University Museums

Title: Uschabti Figurine
Name: Uschabti Figurine
Date: c. 3200 BCE
Medium: Glazed earthenware (faience)
Country/Culture: Egyptian
Dimensions: 6 1/4 x 1 1/2 x 7 in. (15.9 x 3.8 x 17.8 cm)
Classification: Decorative Arts, Ceramics
Credit Line: Gift of Ann and Henry Brunnier. In the Ann and Henry Brunnier Collection, Brunnier Art Museum, University Museums, Iowa State University, Ames, Iowa.
Object Number: 2.1.1
More Information
The ushabti (also called shabti or shawabti, with a number of variant spellings, Ancient Egyptian plural: ushabtiu) was a funerary figurine used in Ancient Egypt. Ushabtis were placed in tombs among the grave goods and were intended to act as substitutes for the deceased, should he/she be called upon to do manual labor in the afterlife. They were used from the Middle Kingdom (around 1900 BC) until the end of the Ptolemaic Period nearly 2000 years later.

Most ushabtis were of minor size, and many produced in multiples – they sometimes covered the floor around a sarcophagus. Exceptional ushabtis are of larger size, or produced as a one of-a-kind master work.

Due to the shabti's commonness through all Egyptian timeperiods, and world museums' desire to represent ancient Egyptian art objects, the shabti is one of the most commonly represented objects in Egyptology displays. Produced in huge numbers, ushabtis, along with scarabs, are the most numerous of all ancient Egyptian antiquities to survive.

Ushabtis were mostly mummiform, but in the 18th Dynasty during the reign of Tuthmosis IV, they began to be fashioned as servants with baskets, sacks, and other agricultural tools. They were made of clay, wood or stone;[9] early ones were sometimes made from wax also. Later figurines were often made of less perishable materials: stone, terracotta, metal, glass and, most frequently, glazed earthenware (faience). While ushabtis manufactured for the rich were often miniature works of art, the great mass of cheaply made ushabtis became standardised—made from single molds with little detail.