Figure of Taharqa

Dynasty 25, reign of Taharqa, ca. 690–664 BC
Egyptian Purchase Fund

This small bronze statuette represents the pharaoh Taharqa. At the end of the Third Intermediate Period, a weakened, politically fragmented Egypt was threatened by the expansion of the Assyrian Empire. The country was re-united by a family of Nubian kings that founded the 25th Dynasty, one of the world’s greatest ancient empires stretching from south of modern day Khartoum to the Mediterranean. Taharqa was the last of the kings of this Dynasty to rule over Egypt and is mentioned in the Bible (2 Kings 19; Isaiah 37). Taharqa went to the aid of King Hezakiah who was fighting off the Assyrian army, but he was outnumbered and eventually forced to retreat back to Nubia in 667 BC. The rule of Egypt was taken over by kings of the Delta, originally vassals of the Assyrians, who founded the 26th Dynasty and destroyed many of the monuments of their Nubian predecessors.

This sculpture depicts the familiar features of Taharqa and shows him in Nubian royal costume, although the characteristic necklace, with three ram head pedants and the double cobra at his brow, were erased by the later Egyptian kings who sought to remove every trace of the Nubian rulers. This statuette would have been a temple offering and the two missing, outstretched arms of the statue would have shown the king presenting some sort of offering to the gods.