Shawabty of Queen Naparaye
Napatan Period, reign of Taharqa
Findspot: Nubia (Sudan), el-Kurru, Pyramid 3, from debris in Chambers A and B
Overall range: 1.6 cm (5/8 in.) to 3.5 cm
Medium or Technique
Not On View
These are 16 fragments of shawabty figures found in the tomb of Queen Naparaye, daughter of Piankhy, wife of Taharqa. This mummiforn shape does not have a back pillar or base. Features such as the calfs, knees and hips are shaped. The fragments are uninscribed. There are 5 head fragments of indeterminate type and 11 small torso fragments of indeterminate type. No hands or implements are depicted.
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.
From Nubia (Sudan), el-Kurru, Pyramid 3 (tomb of Queen Naparaye), from debris in Chambers A and B. 1919: 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.
Harvard University—Boston Museum of Fine Arts Expedition