Egyptian Faience Shabti with Hieroglyphic Inscriptions


An Egyptian, green-glazed, faience shabti with hieroglyphic inscriptions. The figure wears a tripartite-wig with horizontal bands across the lower ends of the lappets.  The face is modelled in relief with the facial features (eyebrows, nose and mouth) painted in black. The hands are rather abstractly painted but are placed in the standard pose of being crossed right over left above the waist, holding a pair of hoes. A column of hieroglyphs is written in black pigment to the front of the shabti. The first two lines consist of 3 hieroglyphic signs; the eye 𓁹, the throne 𓊨 and a seated god 𓀭. Together they form the word “ Wsỉr”, referring to the god Osiris. In this case, the deceased is referred to as “the Osiris”. The subsequent signs are less clear but most likely depict the following: the basket with handle sign 𓎡 “k”, the vulture 𓄿 “ꜣ”, the double reeds sign 𓇌 “y” and the seated man sign 𓀀 “ỉ”.  If so the name would read as “Kay (kꜣy)”. The seated man sign when used in names usually functions as a determinative, to indicate the individual is male and is not pronounced.  According to convention, these hieroglyphs should refer to the title or name of the deceased. The back is decorated with a seed-basket and a yoke with two pendular nw-pots. This is to symbolise the work shabtis are expected to carry out for his owner (the deceased) in the afterlife. The addition of the pendular pots was especially favoured from the end of the 18th Dynasty to the beginning of the 20th Dynasty.

Date: Circa 1350-1150 BC
Period: New Kingdom
Provenance: From a Private Dorset collection, 1980s-1990s.
Condition: Fine condition. Chip to the mouth, wig and left shoulder. Encrustations and diminutive cavities to the surface. Some loss of glaze.

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Shabtis, or ushebtis from the Third Intermediate Period, are small figurines buried with the deceased, intended to carry out menial labour on their owner’s behalf in the afterlife. To reflect this function, they are usually depicted in the form of a mummy holding tools in their hands – baskets, mattocks and hoes. Shabtis are among the most numerous of Egyptian antiquities, as they played a major role in funeral rites. Many shabtis are inscribed with the title and name of the owner. Some were even inscribed with a spell in which the deceased summons the shabtis to work. The “Shabti spell” is taken from chapter 6 of the Book of the Dead  and is also attested in the coffin text spell 472.

“The illuminated one, the Osiris, [title and name of the deceased], justified, born to [mother or father’s name], justified. He speaks:

O shabti figure(s)
If [name of the deceased] is called up to do any work that is done there in the underworld
Then the checkmarks (on the work list) are struck for him there
As for a man for his (work service) duty
Be counted yourself at any time that might be done
To cultivate the marsh, to irrigate the riverbank fields
To ferry sand to west or east
I am doing it, see, I am here, you are to say”

To discover more about Egyptian shabtis, please visit our relevant blog post: How Ancient Egyptian Shabtis and Funerary Statuettes Watched Over the Dead.

Weight 152.4 g
Dimensions L 4.8 x W 3 x H 12.5 cm

Egyptian Mythology



Reference: For a similar item, National Liverpool Museum, Liverpool, item 42.18.28

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