Egypt, Late Dynastic Period, 26th to 31st Dynasty, ca. 664 to 332 BCE. A gorgeous funerary tomb figure known as an ushabti, mold-formed from white faience. The figure stands with fused legs atop an integral rectangular plinth, holds the symbolic pick and hoe in hands crossed atop the chest, and has a small seed bag incised behind one rounded shoulder. The serene visage is composed of almond eyes, a petite nose, cupped ears, and a plaited false beard, all beneath a simple tripartite wig. The front of the body displays nine lines of inscribed hieroglyphic text that, while untranslated, likely provide the name of the deceased as well as a protective incantation from Chapter 6 of the Egyptian Book of the Dead (or the Book of Going Forth by Day). Faint traces of blue-green glaze are visible within some recessed areas of this wonderful example of ancient Egyptian funerary tradition! Size: 1.4" W x 5.2" H (3.6 cm x 13.2 cm).
Ushabti dolls are figures shaped like adult male or female mummies wearing traditional Egyptian headdresses. The ancient Egyptians believed that, after they died, their spirits would have to work in the "Field of Reeds" owned by Osiris, the god of the underworld. As a result, they are frequently depicted with arms crossed, typically holding picks and hoes, with baskets on their backs. This meant that the task of agricultural labor was required by all members of society, from workers and scribes to aristocrats and even pharaohs. The wealthier nobility in Egyptian society were able to have ushabti made of faience, though wood was a more economical option for members of lower classes.
Provenance: private East Coast, USA collection; ex-Dr. Sid Port collection, California, USA, acquired in the 1980s
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