Shawabty of Queen Batahaliye
Napatan Period, reign of King Harsiotef
Findspot: Nubia (Sudan), Nuri, Pyramid 44
Overall: 12.3 x 4.3 cm (4 13/16 x 1 11/16 in.)
Medium or Technique
Not On View
This is a shawabty belonging to Queen Batahaliye. The figure wears the king’s nemes headdress with uraeus and has a long beard. The shawabty is uninscribed. This mummiform shape does not have a back pillar or base. Here the hands are opposed and the arms are not crossed. One hoe is held in the left hand and rests on the left shoulder, the right hand holds a cord to a small bag that is slung over the left shoulder. The object was broken in seven pieces and a bag of chips and two pieces are mended. The condition of this object is very poor. The fragments are flaking and crumbling. The face 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, 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.
From Nubia (Sudan), Nuri, Pyramid 44 (tomb of Queen Batahaliye). 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.
Harvard University—Boston Museum of Fine Arts Expedition