Limestone shabti of a priestess

Probably from Thebes, Egypt
18th Dynasty, around 1375 BC

Help in the Afterlife

This fine limestone shabti shows the tomb owner in a mummified form. It also shows the main elements by which shabti figures can be identified. Her heavy formal wig, facial features and other details are picked out in black and red paint.

Her hands are crossed over her chest, and hold a pair of hoes. Shabti figures may hold these or other agricultural tools, such as adzes, picks or water pots. These implements show that they were ready to perform, on behalf of the tomb owner, the agricultural labour which he or she was expected to undertake in the Afterlife. This interpretation of the nature of the Egyptian afterlife became current in the New Kingdom (about 1550-1070 BC). The earliest shabti, found in tombs of the Middle Kingdom (about 2040-1750 BC) seem to have been one of a number of substitutes for the body of the owner.

The lower body is inscribed, here in incised characters, with Spell 6 of the Book of the Dead. This spell is known as the shabti formula, which activated the figure. The spell instructs the figure: 'O shabti, if the deceased is called upon to do any of the work required there in the necropolis at any time.... you shall say "Here I am, I will do it".'

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More information

Bibliography

J.H. Taylor, Death and Afterlife in ancient (London, The British Museum Press, 2001)

E.R. Russmann, Eternal Egypt: masterworks of (University of California Press, 2001)

C.A.R. Andrews, Egyptian mummies (London, The British Museum Press, 1984)

Dimensions

Height: 25.300 cm

Museum number

EA 24428

YCA62524

Acquired in 1891

Location

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