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Title:Overseer Shabti Figure
Date Made:ca. 1069-664 BCE 3rd Intermediate Period, Dynasties 21-25
Materials:Turquoise faience
Place Made:Egypt
Measurements:length: 1 7/8 in.; 4.7625 cm
Narrative Inscription:  unmarked
Accession Number:  SC 1918.9.21
Credit Line:Gift of Helen Griggs
Museum Collection:  Smith College Museum of Art

Currently on view

Figure wearing a kilt; right arm at side, left arm bent holding whip; 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.

The short kilt and whip on this figure identify him as an overseer shabti.

Diana Wolfe Larkin, June 2014

religion; archaeology; mythology

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