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Coffin for a Shabty

Egyptian, Classical, Ancient Near Eastern Art

On View: Egypt Reborn: Art for Eternity, Temples and Tombs, 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).
MEDIUM Limestone
  • Place Made: Egypt
  • DATES ca. 1539-1400 B.C.E.
    DYNASTY first half of XVIII Dynasty
    PERIOD New Kingdom
    DIMENSIONS Dimensions of Closed Coffin: 7 x 7 x 15 1/4 in. (17.8 x 17.8 x 38.7 cm)  (show scale)
    CREDIT LINE Charles Edwin Wilbour Fund
    RIGHTS STATEMENT Creative Commons-BY
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    CAPTION Coffin for a Shabty, 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
    IMAGE overall, open, empty, 37.128E_open_empty_PS2.jpg. Brooklyn Museum photograph, 2006
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