Shabti of Queen Piankh-her - ROM2011_11750_47


Shabti of Queen Piankh-her

Medium:Glazed composition (faience)
Geography: Excavated at Nuri, Sudan (ancient Upper Nubia)
Date: mid-6th Century BC
Period: Napatan Period
15.9 x 5 x 2.5 cm
Object number: 926.15.10
Credit Line: Gift of the Government of Sudan
On view
Gallery Location:Galleries of Africa: Nubia

This shabti was made for Queen Piankh-her, wife of King Amtalqa of Kush. The shabti was excavated from the queen’s burial in Pyramid  57at Nuri, Sudan. The shabti carries the Queen’s cartouche and eight lines of text. Shabtis of Aspelta, who ruled in the early 6th century BCE, and several other Kushite rulers, are also in the Collection. Nubian queens were not mere royal ornaments, but powerful women in their own right.

Nubian shabtis are both like and unlike Egyptian shabtis (see 910.23.4, etc.). The most important difference is that the Nubian shabtis, so far as is known, were made only for royalty, and their use only began during the period of Kushite rule in Egypt during the Twenty-Fifth Dynasty. The queen is depicted, as is usual for shabtis, in the form of a mummy, with two hoes in her hands, and a bag of seeds over her shoulder, but she wears the royal vulture headdress. Her arms are not crossed, but come together in the centre of her chest, right above left. Her facial features are distinctive.

When the pyramids of Nuri were excavated by the Boston Museum of Fine Arts – Harvard University Expedition, tremendous numbers of stone and faience shabtis were found in the royal burials, sometimes over a thousand. They were not kept in boxes, as Egyptian shabtis usually were, but were laid along tomb walls and along the sides of the royal sarcophagus. Though the faience shabtis seem to have been mould-made, each has distinctive features to suggest a good deal of hand work went into them.

There are as yet no known texts to explain precisely how the Nubian royalty considered these little statutes, it is interesting to note that they appear when the practice of servant-burial ends, and disappear when servants began again to accompany their kings and queens into the Afterlife in the late Meroitic period.

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