oldest bike rack”.

The statue’s significance only came to light when the curator invited two local ancient Egyptian specialists to advise on the selection of objects for an exhibition.

They recognised the importance of the statue and contacted experts at the British Museum who confirmed their identification that the statue was a superb example of 7th century BC Nubian art, probably depicting the black pharaoh Taharqa (who came from the area of modern day Sudan), for whom very few portraits were known.

A press launch was planned to publicise the exciting discovery, where a local councillor let slip that the statue had lain unrecognised in a museum store for many years, in the same area where museum staff kept their bikes.

This fact was seized upon by the press, leading to the statue’s discovery becoming front page news, albeit not for the right reasons!

The statue is currently on loan and can be seen at the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford.

Quick Facts

  • Portrait of Pharaoh Taharqa
  • Made of stone, grano-diorite
  • Made in Ancient Nubia, or Kush (Egypt or Sudan)
  • Accession number A .1912.22
  • Date made 690-664BC, 25th Dynasty
  • Dimensions Height 692mm, Width 255mm, Length 230mm

Facts

  • The figure is of a striding god and is in good condition, though missing his feet, much of the left arm and most of the headdress. It is made of black grano‐diorite, finely worked and polished.
  • The unfinished back slab of the statue suggests it was placed against a wall, very probably in a shrine.
  • This is an excellent sculpture with good anatomical detail. He wears the divine beard with chin straps, a skull cap and headdress surmounted by what was probably a tall feather headdress, only the bottom of which survives. He is naked apart from the divine dress, comprising a belt secured by a large central knot, from which a narrow tab of cloth hangs, which may represent a penis‐sheath. He carries the flail and crook, the traditional symbols of pharaohic authority, across his chest.

Did you know?

Kush or Nubia was the ancient kingdom lying to the south of Ancient Egypt in modern Sudan. There were long‐standing contacts between the two kingdoms, with Kush providing both iron and gold for Egypt and its culture was much influenced by the Egyptians. In the later dynastic period, when central authority in Egypt collapsed, the Nubians conquered Egypt in the 8th century BC, establishing the 25th Dynasty. This lasted about a century, before the Nubians were driven out by the Assyrians. Taharqa was the last major king of this dynasty.

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