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20th Dynasty, c.1550 - 1070 BC. A handsome terracotta ushabti with red-orange and black pigment features and a white base.

The most popular of the ancient Egyptian antiquities for sale to collectors is the ushabti. Ushabti (also called shabti or shawabti), were ancient Egyptian funerary figures shaped like mummies who accompanied the deceased to the after-life. Their name is derived from the Egyptian for stick but also corresponds to the word for `answer’ and so the shabtis were known as `The Answerers’.

Ushabtis were placed in tombs among the grave goods and were intended to act as servants for the deceased, to do the manual labour in the afterlife. Their role is clearly represented as the figurines frequently carry a hoe on their shoulder and a basket on their backs, indicating their intention to farm for the deceased. They also carried inscriptions asserting their function and readiness to answer the gods' summons to work. These inscriptions, written in hieroglyphs, are typically found on the legs.

The practice of using ushabtis originated in the Old Kingdom (c. 2600 to 2100 BC) with the use of life-sized heads made from limestone buried with the mummy. By the New Kingdom (1570-1069 BC) they were made of stone, Nile clay or wood and in the Late Period composed of faience. Most of these later ushabtis were of a small size, and often produced in large numbers.

Condition: Excellent, intact example.

Dimensions: Length 16.5cm.

Provenance: Ex. private collection, UK; acquired in 2006. Previously private collection, California, USA; acquired mid to late 20th Century.


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