Shawabty of King Nasakhma
Napatan Period, reign of Nasakhma
Findspot: Nubia (Sudan), Nuri, Pyramid 19
Overall largest: 5.4 cm (2 1/8 in.) Overall smallest: 0.5 cm (3/16 in.)
Medium or Technique
Not On View
This is a shawabty belonging to King Nasakhma. When complete, the figure wears the king’s nemes headdress with uraeus, there is no pigtail on the headdress, and has a long beard. The shawabty is uninscribed. This mummiform shape does not have a back pillar or base. The arms are not crossed, the hands are positioned right above left. In each hand the figure holds a hoe. In addition the left hand holds a cord, but there is no seedbag and the tools are very faint. This is a box of fragments: 13 heads (1 in two pieces), 10 torsos (1 in two pieces), 4 leg sections, and 6 feet. Another small box contains 14 bits plus crumbs.
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.
From Nubia (Sudan), Nuri , Pyramid 19 (tomb of Nasakhma). 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.
Harvard University—Boston Museum of Fine Arts Expedition