Sphinx of Taharqo

From Temple T at Kawa, Sudan, Kushite, about 680 BC

Sphinxes represent the immense power of the Egyptian king. The human head of this sphinx is adorned with two uraei, the symbols of kingship. The mane around the neck is characteristically carved with care.

The face is that of Taharqo, whose name appears on the cartouche on the chest. Taharqo was one of the rulers of Kush who dominated Egypt as the Twenty-fifth Dynasty (about 747-656 BC).

Although the basic form of this sphinx is Egyptian, several features set it apart. Most striking are the facial features of the king which leave no doubt that he is an African. The Kushite kings were proud of their ancestry and chose to be buried in Kush near their religious centre at Jebel Barkal.

This statue was found in Temple T at Kawa, in Upper Nubia (Sudan). Kawa was the home of a local form of the great Egyptian state god Amun. The kings of the Kush built temples there, with the intention of ensuring Amun's prominence. Temple T was constructed by Taharqo between 684 and 680 BC.

Ancient Sudan


Sudan is the largest country in Africa and is home to the oldest sub-Saharan African kingdom, the kingdom of Kush (about 2,500-1,500 BC).

Ancient Sudan world culture

Ancient Egypt


Towards the end of the fourth millennium BC independent city-states unified to begin of over 3,000 years of pharaonic civilisation in the Nile Valley.

Ancient Egypt world culture

Third Intermediate period

 Kushite period

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Object details

Height: 40.6 cm
Length: 73 cm


EA 1770

Room 65: Sudan, Egypt & Nubia


    Excavated by Prof Francis Llewellyn Griffith


    T.G.H. James and W.V. Davies, Egyptian sculpture (London, The British Museum Press, 1983)

    M. Caygill, The British Museum A-Z companion (London, The British Museum Press, 1999)

    J.H. Taylor, Egypt and Nubia (London, The British Museum Press, 1991)

    M.F. Laming Macadam, The temples of Kawa (Oxford, 1949 (vol. I) 1955 (vol. II))

    D. A. Welsby, The Kingdom of Kush. The Napatan and Meroitic Empires (London, The British Museum Press, 1996)

    See this object in our Collection database online

    Further reading

    C. Bonnet, and D. Valbelle, The Nubian Pharoahs: Black Kings on the Nile (Cario, 2006) J

    L. Török, The Kingdom of Kush: Handbook of the Napatan-Meriotic Civilization (Brill, 1998)

    P. Collins, From Egypt to Babylon: The International Age 1550-500 BC (London, The British Museum Press, 2008)

    L. Török, Between Two Worlds: the Frontier Region Between Ancient Nubia and Egypt 3700 BC – 500 AD (Leiden, 2009)