Requires Photography

Shawabty of Queen Atakhebasken

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


Findspot: Nubia (Sudan), Nuri, Pyramid 36

Dimensions

Overall: 11.5 x 3.4 cm (4 1/2 x 1 5/16 in.)

Accession Number

21.15926

Medium or Technique

Faience

Not On View

Collections

The Ancient World

Classifications

Shawabties and shawabty boxes

This is a shawabty belonging to Queen Atakhebasken. The female figure wears a tripartite wig. The shawabty is uninscribed. Here the hands are opposed and the arms are not crossed. In each hand the figure holds a hoe. In addition the left hand holds a cord to a seed bag which is slung over the left shoulder. The object was broken in three pieces and one chip and is not mended. The wig is painted black and the body is a pale turquoise color. Black painted text is visible on the front of the object. There are chips in the left knee, top of the wig, left lappet and toes and the figure is encrusted with mud. Overall, the figure is very worn.

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 36 (tomb of Queen Atakhebasken) 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