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Head of the statue discovered at the site of Dangeil in Sudan.

2,600-Year-Old Statue Identified as Vengeful Kush Ruler

Almost a decade ago archaeologists exploring a ruined temple dedicated to the Egyptian god Amun, near the Nile River in modern day Sudan, found a 2,600-year-old statue, but his identity remained secret, until now.

An article published in the journal  Sudan and Nubia revealed the “one half-scale” statue as Aspelta, a ruler of the Kush kingdom between 593 BC and 568 BC. Archaeologists recently interpreted an ancient inscription which was found on the statue which said he was “beloved of a god” and “given all life stability and dominion forever.”

Head of the statue discovered at the site of Dangeil in Sudan. Image: J. Anderson/© Berber-Abidiya Archaeological Project

Head of the statue discovered at the site of Dangeil in Sudan. Image: J. Anderson/© Berber-Abidiya Archaeological Project

According to archaeologists Julie Anderson, Rihab Khidir el-Rasheed and Mahmoud Suliman Bashir, who co-directed the excavations at  Dangeil and spoke to LiveScience , “Aspelta didn't control Egypt, but he was "King of Upper and Lower Egypt" and was "Beloved of Re'-Harakhty" (a form of the Egyptian sun god "Re") and that Aspelta was “given all life, stability and dominion forever”.

In 2008, parts of the Aspelta statue were discovered at the temple at Dangeil, approximately 220 miles (350km) northeast of Sudan's capital Khartoum, where the Blue Nile, White Nile and River Atbara meet. In 2016 and 17 the ancient inscriptions were deciphered, positively identifying the statue as Aspelta, “son of Senkamanisken and Queen Nasalsa, as well as the brother and successor of Anlamani” according the experts.

The statue parts were found in a temple dedicated to the god Amun at Dangeil, Sudan Image: M. Tohami/© Berber-Abidiya Archaeological Project

The statue parts were found in a temple dedicated to the god Amun at Dangeil, Sudan Image: M. Tohami/© Berber-Abidiya Archaeological Project

Now, knowing who they’re looking at, it allows specialists to rebuild the statue, but what exactly did the inscription mean, “'beloved of a god” and "given all life, stability and dominion forever?” Experts believe this is an “assertion of traditional authority" rather than a claim to the kingdom. The archaeologists paper stated that the “Kushite kings were closely tied to Re” and the Amun Temple, where the statues were found, was used until the late third to early fourth century AD, when the kingdom of Kush collapsed. The statues were likely erected during the ruler’s lifetime and would have been displayed long after they died.

Close-up of the head of another statue of the Kushite pharaoh Aspelta, made during the Napatan period, circa 620-580 BC. (CC BY-SA 2.5)

Close-up of the head of another statue of the Kushite pharaoh Aspelta, made during the Napatan period, circa 620-580 BC. ( CC BY-SA 2.5 )

During the New Kingdom Period, about 1400-1050 BC, Egyptians ruled Tombos in the Nile River Valley's Nubian Desert in northern of Sudan. Around 1050 BC Nubia defeated Egypt gaining power and ruling as the 25th dynasty. A recent Ancient Origins article covered a report published in American Anthropologist, in which new bioarchaeological evidence was found to prove that Nubians and Egyptians married one and another and “integrated into a community, in ancient Sudan,” according to the paper from Purdue University.

Nubians bringing tribute to the Pharaoh, from the tomb of Huy. (Image: Exploring Africa )

Nubians bringing tribute to the Pharaoh, from the tomb of Huy. (Image: Exploring Africa )

To better understand the relationship between Nubians and Egyptians during the New Kingdom Empire, Michele Buzon, an associate professor of anthropology, who is excavating Nubian burial sites in the Nile River Valley said, “There are not many archaeological sites that date to this time period, so we have not known what people were doing or what happened to these communities when the Egyptians withdrew.”

Buzon also said "It's been presumed that Nubians absorbed Egyptian cultural features because they had to, but we found cultural entanglement - that there was a new identity that combined aspects of their Nubian and Egyptian heritages. And based on biological and isotopic features, we believe they were interacting, intermarrying and eventually becoming a community of Egyptians and Nubians.”

Nubian Pharaohs.

Nubian Pharaohs. ( Public Domain )

Apart from the hieroglyphics that gave away Aspelta’s identity, he left many other inscriptions. Some of these detailed his future tactics to re-conquer Egypt, but thwarting his plans, the Egyptian king Psammeticus II invaded Kush in 593 BC defeating Aspelta’s armies at the holy city of Napata. Aspelta retreated to his capital at Meroe, where he constructed numerous temples and his pyramid tomb at Nuri is held by archaeologists as the “finest built” during the Napatan period from 700 to 300 BC.

Top image: Head of the statue discovered at the site of Dangeil in Sudan. Image: J. Anderson/© Berber-Abidiya Archaeological Project

By Ashley Cowie

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