CM: An Ushabti (also called Shabti or Shawabti, with a number of variant spellings) is a small figurine of ancient Egypt included in the grave goods of the dead. The figurine was believed to magically animate after the dead had been judged, then work for the dead person as a servant or substitute labourer in the fields of Osiris. The Ushabti is also named the 'follower' or 'answerer', because it 'answered' for the deceased person and performed all the routine chores of daily life for its master. Some tombs had the floor covered with a great many Ushabtis, produced in quantity for the journey of the deceased. They were designed to accompany the deceased into the afterlife, and comply with requests from the gods. Holding the role of servants or substitutes for the deceased, it was common for many as 365 Ushabtis to be placed in the tomb, thereby providing one to serve each day of the year. Pharaohnic Ushabtis ceased after the last pharaoh of the 30th Dynasty, Nectanebo II (360-343 BC), but Ushabtis for private use remained in use until the end of the Ptolemaic Period (332-30 BC).
The Ushabtis were used from the 11th Dynasty (2134-1991 BC) but became common and numerous in graves from the 21st Dynasty (1077-943 BC). Early Ushabtis were made from wax and clay; and later of stone, terracotta, metal, glass and - most often - glazed earthenware. With increasing demand, the Ushabti became standardised - made from single molds with little detail. The present Ushabti dates from ca. 1000 BC and is of blue faience glass glaze. The rather fine moulding suggests that the owner was of fairly high standing, but also emphasises the significance of the Ushabti as an artifact guaranteeing proportionate service in the after-life.
[Megakles Rogakos 08/2006]
ROGAKOS, MEGAKLES Silent Dialogues: Multimedia Portraits Throughout Time 2008 The American College of Greece - ACG Art, Athens