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ID number:  ECM 414
Named collection:  The Eton Myers Collection
Title / Object name:  Shabti of Satamun
Object type:  Shabti
Date made:  New Kingdom, not before the end of the 18th Dynasty (1550-1295 BC)
Materials:  Stone
Measurements:  overall: 22.80 cm x 6.73 cm x 4.51 cm (H x W x D)

The shabti belongs to a woman, the ‘mistress of the house’ Satamun. It is well preserved and was made in one piece. Satamun wears a long, elaborate female wig which extends down to the level of the wesekh-collar and has a horizontal red retaining band with white and black dots (ornamental weights) that kept the band in place on the hair. According to Schneider (1977: vol. 1, 165 and vol. 3, fig.11, n. 10) the style of the wig dates to the 18th Dynasty.

The figure, painted black, wears a polychrome collar (white black, yellow, red, green) wesekh-collar and her arms and hands are rendered in the manner typical of New Kingdom shabtis: the right and left arms are shown on the same level and only the hands emerge above the collar (Schneider 1977: vol. 1, 167). In the right hand the shabti holds a djed-pillar, and in the left a tit-amulet (cf. Schneider 1977: vol. 1, 175; vol. 3, fig. 17, n. 1). The shabti, therefore, does not display the usual agricultural implements necessary for the tasks described in the text (cf. inscription A). On its back, a rectangular basket is clearly visible, although the two cords holding it over the shoulders are partially hidden under the long wig; the basket is painted yellow with light red criss-crossed lines. The basket’s shape, rectangular with loops and cords, corresponds to n. B10b of Schneider’s subdivision of baskets shapes (1977: vol. 1, 172; vol. 3, fig. 14, n. 10b) and dates to the New Kingdom.

An inscription (A) runs in horizontal lines around the lower part of the body; the text is engraved and painted in yellow; the lines are framed and down the centre of the back there is an open (uninscribed) column (cf. Schneider 1977: vol. 1, 177; vol. 3, fig. 18, n. 1c). The version of the shabti spell revealed by this inscription corresponds to Schneider’s version VB (1977: vol. 1, 107-109). Under line 3 of the inscription the shabti was probably broken into two halves, which were subsequently glued back together.

Inscriptions / Translations:  (1) The Sehedj (illuminated one), the Osiris, mistress of the house Satamun, justified, she says: ‘O (2) shabti, which has been allotted, if one summons [in order to do] (3) all the work which is to be done in the necropolis, <to> make arable the fields/to let the fields grow, (4) to irrigate the riverbank, <to> transport (by boat) sand from the East (5) to the West; indeed, if obstacles are implanted (6) there for him <as> a man <at> his duties, if one calls (8) at any time […] act [for?], Satamun.

Bibliography:  On shabtis, see:
H. D. Schneider, ‘Shabtis. An Introduction to the History of Ancient Egyptian Funerary Statuettes with a Catalogue of the Collection of Shabtis in the National Museum of Antiquities at Leiden’, 3 vols., Leiden 1977.

Notes:  Dating is based on the general style of the shabti, the wig, the attributes, the title ‘mistress of the house’, and the use of the Osiris title sehedj at the beginning; cf. Schneider 1977: vol. 2, 91.

Shabtis are funerary figures whose purpose was to act as a substitute for the deceased in the corvée labour required in the afterlife to produce food. They developed during the Middle Kingdom directly from the servant statuettes of the Old Kingdom. They usually display one of several variants of chapter 6 of the ‘Book of the Dead’, also known as the ‘shabti spell’, whose purpose was to enable the shabti to fulfil its duties and to answer (wesheb, a possible stem of the word shabti/ushabti) when called for the corvée labour.

A downloadable 3D Model is available here.

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Myers, William Joseph
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