What tools were used to create this piece?
The primary tools would have been a mold and fire. This shabty is made of a material called faience. Faience is a quartz-based paste that was molded and fired at high temperature, similar to a ceramic. Each of the colors had to applied separately; this was an unusual and costly method of shabty production.
What purpose did this object serve?
Shabties were part of the funerary equipment in ancient Egypt. In ancient Egyptian religious beliefs, the afterlife was very similar to the current life, which meant that the tasks that need to happen here would continue in the afterlife. Shabties were made to help the deceased with work in the afterlife. We can tell that this shabty belonged to a wealthy person because it's large and beautifully decorated.
What is a shabty and what does it have to do with a tomb?
The word Shabty refers to a funerary figurine like this one. The word comes from the ancient Egyptian term for “the one who replies.” Shabties would be placed in tomb and were believed to come to life and perform tasks on behalf of the deceased in the afterlife.
Did the image on the shabty vary based on who's tomb it was placed inside?
A little. They were fairly standardized (we have several more on view throughout the Egyptian galleries). The way that a shabty was individualized was through the inscription. Ancient Egyptians believed in the power of writing. By placing an inscription naming a person on a work, it would become a portrait/image of that person.
The main ways in which shabties varied was in the quality and fashion. Wealthy individuals could afford higher quality, larger, and more individualized ones. Middle class individuals could buy simple mold-made, mass produced shabties. Changing trends in wigs and headdresses also manifest in shabty design.