Ushabti. Ægyptisk, Sentiden CC0

Egyptian, Late Period, 4th century BC

Egyptian faience. 13,0 cm
Inventory number: H370

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The fascination of Egypt Crosscuts

A servant of the dead

In Thorvaldsen’s collection there are a number of small statuettes. The ancient Egyptians often gave the deceased these small human-like figurines, so-called ushabtis, as grave goods. In the realm of the dead they were to serve the deceased and do the work that was imposed on them by the god Osiris. For this reason the ushabtis often had tools in their hands. On the figurines one often sees inscriptions with the name of the deceased or an extract from the Book of the Dead – a magical text that was supposed to awaken the figurine to life and make it work. The text on an ushabti could say: “O ushabti! If I am called up to perform some labour to be done in the realm of the dead, then thou shalt appoint thyself in my place when the fields are to be cultivated, the riverbanks watered or when sand is to be moved from east to west.”