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Title:Shabti Figure of a Priest of Amun
Date Made:ca. 1069-664 BCE 3rd Intermediate Period, Dynasties 21-25
Materials:Pale green faience with black paint, faded to purple
Place Made:Egypt
Measurements:length: 4 7/8 in.; 12.3825 cm
Narrative Inscription:  unmarked
Accession Number:  SC 1918.9.17
Credit Line:Gift of Helen Griggs
Museum Collection:  Smith College Museum of Art

Currently on view

Pale green figure in the form of a mummy with single text column down front, with text, wig, eyes, implements (hoes for tilling earth), and seed basket (on back) painted in black. The faded text begins with “The Osiris, the God’s Father of Amun…” The man’s name, which would have followed, is lost. Religion

Label Text:
Believing that one’s spirit might be called upon to cultivate the fields and do other manual labor in the afterlife, the ancient Egyptians introduced magical figurines called shabtis, or “answerers,” to substitute for them for that purpose. At first, only one such figure was needed, but over time more powerful magic was evidently required, as individuals eventually needed one shabti for every day of the year, plus overseer shabtis, for a total of 401 in a single set. A variety of materials could be used, but when the numbers grew large the figures were frequently made of faience and mass-produced from molds. By the Third Intermediate Period, almost a thousand years after shabtis were introduced, in the Middle Kingdom, very large sets were the norm.

Mummiform figures such as this one were workers, while overseer shabtis were distinguished by wearing a short kilt. This individual bore the title “God’s Father,” identifying him with a category of priests who led processions at festivals, when a cult image would be brought out from the temple sanctuary.

Diana Wolfe Larkin, June 2014

religion; archaeology; mythology

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