Ushabtri for D(?)-Jonsu-yf-anck

This ushabti figure represents a worker who is carrying two hoes so as to be able to work in the fields of Osiris in the Afterlife. He is wearing a tripartite wig which falls down over his shoulders and down his back. A mummy-form shroud covers his entire body with only the hands visible. These are crossed over his chest and are holding the above-mentioned tools.

There is a vertical register of hieroglyphs running down the front of his body. The translation reads: “The Osiris of the priest wab D(?)-Jonsu-yf-anck, just of voice.”

Ushabti were made from one original bi-valve mold. Once the two pieces were joined and the rough edges removed, and while the material was still moist, the details of the image were retouched and the columns were marked on which the hieroglyphs would be incised. This meant that each ushabti was unique, even though they had come from the same mold.

The material used for the creation of this ushabti is faience, composed of fine sand cemented with sodium carbonate and sodium bicarbonate extracted from natron. Fired at 950 degrees C, the mixture gives an enamel-like finish with the carbonates forming a vitreous surface. It was a simple procedure and therefore not costly. The green and blue tones were achieved by the addition of a few grams of copper oxide extracted from malachite or azurite. The red tones were achieved with iron oxide, the intense blues with cobalt, the black by mixing iron oxide and magnesium oxide with water. All that was needed was to paint the chosen details in the selected colour with a brush before the firing.

Ushabtis, a term which in Ancient Egypt means “answerers”, were figures that directly represented the deceased person. They appeared in the Middle Kingdom and their use became popular in the New Kingdom. They formed part of the grave goods. Chapter VI of the Book of the Dead was often inscribed on the figurine, or a simpler version with the name and title of the deceased. The use of these funerary figures allowed the owner to enjoy the afterlife as the ushabtis acted as a form of worker substitute for the owner in the fields of Aaru, the Egyptian paradise, as the Egyptians believed that the spirits of these figurines would work for them and thus achieve their sustenance in the afterlife. There were 365 ushabtis placed among the grave goods, one for each day of the year. Along with these there might be 36 overseers who would be in charge of each of the workgroups made up of 10 workers, and so avoid any possibility of rebellion in the ranks. These figurines could be found in a special wooden box or might be placed in an informal grouping in a place near the sarcophagus. In the Late Period these figurines were produced en masse. The number grew and their use became more frequent in the graves in that period.


- BOVOT, J. Les serviteurs funeraires royaux et princiers de l'Ancienne Egypte. Paris: Editions de la Reunion des musees nationeuax, 2003.
- GLEEN, J. Shabtis, a private view. Paris: Librairie Cybele, 2002.
- SCHNEIDER, H. D. Shabtis. Leiden: Rijksmuseum van Oudheden, 1997.
- STEWART, H. M. Egypyian shabtis. United Kingdom: Shire Egyptology, 1995.

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