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Ancient Egypt

The 2,700 year-old Bike Rack

Edited from BBC News, 4 February 2000

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.

'Very excited'

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.



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