The gift of the Shrine of Taharqa made to the museum in 1936 by the widow of the first Professor of Egyptology at Oxford, Francis Llewellyn Griffith (1862–1934) in recognition of his services to Nubian archaeology. It brought a spectacular centrepiece, as the only pharaonic building in Britain, to the Griffith Gallery, inaugurated in 1941. ‘I had no idea our basement would hold so much’, wrote the Keeper, E.T. Leeds, in his letter of thanks to Mrs Griffith after the arrival of some 150 crated blocks in the summer of 1936.
This large sandstone shrine was built by King Taharqa (690–664 BC), one of the pharaohs of the 25th Dynasty who ruled over both Egypt and Nubia. The shrine was originally erected as a self-contained structure within the temple of Amun-Re at Kawa. It is the only freestanding pharaonic building in the country — and at four metres square is also the biggest object in the Ashmolean Museum. Its walls are carved in raised relief with scenes showing him receiving ‘all life and power’ from the gods of Heliopolis, Memphis, Thebes, and Kawa. No objects or decoration were found inside the shrine although it may originally have housed an image of Amun-Re or Taharqa.