Shawabty of King Taharqa
Napatan Period, reign of Taharqa
Findspot: Nubia (Sudan), Nuri, Pyramid 1, A IV 1
Overall: 25 x 9 cm (9 13/16 x 3 9/16 in.)
Medium or Technique
Not On View
This is a shawabty belonging to King Taharqa. The object was broken in three pieces and is not mended. The figure wears the king’s nemes headdress with uraeus and has a long beard. There are ten horizontal lines of incised text which is unframed and does not extend around the back of the body. This mummiform shape does not have a back pillar or base. Here the hands are opposed and the arms are not crossed. The king holds the implements of ruler ship, the flail on the left and the crook on the right shoulder. The face, right side of the torso and right corner of the base 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.
From Nubia (Sudan) Nuri, Pyramid 1 (Tomb of Taharqa), A IV 1. From Sudan, Nubia, Nuri. February 1917: excavated by the Harvard University-Museum of Fine Arts Expedition; assigned to the MFA by the government of Sudan.
Harvard University—Boston Museum of Fine Arts Expedition