Object Study: A Peculiar Mummiform Figure

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A clay figure resting on linen in a clay coffin | CC BY-NC-SA 4.0 | ©Trustees of the British

This is my last post of my series ‘Egyptian Society and Culture’ as my module has now finished. I have found studying Egypt immensely interesting and has broadened my viewpoint considerably. This post is an object study of a strange object in the British Museum. 

The object can also be viewed here.

EA63979                                                               1936,0711.3

Dimensions: –
Coffin: Length – 11.48cm, Width – 5.6cm, Height – 5.44cm.
Figure: Length – 6.78cm, Width – 2.26cm.

Site: Thebes

Context: Not known, donated by Mrs. Harry McCalmont in 1936.

Date: First Intermediate Period (see below)

Material: Terracotta coffin, pottery figure and linen wrapping.

Description: This object appears to be a very early form of shabti, a type of funerary figurine. According to Hayes (1953) and Milde (2012), the earliest type of shabtis appear in the First Intermediate Period as “wax or clay figures showing the human body…wrapped in linen, they were placed in little rectangular coffins” (Hayes (1953 V.1.) 326). This description matches what is presented. Additionally, the foot of the coffin is damaged, and it is possible that the figure that wrapped in the linen, rather than resting on it. Due to lack of context, it is impossible to say how it was originally presented, but we can make assumptions based on fact.

The purpose of shabtis was to be representative of servants for the afterlife, though it is possible earlier ones represented the deceased themselves (Milde (2012) 4).

Parallels: British Museum EA53892; Dutch National Museum of Antiquities F 1971/7.1.

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