Requires Photography

Shawabty of an unidentified queen

Nubian
Napatan Period, reign of Anlamani
623–593 B.C.


Findspot: Nubia (Sudan), Nuri, Found in Pyramid 7 but originally in Pyramid 76

Dimensions

Overall: 3 x 1.6 cm (1 3/16 x 5/8 in.)

Accession Number

16-11-6

Medium or Technique

Faience

Not On View

Collections

The Ancient World

Classifications

Shawabties and shawabty boxes

This is a legs and feet fragment of a shawabty of an unidentified queen. When complete this type consists of the following: The female figure wears a bag wig. The shawabty is uninscribed. This mummiform shape does not have a back pillar, though it does have a base. The arms are crossed and the hands are positioned right above left. One hoe is held in the right hand and rests on the left shoulder, the left hand holds a cord to a small bag slung over the right shoulder. “16-1-16” is written on the figure, but the correct number is 16-11-16. “6” is written in black ink on the back of the legs.

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 Nuri, found in Pyramid 7 but originally from Pyramid 76 (tomb of an unknown queen). 1918: excavated by the Harvard University-Museum of Fine Arts Expedition; assigned to the MFA by the government of the Sudan.

Credit Line

Harvard University—Boston Museum of Fine Arts Expedition