Shawabty of Queen Qalhata
Napatan Period, reign of Shebitka
Findspot: Nubia (Sudan), el-Kurru, Pyramid 5 (tomb of Queen Qalhata) general debris
Overall: 15.4 x 4.9 cm (6 1/16 x 1 15/16 in.)
Medium or Technique
Not On View
This is a shawabty of Queen Qalhata, sister-wife of Shebitka, mother of Tanwetamani. The male figure wears a tripartite wig. There are six registers of black painted text on the front. The object was broken in six pieces, two of which are mended. This mummiform shape does not have a back pillar or base. The wig is painted black. The arms are crossed and the hands are right over left. In each hand the figure holds a hoe. In addition the right hand holds a cord to a seed bag which is slung over the left shoulder.
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), el-Kurru, Pyramid 5 (tomb of Queen Qalhata), general 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: September 8, 2006)
Harvard University—Boston Museum of Fine Arts Expedition