Shawabty of King Irike-Amanote
Napatan Period, reign of Irike-Amanote
Findspot: Nubia (Sudan), Nuri, Pyramid 12
Overall: 19 cm (7 1/2 in.)
Medium or Technique
Not On View
This is a shawabty belonging to King Irike-Amanote. There are 4 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 object was broken in two pieces and is mended. Two thirds of the figure, the shoulders and the head are missing. The front of the feet are missing as well and the base is broken. The arms are not crossed, the hands are positioned right above left.
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), Nuri, Pyramid 12 (tomb of Irike-Amanote ), Room B. 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 the Sudan.
Harvard University—Boston Museum of Fine Arts Expedition