Requires Photography

Shawabty of unidentified queen

Nubian
Napatan Period
750–270 B.C.


Findspot: Nubia (Sudan), Gebel Barkal, B 900 ?

Dimensions

Overall: 7.9 x 4.1 cm (3 1/8 x 1 5/8 in.)

Accession Number

21.16667

Medium or Technique

Faience

Not On View

Collections

The Ancient World

Classifications

Shawabties and shawabty boxes

This is a shawabty of an unidentified queen. The female figure wears a bag wig. The shawabty is uninscribed. The arms are crossed and the hands are right over left. One hoe is held in the right hand resting on the left shoulder and the left hand holds a cord to a small plain seed basket slung over the right shoulder. There is a slightly raised back pillar. It is bright turquoise in color. The lower legs and feet are missing and there is a chip missing from the ight side of the face. The face is worn and there are cracks by the right arm. There is mud encrustation.

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), Gebel Barkal B 900 ? 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