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Ancient Egypt /
Religion
1. Introduction
2. Gods
3. Concepts
4. Cult
5. Cult centres
6. Necropolises
7. Structures

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Open map of Ancient EgyptAncient Egypt / Religion / Concepts and Symbols /
Shabti
Other spellings: Ushabti


In Ancient Egyptian Religion, funerary figure placed in tombs.
Shabti figures were intended to be a substitute for actual human labourers, substituting both the deceased and the servants of the deceased.
After the 21st Dynasty, the figures became known as ushabti. "Ushabti" means "answerer", being servants, often for the king. The exact meaning of "shabti" is unknown.
The shabti figures came in use around 1900 BCE, during the Middle Kingdom, and the custom would survive until the end of the Ptolemaic Period. Initially, only one shabti was placed in a tomb, but the number of shabtis increased. During the New Kingdom, there could easily be 365, one for each day of the year, plus 36 overseers. In the tomb of Seti 1, as many as 700 are said to have been found. In Nubia, even higher numbers could be found: 7th century king, Taharqa, had at least 1,070 shabtis in his tomb.
Shabtis could be made from practically any material, faience being the most common. Shabti figures are usually decorated with the text of Chapter 6 of the Book of the Dead, reading:

O Shabti, allotted to me, if I be summoned or if I be detailed to do any work which has to be done in the realm of the dead; if indeed obstacles are implanted for you therewith as a man at his duties, you shall detail yourself for me on every occasion of making arable the fields, of flooding the banks or of conveying sand from east to west; "Here am I," you shall see.






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By Tore Kjeilen