Deputies of the Dead from Amarna to Thebes: Mesmeric Shabtis of Akhenaten and Tutankhamun—Part I

Deputies of the Dead from Amarna to Thebes: Mesmeric Shabtis of Akhenaten and Tutankhamun—Part I

Among the most important items that made it into the crypts of both kings and commoners alike were shabti figurines that served to ensure that the Afterlife was one long holiday for their masters. The sepulchers of Akhenaten and Tutankhamun too contained these little magical deputies; but the specimens were rather unconventional when compared to the norm.

Shabti (or Ushabti) dolls were ancient Egyptian “Answerers” for the deceased in the Hereafter. An extensive collection of finely decorated figurines made from different materials, including faience and limestone, can be seen in this picture. Manchester Museum.

The ancient Egyptians envisaged each and every requirement in the Hereafter in this world itself. They constructed tombs in which to house their mortal remains for all eternity; and which would help rejuvenate and resurrect body and soul after death. These sumptuously decorated sepulchers were well-stocked with food, clothing, jewelry, cosmetics, furniture, model tools and most important of all (U)shabti – funerary figurines to do one’s bidding in the next world. Tutankhamun’s tomb, like those of his forbears, contained hundreds of them.


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