Shabtis or ushabtis are among the most numerous of all Egyptian antiquities, as they played a major role in funeral rites. Indeed, they were intended to act as servants for the deceased and to perform any manual labour for their master in the afterlife. For this to be possible, it was necessary that each shabti present in the grave had the name of their master inscribed on it and also a summoning spell to which they replied. In fact, shabti – or ushabti – translates as “the answerer”. Such figurines could also be inscribed with passages from the Book of the Dead, the intention of which was to secure safety for the deceased in the afterlife.
Gustave Jéquier was a Swiss archaeologist who began his career under the direction of Gaston Maspero and Jacques de Morgan. He worked on hundreds of excavations at Susa from 1897-1902, including the discovery of the third fragment of the Code of Hammurabi. His focus returned to Egypt in 1904 and his principle area of study focused on the Predynastic period. He was the first egyptologist to excavate the pyramid complex of Pepi II from 1926-1936.
To discover more about Egyptian shabtis, please visit our relevant blog post: How Ancient Egyptian Shabtis and Funerary Statuettes Watched Over the Dead.