Requires Photography

Fragment of a shawabty of King Taharqa

Nubian
Napatan Period, Reign of Taharqa
690–664 B.C.


Findspot: Nubia (Sudan), Nuri, Pyramid 1, A VI 6

Dimensions

Overall: 12.5 x 9 cm (4 15/16 x 3 9/16 in.)Originally this piece would have been 23+ cms.

Accession Number

21.14709

Medium or Technique

Gray serpentinite

Not On View

Collections

The Ancient World

Classifications

Shawabties and shawabty boxes

This is a head and torso fragment of a shawabty belonging to King Taharqa. When complete, this figure wears a bulging bag (khat) headdress with uraeus and has a long beard and there are nine or ten horizontal lines of incised unframed text on the front of body which do not extend to the back of the figure.This mummiform shape does not have a back pillar or base. Most of the back surface has been chipped away and the nose, lips and tip of the beard are chipped as well.

The ancient Nubians included shawabtys in their tombs only in the Napatan Period, about 750–270 B.C. These funerary figurines are based on Egyptian shawabtys, but differ from them in many features of their iconography. For instance, the known Nubian examples are only from royal tombs. Also, they have unique texts, implements, poses and are known to have the largest number of shawabtys included in one tomb. Their function, it is assumed, was the same as that of the Egyptian shawabty, namely to magically animate in the Afterlife in order to act as a proxy for the deceased when called upon to tend to field labor or other tasks. This expressed purpose was sometimes written on the shawabty itself in the form of a “Shawabty Spell,” of which versions of various lengths are known. Shorter shawabty inscriptions could also just identify the deceased by name and, when applicable, title(s). However, many shawabtys carry no text at all. The ideal number of such figurines to include in a tomb or burial seems to have varied during different time periods.

Provenance

From Nubia (Sudan), Nuri, Pyramid 1 (tomb of Taharqa) A VI 6. 1917: excavated by the Harvard University–Boston Museum of Fine Arts Expedition; assigned to the MFA in the division of finds by the government of the Sudan.

Credit Line

Harvard University—Boston Museum of Fine Arts Expedition