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Egyptian Third Intermediate Faience Overseer Ushabti

Ancient Egypt, Third Intermediate Period, 21st to 25th Dynasty, ca. 1069 to 653 BCE. A mold-formed faience overseer ushabti coated in areas of bright blue and pale green glaze. The figure stands in mummiform and wears a tripartite wig while holding two picks and a seed bag across the back. Arm bands, a large drooping pectoral collar, and facial details are all presented in applied black pigment, and a single column of hieroglyphic text is shown along the legs and abdomen. The top hieroglyph, that of an ox tongue, signifies that this shabti was designated as an "overseer," perhaps to monitor the other workers who tend to the sacred fields of Osiris in the afterlife. Custom museum-quality display stand included. Size: 1.25" W x 4.75" H (3.2 cm x 12.1 cm); 5.1" H (13 cm) on included custom stand.

Shabti (or ushabti) dolls are figures shaped like adult male or female mummies wearing traditional ancient Egyptian headdresses. The ancient Egyptians believed that after they died, their spirits would have to work in the "Field of Reeds" owned by the god of the underworld, Osiris. This meant doing agricultural labor was required by all members of society, from workers to pharaohs. By the Third Intermediate period, this practice had become so necessary and elaborate that some tombs contained one worker for every day of the year and thirty-six overseers, each responsible for ten laborers. The wealthier nobility in Egyptian society were able to have shabtis made of coveted faience, and blue faience was meant to reflect the color of the river Nile both on earth and in the afterlife.

Condition: Surface wear and abrasions commensurate with age, small losses to front of feet and most areas of glazing, and fading to applied pigmentation. Nice earthen deposits as well as traces of glaze and pigmentation throughout.

Provenance: private East Coast, USA collection

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