The Art and Architecture of Ancient Egypt

By W. Stevenson Smith | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 21
THE KUSHITE AND SAITE REVIVAL AND THE END OF DYNASTIC EGYPT 730-332 B.C.

AT Gebel Barkal, the Holy Mountain of Napata, the Kushite capital in the Sudan, King Piankhy repaired the New Kingdom temple of Amon (B 500) and enlarged it with a big columned hall. To this a colonnaded forecourt and front pylon were added after the conquest of Egypt about 730 B.C.1 On Plate 172 one looks down from the greatrock mass of the Gebel Barkal upon the impressive remains of this building with the partly reconstructed New Kingdom rooms in the foreground. Beyond the three chambers of the sanctuary is a room which was rebuilt by Taharqa for his inscribed grey granite altar (Plate 175A) which was perhaps a support for the bark of Amon. This can still be seen in place, as can a broader black granite platform, possibly the base for a shrine, which Piankhy had placed in a side room that he constructed earlier on the right. On the other side of the hall, with two rows of columns which had formed the front part of the New Kingdom temple, lies Piankhy's large columned hall, the badly preserved second pylon, and the first court which appears encumbered with mud-brick huts built there after the temple had fallen into disuse. At this stage of the excavations, the ram-sphinxes of Amenhotep III, brought from Soleb, had not yet been cleared in front of the first pylon. others stood in front of the second pylon with various pieces of sculpture brought here by Piankhy who apparently had no craftsmen who could make large statues, although they were able to carve the excellent reliefs on the walls of this forecourt (Plate 173, A and B). Here he set up his triumphal stela and that of Tuthmosis III, which was brought from another New Kingdom temple at this site. Other stelae were added later. Neither of Piankhy's immediate successors, Shabako or Shebitku, has left any monuments at Gebel Barkal, although their rich burial equipment was found at El Kurru, and some construction has survived from the reign of Shabako at Thebes. However, Taharqa ( 690-664 B.C.) set up the first and finest (Plate 177, A and B) of a series of ten large statues in this court. Tanwetamani, the last Kushite ruler of Egypt, added two more of these, and the others were made by kings of the Second Napatan Kingdom over a period of nearly a hundred years until the time of Aspelta in the first half of the sixth century B.C.

The granite stela of Piankhy in the Cairo Museum which records his conquest of Egypt was found in the first court of the Amon temple by an Egyptian officer in 1862.2 Plate 174B shows the right side of the scene at the top, with the submission of the various rulers of Egypt. King Namlot of Hermopolis is leading a horse, while, below, other princes prostrate themselves before Piankhy. The Kushite conqueror tells us in the text of his anger at finding that the horses in Namlot's stables had been starved during the siege of Hermopolis. Piankhy carried his love of horses to the point of burying his

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