Ancient Egyptian and Nubian funerary figurines: classification and meaning
AuthorVolk, Sharyn Lesley
AffiliationSchool of Historical and Philosophical Studies
Document TypePhD thesis
Access StatusThis item is embargoed and will be available on 2021-10-09.
© 2019 Sharyn Lesley Volk
Ancient Egyptian and Nubian funerary figurines are variously described as shabtis, shawabti(y)s and us(c)hebtis. A relationship has been established between the lexicon and the time of their manufacture and deposit. Shabti is first attested in the 13th dynasty and is employed in the New Kingdom; shawabti appears in the 17th dynasty and is the terminology of choice during the 19th dynasty at Deir el-Medina; ushebti is initially evidenced in the 21st dynasty and this descriptor is then generally used through to the demise of the figurines in the Ptolemaic Period. Notwithstanding the various relationships, the use of language in publications considering these objects is inconsistent and misleading. The terminology funerary figurine will therefore be employed in this thesis. In terms of functionality the first funerary figurines are evidenced in the tomb goods of the Middle Kingdom and are interpreted as fulfilling a dual purpose, as both a representation of the deceased and a servant who would respond to a call to work as a substitute for its owner. Conceptual and material metamorphosis suggests evolution in Egypt by the Late Period into the singular role of servant. In contrast, contemporaneous Nubian use of figurines reflects the Egyptian New Kingdom behaviour. Primarily focussing on the figurines of Egyptian owners who lived during the New Kingdom Period, and Nubian owners of figurines throughout their history of use, the potential of alternative intention and function is explored. A classificatory framework informs the study. The range of specific attributes carried by the figurines reveals common patterns and differences. Attributes which are the focus of the dataset include body form, wigs, agricultural tools and equipment, bags, royal insignia, and text extent and placement. To address the inconsistent and erroneous labelling of attributes evident in many studies of funerary figurines this thesis provides an alternative model for the core of a system which will enable accurate classification. Quantitative and qualitative analysis of data generated by the New Classification Model informs examination of the meaning of the figurine. The symbolic potential embedded in the figurine attributes, consideration of the origins and metamorphosis of the figurines, the meaning of the movement of the sand stanza in Book of the Dead (hereafter BD) Chapter 6, the nature of work in the afterlife, and the potential role of the figurine in BD110 and BD151 all lead to the conclusion that the intended role of the figurine went beyond that of substitute worker.
Keywordsancient Egyptian figurine; Nubian figurine; funerary figurine classification system; funerary figurine typology; Shabti; Shawabti; Ushebti
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