Egyptian ushabtis, also commonly referred to as shawabti or shabtis (meaning 'answerer'), are funerary figurines, usually mummiform in shape, which were buried with the deceased in their tomb. The purpose of ushabtis was to perform the laborious tasks required for the production of food for their owners in the afterlife (such as sowing seeds, harvesting crops and irrigating the land). Ushabtis were used by both royal and non-royal Egyptians.
This ushabti provides a representative example of the types of mass-produced ushabtis produced at the pinnacle of their consumption during the Third Intermediate Period. Compared to many earlier examples, it is of high quality with well-defined details and traces of hieroglyphic text.
Ushabtis are one example of the type of objects that the deceased had buried with them in their tombs. Other objects included food offerings, canopic jars and pottery vessels, which obviously varied depending on the social standing of the tomb owner. From the New Kingdom onwards, some tomb owners were buried with ushabti boxes which contained 365 worker ushabtis and 36 overseer ushabtis.
This faience worker ushabti is an indicative example of the funerary beliefs held by the Ancient Egyptians. It reinforces the idea that the Egyptians believed eternal life could be ensured through the provision of statuary equipment, along with other means, and that the physical world was a chance to prepare for the next life.
Researched by Melanie Pitkin
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