Archaeologists who were used to treasures from far-away
temples instead hailed one which was unearthed rather closer to home -
behind the staff bicycles in a Hampshire cellar.
A 2,700-year-old statue of the Egyptian pharaoh, Taharqa,
was reported to have been found in the basement of the God's House Tower
archaeological museum in Southampton, after being ignored for a century.
Staff had used it to prop up their bicycles, but no one
realised the 68.5cm statue's importance until two Egyptologists came to
visit the museum. They contacted Vivian Davies, keeper of Egyptian
antiquities at the British Museum, who travelled from London to see the
statue and pronounced it an 'incredibly exciting' find. Apparently it was
an important piece of Kushite art dating back to the seventh century BC.
The Kushites were from Nubia - modern Sudan. Taharqa
reigned between 690-664 BC - with a possible interruption thanks to an
Assyrian invasion. When he wasn't leading the battle to regain Egypt's
independence he is thought to have been a keen builder of temples.
The king is shown in the statue as a god marching
forwards, although the feet, lower left leg, much of the left arm, and
parts of the headdress are missing. It is still a mystery how such an
old and rare artefact came to Southampton. Karen Wardley, curator of
archaeological collections for the city council, admitted that no one
had a clue about its value until the Egyptologists pointed it out.
The statue was subsequently stored in Southampton's
Civic Centre art gallery, where it would later go on display once
appropriate security measured could be arranged.