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SHAUABTIU OR USHABTIU FIGURES
Shauabti, nail, , is the name that was given
under the XVIIIth and following dynasties to the figure of the deceased1 which was placed in the tomb in order to perform certain agricultural labours for the deceased. Various explanations have been given of the name, some connecting it with the verb to answer," and translating it by answerer (respondent), and others holding it to mean a figure made of shauabti wood.2 But as the figure itself must be the Osirian equivalent of the man (or woman), who was murdered at the burial of a chief in primitive times, and sent to the Other World to work for his master, it is far more likely that the name "shauabti" represents the word for the funerary victim in some early African tongue. Be this as it may, there is no doubt what the figure was intended to do for the person whom it represented, i.e., when it happened that the deceased in the Other World was called upon to perform any work that was obligatory, that is to say, digging the furrows, and irrigating the cultivated plots, and carrying the sand of the East to the West, it was the duty of the figure to cry out "Here am I." Moreover, the figure was not to hearken to anyone except the person whom it represented, as we see from the inscription first noticed by Erman and quoted by Borchardt,3 which ends, “Obey the person who made thee: obey not his enemies,"
The Shauabti figure of the New Kingdom seems to be the equivalent of the personal servant of the deceased, of whom many examples are found in the tombs of the Old and Middle Kingdoms. But as no one servant could perform all the work which had to be done in and about the house of a great official or man of high rank, and as a nobleman's household consisted of many servants, it was considered necessary to place more than one Shauabti in the tomb of a king, or nobleman, so that all his needs in the Other World might be satisfied. Many officials (e.g., Amenḥetep and Ankhef-en Khensu) 4
1 This appears to be certain from the text on the figure made for User, son of Qahaṭu, in the Berlin Museum (No. 10814), the inscription on
See Borchardt, Aeg. Zeit., Bd. XXXII
2 When the figure is made of stone or bronze or faïence this argument must fail, unless we assume that the Egyptians overlooked the incorrect use of the word.
had large boxes full of Shauabtiu buried with them, and they provided themselves each with 365 Shauabtiu-one for every day in the year. Seti I seems to have had a supply of figures sufficient for two years, for Belzoni found over 700 in his tomb at Thebes. It is a moot point whether many of these were not votive offerings made by kinsfolk and friends, for there is evidence that, in some cases at least, the heka, or word of power, which is inscribed upon them, was recited by one or more of the kinsfolk of the deceased.
Shauabtiu figures are made of plain or zoned alabaster, granite, basalt, crystalline sandstone, porphyry and diorite limestone, wood, mud, glazed faïence, etc. The Shauabti, later Shabti, was sometimes laid on the mummy itself, as we see from the mummy of Katebet in the British Museum, and sometimes it was laid in or by the coffin. In tombs which contained a large number of figures, probably votive, they have been found lying scattered about on the floor. The Shauabti figure is found in tombs of all periods, from the VIth dynasty to the Roman Period, but it is almost certain that the religious views as to its use and importance that prevailed under the VIth dynasty were greatly modified when the cult of Osiris became predominant under the XIIth dynasty. Many of the oldest figures are uninscribed and their hands are invisible. Under the XIIth dynasty the name and titles of the person for whom the figure was made are written or cut upon it, and the arms are crossed at the wrist, and the palms of the hands lie flat on the breast. Under the XVIIIth dynasty the hands are treated differently, and a heka, which forms Chapter VI of the Theban Recension of the Book of the Dead, is cut upon the figure. Thus in the limestone Shabti of Aāḥmes I, the first king of the dynasty (B.M. 32191), the arms are crossed at the wrists, and each hand is clenched, as if grasping an amulet. The hieroglyphic text reads :—
In the Shabti figure of Amenḥetep II (B.M. 35365) the arms are crossed as before, but in each hand the king grasps the symbol of
"life," f. The text reads: 1.
I A A
In the handsome Shabti of Parmer-ahu (B.M. 8703), of about the
same period, the figure has the form of a mummy and no hands are
visible. The text contains some interesting variants, and reads:
Another class of Shabti is illustrated by B.M. 29403. The face is broad, the nose large, the lips are full and the chin firm, and the head-dress is arranged in such a way as to show the ears. The general appearance suggests that the face was copied from that of the deceased. On the breast, in low relief, is the figure of a manheaded hawk, representing the soul. The arms hang by the sides of the body, and the hands are stretched flat on the thighs, the one resting on the tet, and the other on the tet, G. Behind the left shoulder two hoes, are cut in outline, and behind the right shoulder a ropework basket (?) is cut in outline. The usual text fills seven lines, and begins,
a blank space for the name of the deceased, which was not filled in,
and after it. This figure probably belongs to the XVIIIth dynasty, but it is possible that it may be older.
The inscriptions on the fragments of the Shabti figures made for Amenḥetep III show that a text other than the VIth Chapter of the Book of the Dead was preferred by him. Thus on B.M. 8690
the inscription reads :— 1.29m); $
The beginnings of these lines were probably
on the upper portion of the figure, which is wanting. It is a curious fact that the upper parts of the three or four Shabtiu in the British Museum that were made for Amenḥetep III are wanting.
The text of the VIth Chapter of the Book of the Dead that is found on the beautiful blue-glazed faïence Shabti of Seti I (B.M. 22818) well represents the version current under the XIXth dynasty. The king is shown wearing the usual royal head-dress, with a uraeus over the forehead, and a deep collar or breastplate, and wide bracelets on the wrists. The arms are folded over the breast; in the left hand he holds a hoe,, and in the right hand a hoe and the cord of a which hangs over his left shoulder. The text
The huge hard sandstone Shabti (B.M. 55485) of the Nubian king Taharq (the Tirhâkâh of the Bible) supplies us with the version of the VIth Chapter that was accepted at Napata in the VIIIth century before Christ. This Shabti is 1 foot 8 inches in height. The king wears a short thick head-dress, with a uraeus over his forehead, and the ears rest upon the lower part of the head-dress. The face is evidently