Requires Photography

Shawabty fragments of unidentified queen ?

Nubian
Napatan Period
750–270 B.C.


Findspot: Nubia (Sudan), Meroe, Beg. S. 84 surface debris

Dimensions

Largest: 4 x 3.8 cm (1 9/16 x 1 1/2 in.) Smallest: 0.3 x 0.1 cm (1/8 x 1/16 in.)

Accession Number

21.16543

Medium or Technique

Faience

Not On View

Collections

The Ancient World

Classifications

Shawabties and shawabty boxes

These are shawabty fragments belonging to an unidentified queen (?) There is one tray of 150 fragments including fragments of 2 faces, wigs, 7 feet, 10 with lines of text and 1 bag of debris. Object Register cross references field number 21-2-226.

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, and 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), Meroe Beg. S. 84 (tomb of unidentified queen ?) debris in front of (outside) door block (21-1-197) and S hill top (near S. 84) surface debris under block rocks. 1921: excavated by the Harvard University–Boston Museum of Fine Arts Expedition; assigned to the MFA in the division of finds by the government of Sudan.

Credit Line

Harvard University—Boston Museum of Fine Arts Expedition