Shabti Coffin of Iuy
Egyptian, Classical, Ancient Near Eastern Art
On View: Funerary Gallery 2, Martha A. and Robert S. Rubin Gallery, 3rd Floor
The Egyptians manufactured funerary figurines, originally called shabties, as early as Dynasty 12 (1932–1759 B.C.E.). The earliest shabties are inscribed with either the deceased’s name (see nos. 1 and 2) or a simple form of Chapter 6 of the Book of the Dead. The rarity and high quality of the early shabties suggest that they were costly items produced for privileged persons.
Later, Chapter 6 began appearing more frequently on funerary figurines. The text mentions that they do agricultural tasks for the dead person: irrigating the fields, cultivating crops, and clearing away sand that blew in from the nearby desert.
As substitutes for the deceased, these figurines were sometimes given their own sarcophagi (see no. 6). To emphasize the agricultural function of the figurines, hoes and grain baskets were added to them (no. 8).
Wood (nos. 9–11), stone (nos. 12–14, 16), faience (no. 17), metal, and other materials were used beginning in Dynasty 18. By the end of the New Kingdom, statuettes for a single person were often mold-made by the hundreds and even thousands. Faience became the medium of choice, first in blue and later in light green or light blue (nos. 17, 20, 21).
ca. 1539-1400 B.C.E.
first half of Dynasty 18
Dimensions of Closed Coffin: 7 x 7 x 15 1/4 in. (17.8 x 17.8 x 38.7 cm) (show scale)
Charles Edwin Wilbour Fund
Model limestone sarcophagus inscribed for a lady named Iwy. The sarcophagus, which is anthropoid and mummiform, was made to house a mummiform ushabti (37. 129E) belonging to the same lady. The face is framed by a heavy tripartite wig and a broad collar. Below the collar is a figure of Nut surmounting a column of text. On the sides of the body of the sarcophagus are vertical black lines dividing the sides into parallels.
Condition: Coffin is chipped on the lower right hand corner of the body and there is also a large chip in the right side. Some structural decay has caused losses from the right side of the lid. Several cracks appear in both body and lid.
Shabti Coffin of Iuy, ca. 1539-1400 B.C.E. Limestone, Dimensions of Closed Coffin: 7 x 7 x 15 1/4 in. (17.8 x 17.8 x 38.7 cm). Brooklyn Museum, Charles Edwin Wilbour Fund, 37.128E. Creative Commons-BY (Photo: Brooklyn Museum, 37.128E_closed_PS2.jpg)
overall, closed, 37.128E_closed_PS2.jpg. Brooklyn Museum photograph, 2006
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Why are their hands around their chest?
This pose indicates that they represent the dead and served to identify them with the god Osiris, the king of the afterlife. The is referred to by Egyptologists as mummiform--mummy shaped--or, especially in the case of a king, Osiride--Osiris-like.
Shabties like these would be placed in the tomb. They're essentially servants to the deceased, who would perform tasks like farming for them in the afterlife.
Tell me more.
These figurines were inscribed to the person they were buried with and were thought to come to life in order to help with chores, especially agricultural tasks.
They came in a wide range of qualities, from customized and individualized (the most expensive) to mold made and mass produced.