Requires Photography

Shawabty of Siaspiqa

Nubian
Napatan Period, reign of Siaspiqa
487–468 B.C.


Findspot: Nubia (Sudan), Nuri, Pyramid 4 (tomb of Siaspiqa)

Dimensions

Overall: 25 cm (9 13/16 in.)

Accession Number

21.3150

Medium or Technique

Faience

Not On View

Collections

The Ancient World

Classifications

Shawabties and shawabty boxes

This is a shawabty belonging to King Siaspiqa. The male figure wears the king’s nemes headdress with uraeus and has a long beard. There are eight horizontal lines of incised text encircling the body. The text is framed and there is a narrow blank area up the center of the back.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. The implements are finely detailed in low relief. This mummiform shape does not have a back pillar or base (when complete.) The object was broken in two pieces at the waist and is now mended. A crack runs down the center back and a chip is missing from that area. There is some crazing of the glaze, which is turquoise and otherwise in good condition. The feet are missing.

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 4 (tomb of Siaspiqa) debris from thieve's debris Rooms A, B, C. 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