Requires Photography

Shawabty of King Taharqa

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


Findspot: Nubia (Sudan), Nuri, Pyramid 1, I E near door

Dimensions

Overall: 32.7 x 10.7 cm (12 7/8 x 4 3/16 in.)

Accession Number

20.239

Medium or Technique

Red-brown serpentinized rock

Not On View

Collections

The Ancient World

Classifications

Shawabties and shawabty boxes

This is a shawabty belonging to King Taharqa. The object was broken in two pieces and is not mended. The figure wears a bulging bag (khat) headdress with uraeus and has a long beard. Here the arms are crossed and the hands are right over left. In each hand the figure holds a hoe and a cord to a small bag slung over each shoulder. The hoe on the right has a narrow blade and the one on the left has a broad blade. The seed bags are incised with diagonal crossed lines forming a diamond pattern. There are eleven 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. There are chips missing from the head of the uraeus, nose, false beard, and end of the feet. There is a deep hole drilled in each piece for a rod to join the upper and lower halves of the object. Remnants of glue residue from a former mend are present, and there are fragments missing around the join. The field number is written in black on the back.

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) I E near door. 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 Sudan.

Credit Line

Harvard University—Boston Museum of Fine Arts Expedition