Ushabti of the Pharaoh Taharqa

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This ushabti of the Pharaoh Taharqa belongs to the series of one thousand and seventy “answerers” found inside his pyramid in Nuri. The Egyptian influence is manifest, although the features are somewhat crude. The figure is wearing a Khat headdress (much used by the nobility and the pharaoh) a kerchief which has a sack-like form and is simpler than the “nemes” headdress. It is lacking lateral decorative elements and hangs down open at the back with no pleats or stripes. There is also an inscription of nine lines on the body with text from Chapter VI of “The Book of the Dead”, dedicated to magic formulas for ushabtis.This ushabti of the Pharaoh Taharqa belongs to the series of one thousand and seventy “answerers” found inside his pyramid in Nuri. The Egyptian influence is manifest, although the features are somewhat crude. The figure is wearing a Khat headdress (much used by the nobility and the pharaoh) a kerchief which has a sack-like form and is simpler than the “nemes” headdress. It is lacking lateral decorative elements and hangs down open at the back with no pleats or stripes. There is also an inscription of nine lines on the body with text from Chapter VI of “The Book of the Dead”, dedicated to magic formulas for ushabtis.

The ushabti figures (those who respond) were figures that were buried in tombs so that they could “respond” to a call from Osiris, when the latter demanded that the owner of the tomb perform certain tasks in the other world. Apart from the fact that they held hoes and baskets like any labourer, the shaping of these figures imitated the features of the mummy of the deceased. The tomb of Taharqa contained one thousand and seventy stone ushabtis, which, in their time, had been lined up along the walls of the chambers and passageways in columns two or three deep. Ushabtis first appeared in the Middle Kingdom and the usual practice was to be buried with 365 of them, one for each day of the year, grouped in squads commanded by 36 foremen. The large number of ushabtis in this case is quite remarkable. Moreover, as well as being of many different types and sizes, all these figures were carefully carved from veined marble, syenite, serpentine, green ankerite, quartzite, translucent calcite or alabaster. As they were the property of a monarch, some carry hoes and baskets, others appear with utensils characteristic of a king: sceptres and staves. Some have their heads covered with bag-form wigs while others wear the imperial headdress called “nemes”. All of them have the same text from Chapter VI of the Book of the Dead engraved on the body.

In the beginning the Kings of Kush were buried in beds placed on platforms of stone inside their pyramids. These structures are based on private Egyptian tombs from the New Kingdom. Taharqa introduced more elements Egyptian in style like mummification, coffins and sarcophagi of Egyptian origin, as well as the use of the ushabti figurines.

During the 25th Dynasty there was a nostalgic return to artistic forms of the past, particularly forms from the Middle and the New Kingdom. The use of stone for royal statuary and the sculptural style are the best examples of this tendency. To be precise, the ushtabi figures of the pharaoh with their somewhat rough carving of the body, the facial features and the use of obsolete versions of inscribed text reflect the influence of models that date from the Middle and New Kingdoms.

Tahaqa was the brother of Shebitko, the preceding King, and was the son of Pye, the Nubian King of Napata who conquered Egypt and founded the 25th Dynasty. It was during his reign that his enemies, the governors of Assyria, invaded Egypt. Esarhaddon, King of Assyria, lead various campaigns against Taharqa, invading Egypt in the 17th year of the reign of the pharaoh, and sacked Memphis, capturing a number of the members of the royal family. Taharqa fled to the south, and Esarhaddon reorganized the political structure in the north, placing Necho I, of the 26th Dynasty, on the throne as king at Sais.

However, after the Assyrian king’s departure from the countryTaharqa intrigued in the affairs of Lower Egypt, and fanned numerous revolts. Esarhaddon died before returning to Egypt, and it was left to his son and heir, Ashurbanipal, to once again invade Egypt. Ashurbanipal defeated Taharqa, who afterwards fled to Thebes where he died after the 26 years of his reign. He designated Tantamani, a son of Shabaka, as his successor. Taharqa was buried at Nuri - North Sudan.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

- AA.VV. Nubia. Los reinos del Nilo en Sudán. Fundación “La Caixa”. 2003.
- TAYLOR,J.H. Egypt and Nubia. The British Museum Press, London. 1991.

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