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Exhibition highlights

Mummiform shabtis


The ancient Egyptians believed that the afterlife involved compulsory manual labour. To avoid this work, many Egyptians included shabtis in their tombs. These funerary statuettes would stand in for the dead person to perform any arduous duties in the afterlife.

Shabtis often carried agricultural tools and bags for taking sand from the cultivated land back to the desert. Click on the link under the images to see the sandbags on the back of the shabti.

Shabtis were popular for nearly 1800 years and could be obtained from artisans who specialised in funerary equipment. The statuettes were made from various materials, including stone, wood, metal, and (like these shabtis) faience – a glazed non-clay ceramic material.

Mummiform shabti
Egyptian faience
Date unknown
From Abydos, Upper Egypt
Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa, gift of the Egypt Exploration Society, 1926

Mummiform shabti with sandbags on back
Egyptian faience
Probably Late Period (about 664-332 BCE)
From Upper Egypt
Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa, gift of Sylvia V Lysaght, 1974

Clcik here to view the Quicktime file Click to view a Quicktime spin of this object. (1.4MB)

Click on the thumbnails below to see some highlights from the exhibition:
Ba Bird Ka figure shabti forgery of royal shabti Mummified ibis