Tomb of Menna – TT 69 ca. 1400 BC and shabti of Djehutymose 1280 BC – Photo: VB

Rare and special shabtis

Apis bull shabtis

Bull-headed shabtis for an Apis bull from Serapeum at Saqqara. The statuettes were found near the Apis sarcophagi and may be characterised as donations.

During the 20th Dynasty, the shabtis are either human-headed or bull-headed. In the Third Intermediate Period they are in human form. In the Late Period they are human-headed with Osirian beard and mounted on a plinth like their human counterparts, but the hands are not shown and the text is simply ‘an offering which the King gives’ (see Shabtis I, Hans D. Schneider, pg. 288).

 

Apis shabti reign of Ramses II
Faience, 10.8 cm
19th Dynasty, ca. 1250 BC
Serapeum of Saqqara
Emmacha collection, 71
Photo: La Collection Emmacha Antiquités Egyptiennes. Tome 1 : Les shabtys et ouchebtys. Pg 225
Apis shabtis
Faience, 17.3 cm (Cat. 99)
19th Dynasty, ca. 1250 BC
Musée du Louvre, Paris
N 523451
Faience, 10.5 cm (Cat. 122)
19th Dynasty, ca. 1250 BC
Musée du Louvre, Paris AF 6963
Photo: Chaouabtis: Des travailleurs pharaoniques pour l’éternité
Apis shabtis reign of Ramses XI
Faience
Found in Serapeum of Saqqara by Mariette
Musée du Louvre, Paris
Photo: Le sérapéum de Memphis, découvert et décrit par Auguste Mariette (1857)

Baboon-headed shabtis

Intriguing shabtis with well-detailed baboon heads.

Christies writes “…  a single column of finely carved hieroglyphs along the front, reading: “Instructions of the Osiris Hapy, Overseer of the Cattle of Amun, Djehutymose (Thutmose), Justified,” another on the back, reading: “May your face be revealed (or your sight be opened) that you may behold Re, King’s Scribe and Overseer of the Cattle of Amun, Djehutymose, Justified”.

For full documentation with photos of the sides of this series, also known as Thutmose, see Uschebti – Arbeiter im Ägyptischen Totenreich 1993,
Schlögl, Hermann A. – Christa Meves-Schlögl, pg. 14-17.

 

 

Djehutymose
King’s Scribe and Overseer of the Cattle of Amun
Limestone, 26.7 cm
19th Dynasty, ca. 1280 BC
Christies, New York Sale 2565, June 2012 Lot 12
Photo: Christies

 

Djehutymose
King’s Scribe and Overseer of the Cattle of Amun
Limestone, 27.4 cm
19th Dynasty, ca. 1280 BC
Zurich, most likely Universität Zürich Z AS L 951, published in Uschebti – Arbeiter im Ägyptischen Totenreich 1993, Schlögl, Hermann A. – Christa Meves-Schlögl, pg. 14-17.
Photo: Uschebti – Arbeiter im Agyptischen Totenreich
Djehutymose (back)
Photo: Uschebti – Arbeiter im Ägyptischen Totenreich

 

Djehutymose
Faience
19th Dynasty, ca. 1280 BC
The Metropolitan Museum of Modern Art
Photo: NH 2017

 

Headless shabtis

Shabti in the form of the headless Osiris made in three pieces, the torso and feet fitting with pegs into the holes in the middle piece (see Shabtis II, Hans D. Schneider, pg 94).

The owner of this shabti identifies himself with Osiris, whose body is magically recovered after his brother Seth has dismembered it.

 

Headless shabti
Without name
Alabaster and glass, 18 cm
18th Dynasty, ca. 1360 BC
Rijksmuseum van Oudheden (RMO), Leiden F 1955/10.3, Schneider 3.2.9.16
Photo: Rob Koopman
Headless shabti
Without name
Alabaster and glass, 16 cm
18th Dynasty, ca. 1360 BC
Cairo Museum 48331
Photo: Newberry, Percy E., Funerary Statuettes and Model Sarcophagi Vol III pl. XVI

Listening shabtis

These strange shabtis seem to hold their left hand behind the ear, as if to boost their hearing (see Hermann A. Schlögl / Andreas Brodbeck, Ägyptische Totenfiguren aus öffentlichen und privaten Sammlungen der Schweiz, pg. 45.).
Only known from this series and period

Other scholars doubt the theory of the raised arms.  The shabti expert Glenn Janes notes that it is more likely that the arms are not depicted and that the ear rests on the lappet of the wig

This theory is supported by these photos which show that only the wig is shown. Photos British Museum © The Trustees of the British Museum

 

Without name
Terracotta, prob. 11.5 cm
18th Dynasty, 1450 BC
UK private collection
Photo: GJ

Without name
Terracotta, 9.5 cm
18th Dynasty, 1450 BC
British Museum EA21872
Photo: Tim Haines

 

Double shabtis

Both shabtis are carved from a single piece of stone and are standing together on a pedestal, resting against a plateau. The shabtis depict a man and a woman. They can be husband and wife, but also son and mother.

 

Benermerut and Ikhem (mother)
Reign of Thutmose III
Possibly serpentine, 22.4 cm
18th Dynasty, ca. 1450 BC
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York 44.4.73
Photo: MMA NY

 

Khaemwaset and Mesyt
Limestone, 22 cm
18th Dynasty, ca. 1300 BC
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York 22.9.6
Photo: MMA NY

 

Without names
Limestone
18th Dynasty, ca. 1380 BC
British Museum EA49343
Photo: Tim Haines

Shabtis on a bier

In the Louvre specimen (see photo) the man and the woman are lying side by side on a bier. The specimen to the right depicts a single person. A Ba-bird is sitting next to the mummy, protecting it by putting an arm with extended hand on it. A small figure stands by the foot, watching the mummy/mummies. On the Louvre specimen to the right, a Nephtis crown is visible (behind the head), possibly placed on a small figure, so there is a possibility that the figure by the foot depicts Isis even though she is not wearing a crown. There is no writing on the statuettes.

The Leiden collection includes a red brick specimen. The bier has legs in the form of lion legs. A small female figure is standing by the foot, arms upraised and hands placed on the foot of the bier. She is wearing a long wig and a long, finely detailed garment (see Shabtis II, Hans D. Schneider, pg. 91).

 

Without names, Hardstone, 18th Dynasty, ca. 1375 BC, Musée du Louvre, Paris N2659, N2660, Photo: VB
Mery-Mery, sandstone, 18.5 cm. 18th Dynasty, ca. 1360 BC. Rijksmuseum van Oudheden (RMO), Leiden L.VII.14, Schneider 3.2.9.4. Photo: VB

Shabtis grinding grain

Taking these special shabtis with them was probably a privilege of the highest class serving under the king, most likely Amenhotep III. The Rijksmuseum van Oudheden (National Museum of Antiquities) in Leiden, the Netherlands, has three special specimens of ‘the guardian of the treasury’ Mery-Mery. Two of them are male, one is female. The Brooklyn specimen also seems female to me.

The Brooklyn Museum website notes: ‘The royal scribe Senenu appears here bent over a large grinding stone. This unusual sculpture seems to be an elaborate version of a shabti, a funerary figurine placed in the tomb to work in place of the deceased in the hereafter. The hieroglyphic text included Senenu’s claim to a blessed afterlife by virtue of his proper behaviour toward the king and gods.’

 

Senenu, Limestone, 18th Dynasty, ca. 1350 BC, Brooklyn Museum, New York 37.120E. Photo: Brooklyn Museum

Shabtis with a basket on their head

Ushebti of a woman carrying a basket on her head. Only known from the Napatan region (Sudan) and this period.

Without name
Napatan Queen
Faience
Wife of pharaoh of Chabataka
702 – 690 BC
Bulletin Museum of Fine Arts, Boston June 1951, XLIX, 40-48.
25th Dynasty, ca. 680 BC
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
Photo: MFA, Boston

Without name
Pottery, 6.3 cm
25th Dynasty, ca. 680 BC
German private collection
See also: Simone Musso & Simone Petacchi Kushite, Shabtis with basket on the head: an innovation from the royal burials of Kush
Photo: Julian Fass

Concibune shabtis

Glenn Janes alerted me to a special version found at Pharaoh Psusennes II in Tanis. At this pharaoh’s tomb, 10 small naked female figurines were interred. It is common in the third intermediate period for shabtis for a man to be depicted in both male and female forms, but in this form it is quite unique. It seems that this pharaoh did not want to take a risk and that the job of these ladies, to entertain the pharaoh when he felt like it, was clear

The name in the cartouche is probably pA-sbA-xa-n-niwt-mry-imn or Pasebakhaniut, aka Psusennes II.
The name means ‘The star appearing in the city’
Found with shabtis of Psusennes II
Faience, 6.5 cm
21th Dynasty, 945 BC
Collection Aubert
Photo: Tanis, L’or des pharaons

Without name
Found with shabtis of Psusennes II
Faience, 6.5 cm
21th Dynasty, 945 BC
UK private collection
Photo: courtesy Glenn Janes

Amulet shabtis

Little is known about these small shabti amulets. They are drilled through vertically and are probably part of the clothing, the mummy, and/or a net or a chain.

Faience, ca. 3 cm
18th Dynasty, ca. 1340 BC
NationalMuseet, Kopenhagen
Photo: VB
Faience, 2.5 cm
18th Dynasty, ca. 1340 BC
Dutch private collection
Photo: VB
Faience,  estimated 2.5-3.0 cm
18th Dynasty, ca. 1340 BC
Egyptian Museum Cairo
Photo: VB

Glass shabtis

Shabtis made of glass are extremely rare. A few other glass shabtis are to be found in Cairo and London

Thutmose III
Glass, 9.5 cm
18th Dynasty, 1450 BC
This shabti is probably the earliest known example made of glass. The current owner is researching the piece. At present no other example is known for this king with which it could be compared
Private collection UK
Photo: GJ
Iay
Glass or Egyptian blue, 18.6 cm
18th Dynasty, 1380 BC
British Museum, London
EA 34005
Photo: British Museum

Bronze shabtis

Only for a few persons bronze shabtis are known. In the 18th dynasty for some private persons, in the 19th a hollow casted one for Ramses II, in the 20th dynasty five solid cast shabtis for Ramses III and in the 21st dynasty series small ones for pharaoh Psusennes I, his wife Mutnodjmet and his General Undjebauendjed

Hesmeref
Bronze, 24 cm
18th Dynasty, 1380 BC
Calouste Gulbenkian Collection, Lisbon no. 166
Photo: VB
Ramses II
Bronze, 15 cm
18th Dynasty, 1213 BC
Ägyptisches Museum, Berlin no. 2502
Photo: Internet (most likely from Royal Bronze Shawabti Figures by Peter A. Clayton)
Ramses III
Bronze, 12.5 cm
20th Dynasty, 1151 BC
Musée du Louvre, Paris N656A/B
Photo: VB
Psusennes I (Pasebakhenniut I)
pA-sbA-xa-n-niwt-mry-imn
Pharaoh worker and overseer
Bronze, worker 7.6 cm, overseer ca. 6.9 cm
21st Dynasty, 991 BC
German private collection
Photo and all around video worker and overseer:
Courtesy AB

Mutnodjmet
Wife of Psusennes I
Bronze, worker 8.3 cm,
overseer 6.9 cm
21st Dynasty, ca. 980 BC
Worker Dutch private collection, overseer Musée d’Art et d’Histoire, Geneve 23477
Photo: Worker JT, overseer unknown

Nakhtherkhopeshef
nxt-Hr-xpSf
Bronze, worker (approx. 8 cm)
19th Dynasty, ca. 1200 BC
Inv.no. 33.39.25
Museum MARKK, Hamburg
Photo: VB 2022

Glenn Janes dates the shabti to the Ramasside period and has published a parallel in “The Shabti Collections 2, Warrington Museum and Art Gallery, pg. 8”. Here is an image, courtesy of Glenn Janes

 

Undjebauendjed
General
Bronze, worker 9.1 cm,
21st Dynasty, 950 BC
overseer 10 cm
Worker Dutch private collection, overseer Aubert collection
Photo worker: JT
Photo overseer: Tanis, L’or des pharaons pg. 132-133
All around movie of an example in a German private collection, courtesy AB

Other overseer of Undjebauendjed
General
Bronze, 8.3 cm
21st Dynasty, 950 BC
German private collection
Photo and all around video:
Courtesy: AB

After the discovery and dissemination of the bronze figurines from Tanis, many counterfeits entered the market. Often of poor quality with poor hieroglyphics, but also pieces of better quality and patina with texts such as on the above ‘The Osiris, Chief of Ten’. A good acquaintance pointed me to a Christies auction in 2014 where one of these was auctioned. There is also an overseer shabti 4.7.1.7 in the RMO in Leiden which Schneider does not classify as fake, but where he does note that the inscription is forged. Reference to the forgeries is made in Aubert 1974, page 155
See also Christies 1999 and Catawiki 2022

 

Kafen
Private individual
Solid cast, feet lost, 4.6 cm
21st Dynasty, +/- 950 BC. In the description of the collection, the shabti is dated to the 18th or early 19th dynasty
Collection NH-179
Photo: NH

Various peculiar shabtis

 

Soter
Faience with text in Greek
Ptolemaic Period, ca. 100 BC
British Museum, London
EA 30769
Photo: VB
Without name
Pottery
??th Dynasty
Mystery item German Art Market 2010
Photo: VB
Without name
Pottery
??th Dynasty
Mystery item German Art Market 2010
Photo: VB
Nude worker?
Faience,  estimated ca. 8 cm
21st Dynasty, ca. 1000 BC
Egyptian Museum Cairo
Photo: Tim Haines
Worker
Material?,  estimated ca. 6 cm
21st-25th Dynasty?
Egyptian Museum Cairo
Photo: VB
Function unknown to me
Terracotta, 19.5 cm
19-20th Dynasty, ca. 1200-1100 BC
Auction Millon & Associés Archeologie & Prehistoire, 4 December 2015 Lot 196
Photo: VB

Here three unique terracotta shabtis?, ca. 16 cm, 19th-20th Dynasty. Two workers and in the middle an overseer with apron. The worker on the left has breasts. Their faces with applied eyes are not human. More like from a weasel or marten, with small rounded ears. Their arms or front legs are very thin and they seem to have small hands or claws. Discovered by Julian Fass in a Christie’s catalog, Fine antiquities, London, 6 July 1994 Lot 25. Photo upper set: Christie’s, photos lower one Senatus Consulto

Julian also alerted me to another 13.5 cm version that has many similarities to the Christies set. It is a version that may resemble an African mongoose and is also identified as such on the site of Senatus Consulto, active on Trocadero.

The mongoose ‘Herpestes ichneumon’ could represent the gods Horus, Atum or the goddess Mafdet. The mongoose was also kept as a pet because it was an excellent protector against snakes.

The front legs of the mongoose appear to be folded over the chest as we are accustomed to with other shabtis. Is this perhaps part of a set that was given to a mongoose? Even the pharaohs kept the mongoose as a pet. In Beni Hassan there is also an image with a mongoose on a leash. Again, a riddle from ancient Egypt

Shabti?
Wax with golden mask, 12 cm
19th – 20th Dynasty?
Private collection UK
Photo: GJ

At the end of last century, a group of 12 became known in a publication from Nijl tot Schelde, 1991 pg. 174-177 no. 206. The owner(s), function? and location are unknown. They are probably all around 12cm, made of wax and decorated with a fine golden mask.

All around movie of another one
The owner noticed that it looks like this statue is wearing an apron; if so, it might be a feature of an overseer
German private collection
Courtesy AB 2022

Hori
Rare attributes on this beautiful shabti are the scribal palette and papyrus roll or a short, stout staff
Faience, 13.3 cm
19th Dynasty, ca. 1280 BC
Brooklyn Museum,
New York 37.257E
Photo: VB 2007