Shawabty of unidentified queen
Napatan Period, reign of Senkamanisken
Findspot: Nubia (Sudan), Nuri, Pyramid XI, chapel debris
Overall: 4.7 cm (1 7/8 in.)
Medium or Technique
Not On View
This is a foot and legs fragment of a shawabty of unidentified queen. When complete this female figure wears a bag wig which is painted. 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 bag slung over the right shoulder. The shawabty is uninscribed. This mummiform shape has a back pillar from the top of the head to the base. The field number is written on the base of the figure in black ink.
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, found in pyramid 11, chapel debris, but originally belonging to pyramid 22 (tomb of unidentified queen). 1917: excavated by the Harvard University-Museum of Fine Arts Expedition; assigned to the MFA by the government of the Sudan.
Harvard University—Boston Museum of Fine Arts Expedition