Requires Photography

Shawabty of King Taharqa

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


Findspot: Nubia (Sudan), Nuri, Pyramid 1, A VII 5

Dimensions

Overall: 23 cm (9 1/16 in.)

Accession Number

21.14807

Medium or Technique

Gray serpentinite

Not On View

Collections

The Ancient World

Classifications

Shawabties and shawabty boxes

This is a shawabty belonging to King Taharqa. The figure wears a bulging bag (khat) headdress with uraeus and has a long beard. The face is exceptionally small and the featres delicate. There are ten horizontal lines of incised text. The text is not framed and has no register lines, it does not coninue past the front of the figure. Here the hands are opposed. In each hand the figure holds a hoe and a cord to a small bag slung over each shoulder. The cords which lash the hoes together are unusually detailed here, as they have an incised twisted fiber pattern and the cords are looped around the blades of the hoes. The seed bags have incised diagonal lines forming a diamond pattern. The details are executed in high relief. This object was broken in two pieces and mended but is now rebroken. The head of the uraeus and end of beard are chipped.

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 VII 5. 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