Shabti

Shabti, found by the Dutch expedition in 2004The origin of the word shabti was already unknown to the ancient Egyptians themselves. Later, it was connected with the word wesheb ‘to answer'. A shabti was a small figure of a human being which was deposited in the tomb. When the deceased would be summoned to do labour in the hereafter, the figurine would answer the call in his place and act as his stand-in. Thus, a shabti acts as a servant of the deceased, but originaly it was a replacement in case his mummified body would be lost or damaged. The earliest shabtis date to Dynasty 11 and are small clay or wax figures of a naked body. From the Middle Kingdom, shabtis often have a mummiform appearance. In the later New Kingdom, shabtis in the clothes of daily life also occur, and the mummiform ones often hold tools for agricultural work in their hands. Late Period shabtis usually possess a protruding back-pillar. Shabtis occur in stone or wood (Middle Kingdom and New Kingdom), terracotta (New Kingdom and Third Intermediate Period) or faience (from the New Kingdom to the Ptolemaic Period). Starting with one figure per individual, New Kingdom burials already contain several shabtis each, and from the Third Intermediate Period whole armies of up till 400 shabtis occur, with foremen holding whips for each group of ten. Shabtis are usually inscribed with the name and titles of the owner, and the best examples have a full copy of the shabti text (Book of the Dead spell 6) which explains about the task they have to perform in the hereafter.