Requires Photography

Shawabty of unidentified Queen(?)

Nubian
Napatan Period
369–353 B.C.


Findspot: Nubia (Sudan), el-Kurru, Pyramid 2 (tomb of unidentifed queen?)

Dimensions

Overall: 13 cm (5 1/8 in.)

Accession Number

21.12883

Medium or Technique

Faience

Not On View

Collections

The Ancient World

Classifications

Shawabties and shawabty boxes

This is a shawabty from the tomb of an unidentified queen(?). The male shawabty 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. The arms are not crossed, the hands are positioned right above left. The object was broken in 3+ pieces and is not mended. The head of the figure is in many small fragments.

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 el-Kurru, Ku. 2 (tomb of an unidentified queen), debris. 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.

(Accession Date: August 21, 2006)

Credit Line

Harvard University—Boston Museum of Fine Arts Expedition