The Berber-Abidiya archaeological project

Project leader

Department of Ancient Egypt and Sudan 


  • Dr Salah eldin Mohamed Ahmed, Director of Field Work, National Corporation for Antiquities and Museums, Sudan

Supported by

Institute for Bioarchaeology National Corporation for Antiquities and Museums, Sudan
  • Archeology4All
  • Institute for Bioarchaeology
  • Michela Schiff Giorgini Foundation of the
    United States
  • National Corporation for Antiquities and Museums, Sudan
  • Anonymous donor

Share this project

The site: statues

Fragments of four statues of early Kushite kings, who ruled almost 800 years before the extant temple, were discovered randomly mixed with the destruction debris of the temple primarily in the south hall.

These included Taharqo, Senkamanisken, possibly Aspelta and one further king as yet unidentified. This is the furthest upstream that such a group of early Kushite statues have been found so far. Dangeil’s late Kushite temple was built over several substantial mud brick walls and shares their orientation. It seems likely that this mud brick building was an earlier Amun temple. Associated ceramics and faience suggest an early Kushite date for these mud walls and it is possible that the early Kushite royal statues may have originated in this building.

The statues appear to have been intentionally or ritually broken at the neck, knees and ankles and they likely originated in a cache that was disturbed at some point in antiquity. They were not defaced. Two statue caches, one at Dokki Gel/Kerma and the other at Jebel Barkal, have been discovered thus far, both associated with Amun temples and containing ritually broken statues from the same family of rulers as those at Dangeil. It is likely that the instigating incident, be it dynastic dispute or possibly Egyptian military campaigns in the 6th century BC led to the creation of these caches.

Taharqo (690-664BC)

The torso of a large granite gneiss statue was found lying on its side with shoulders angled towards the floor and the kilt and thighs leaning against the upper part of the temple’s east wall. The cartouche on the back pillar bears the name of the Kushite king and 25th Dynasty pharaoh Taharqo in Egyptian hieroglyphs. The uppermost part of the inscription is missing, but would have read ‘The perfect God (ntr nfr). This is followed by: ‘Lord of the Two Lands, Lord of Action (ritual), King of Upper and Lower Egypt, Nefertum-Khu-Re’, son of Re’, Taharqo, [beloved] of Re’-Harakhty who resides in Ms…’. The inscription is then broken, but finishes with ‘forever’.

The head and shins are missing and the statue is currently comprised of eight fragments, of which the torso and feet are the largest. Were the king depicted wearing a simple Kushite cap crown the statue would have stood approximately 2.6 to 2.7m high. The king is in a standing position with his left leg striding forward. He tramples the Nine Bows which represent the traditional enemies of foreign lands conquered by Egypt. He is bare-chested and wears a closely-fitted pleated kilt with a belt inscribed with Egyptian hieroglyphs that read: ‘The perfect god Taharqo, beloved of Amun-Re’. His fists hold document cases and his arms hang at his sides.

Massive granite torso of King Taharqo
  • 1

    Massive granite torso of King Taharqo

  • 2

    Feet and base from the statue of King Taharqo, with the king standing on the Nine Bows

  • 3

    Uncovering the base of the Taharqo statue

Aspelta (?) (593-568BC)

The head of a king wearing a Kushite cap crown with double uraei on the brow has been identified as Aspelta through comparisons with known statues of this king. The head is approximately half life-size. The round face has almond-shaped eyes and traces of red and yellow paint and plaster remained adhering to the surface.

Although the torso and thighs are missing, the head matches a pair of striding feet indicating that like Taharqo and Senkamanisken, this king was depicted in a striding pose. The top of the inscription on the back pillar is present and begins with the Horus name of the king however, the serekh which would have read Neferkha (‘whose appearances are beautiful’) is missing.

Kushite king, probably Aspelta, wearing a Kushite cap crown
  • 1

    Kushite king, probably Aspelta, wearing a Kushite cap crown

  • 2

    The top of the inscription on the back of a pillar of Aspelta (?)

Senkamanisken (643-623BC)

The royal names of the Kushite king Senkamanisken, written in Egyptian hieroglyphs, were well-preserved in cartouches on the statue’s back pillar. The text reads: ‘The perfect God, Lord of the Two Lands, Lord of Action (ritual), King of Upper and Lower Egypt, Se-kheper-en-re, son of Re’, Senkamani[sken …

The statue is three-quarter life-size and would have stood roughly 1.5m high. The king is depicted in an archetypical pharaonic striding pose with arms at his sides and hands holding document cases. The pectoral and abdominal muscles are well-defined and nipples are carved in relief. His kilt, upper armlets, bracelets, sandals and ram necklace had been plastered and gilded.

The torso of King Senkamanisken, found set upright in the temple’s south hall
  • 1

    The torso of King Senkamanisken, found set upright in the temple’s south hall

  • 2

    A view showing the backpillar of King Senkamanisken

  • 2

    The discovery of the statue of King Senkamanisken