Circa: 664 BC to 525 BC
Dimensions: 8.25" (21.0cm) high x 2.5" (6.4cm) wide
Collection: Egyptian Antiquities
Style: 26th Dynasty
Condition: Extra Fine
This striking ushabti dates to the 26th dynasty, which is notable for being the last indigenous dynasty prior to the conquest by Persia in 525-4 BC. The period was characterised by strife as the Assyrians, Babylonians and the Lydians – and even Greece and Caria – became involved in a power struggle to control Egypt, to reunify her and to resist imperial advances. Reunification was achieved under Psammetichus I, although Egyptian imperial power was not what it had been. Once Nineveh fell in 612 BC, Egypt’s attempts to reassert her dominion in the Middle East failed at the hands of the Persian king Cambyses, who took the last king – Psammetichus III – to Susa in irons.
Despite these upheavals, however, Egyptian religion and funerary practice did not significantly alter. The pomp and ceremony that characterised Old Kingdom interments had been perpetuated, burying representations of assistants, animals and all the other accoutrements one might need for the hereafter with the deceased. Ushabtis are perhaps the best-known of these grave goods. Ushabti can be translated as “the answerer,” a term directly related to its function in the afterlife. Initially, only one ushabti was interred with the deceased, but by the New Kingdom, it became the custom to inter hundreds of ushabti to act as slaves, much as their human counterparts did in the real world. The number of figures, and the materials from which they were made, depended on the individual's wealth.