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History & Heritage


Pharaoh of the Two Lands: a look back at the history of the black pharaohs

Until July 25, the Louvre Museum in Paris explores the significant influence of the Kushite pharaohs on Egyptian civilization and history. Having reigned for nearly half a century, the names of these black pharaohs, originally from present-day Sudan, are often overshadowed by those of Tutankhamen and Ramses II… Their epics and conquests have nevertheless contributed to a “Renaissance” of ancient Egypt.

“The kings of Kush, more pharaohs than pharaohs”

Until the beginning of the eighth century BC, the lands of the Egyptian pharaohs extended to the land of Kush, in the Nubian desert, at the confluence of the White Nile and the Blue Nile. But in 720 BC, Egypt was threatened by Assyria. Then, a Kushite king, Piânkhi, undertakes to organize its defense and constitutes a kingdom from Napata with the aim of reconquering the valley of the Nile and to restore the Egyptian cults.

The Kushists, to whom the Egyptian pharaohs had initially imposed their superiority, their religion and their values, finally considered the concern to restore these traditions that they assimilated as their own. Indeed, Vincent Rondot, director of the Department of Egyptian Antiquities at the Louvre Museum, explains that “These kings of Kush became in some ways more pharaohs than pharaohs.”

A religious and traditional renaissance in ancient Egypt

Piankhi founded the 25th dynasty of pharaohs. The monarchy was immediately placed under the protection of the Egyptian gods and the Kushite pharaohs, following the ancient theological texts and Egyptian records, reaffirmed the founding elements of the religion. To this end, they published numerous steles, typical of the art and architecture of the Old Egyptian Empire (2700 to 2200 BC), which the museum proposes to show you.


What to expect from the Pharaoh of the Two Lands exhibition?

The Louvre offers its visitors an opportunity to immerse themselves in this little-known era of ancient Egypt, which contributed to its continuity and greatness, but it also promises them to discover the specificities of the art of the Black Pharaohs. The Kushite dynasty left behind its atypical representations of the pharaonic face and personality.

Statues discovered in 2003 and reconstructed for this occasion allow us to notice very particular stylistic criteria: round faces, heads adorned with a Kushite headdress and above all, the presence of two cobras instead of one. These two uraeus, symbols of the pharaohs, illustrate the extent of the lands governed by the 25th dynasty: the land of Kush and Egypt.

To discover the end of the story, visit the exhibition!

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Published on 4 May 2022