Requires Photography

Shawabty of Queen Maleteral II

Nubian
Napatan Period, reign of Amani-natake-lebte
538–519 B.C.


Findspot: Nubia (Sudan), Nuri, Pyramid 25

Dimensions

Overall: 11.6 x 5.2 cm (4 9/16 x 2 1/16 in.)

Accession Number

21.15556

Medium or Technique

Faience

Not On View

Collections

The Ancient World

Classifications

Shawabties and shawabty boxes

This is a shawabty of Queen Maleteral II. The female figure wears the queen’s vulture headdress over the tripartite wig. 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 to a seed bag which is slung over the left shoulder. There are four horizontal lines of incised text encircling the body. The text is framed and there is a single vertical line up the center of the back dividing the back of the text. This mummiform shape does not have a back pillar or base. The object was broken in one large piece and one chip and is not mended. The figure is broken off at mid-leg. The top of the vulture is missing. There is a small hole in the left shoulder.

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 25 (tomb of Queen Maleteral II). 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.

Credit Line

Harvard University—Boston Museum of Fine Arts Expedition