Brief Identification Edit

This funerary figurine for the pharaoh Ramesses IV is known as a “Shabti,” “Ushabti,” or “Shawabti.” According to the Louvre Museum where it is currently housed, this wooden figure was constructed around 1153-1147 BCE during the Twentieth Dynasty of Ancient Egypt. Shabtis were often made to represent the dead in mummified form, and were believed to serve the deceased in the afterlife by completing any tasks required of them in the necropolis [See Freed 1987, 204].

Technical EvaluationEdit

The figurine was painted and carved from wood (most likely Cedar imported from Byblos), which was highly prized in Egypt due to drought [See Tignor 2011, 94].  This Shabti is distinguishably royal because of its royal headdress. The maker, most likely a craftsman from Deir el-Medina, used bright colors against a sharp white background, representing a burial sheet covering the deceased. Shabtis were often depicted with tools for serving in the afterlife such as baskets or agricultural tools; this one is holding two hoes for digging. Chapter six from The Book of the Dead is inscribed on the figurine’s leg [See Lettellier]. This inscription is a prayer calling upon the Shabti to serve the dead translated as; “Oh Shawabti! If the Osiris Ramesses is called upon to do any of the work which a man does in the necropolis, namely to cultivate the fields, to water the banks, to transport sand from the East to the West, “Here I am!” you shall say” [See Freed 1987, 204]. Ramesses IV has forty Shabtis painted on the walls of his tomb [See Parkinson].

Local Historical ContextEdit

The funerary figurine was designed to serve the pharaoh Ramesses IV in his afterlife and was most likely created after his death by craftsmen. This was during the Twentieth dynasty of Egypt in the time of the New Kingdom. Ramesses IV was the fifth son of his father Ramesses III. Dynastic authority began to decline during the reign of Ramesses IV due to widespread corruption, drought, famine, inflation, and a Harem conspiracy [See Freed 1987, 113]. There also has been speculation that debate over the true heir of Ramesses III existed, creating familial and political issues for Ramesses IV [See Wente 1973, 234]. During this time Egypt faced several invasions from the Nubians, the Sea People, and others. Ramesses IV is known for continuation and expansion of his father’s temple restoration project. In the third year of his reign, three expeditions excavated stone from the Wadi Hammāmāt. One of these was an expedition led by High Priest Amun Ramesses-nakht of 8,362 men into the dessert, 900 of whom were lost during the trip [See Freed 1987, 75-76]. The Pharaoh constructed two temples in western Thebes, “one of which was a colossal mortuary temple that, if finished, would have been the largest ever built,” [See Encyclopedia Britannica]. He also increased the number of craftsmen working at Deir el-Medina whom performed work on the tombs in the Valley of the Kings. The workers at Deir el-Medina were probably working under slave labor, which was common in ancient Egypt. Although it is known that slaves existed in Egypt far before this time, the amount greatly increased under the reign of the New Kingdom, and Ramesses IV [See Zingarelli 2010, 100]. Shabtis were a source of profits for craftsmen and priests in Egypt; they were exchanged for refined silver [See Zingarelli 2010, 62]. These Egyptian ideals of slave labor are exemplified and reinforced through the purchase of Shabtis, like this one, because they believed the wages paid to purchase these from craftsmen would carry on into the afterlife and the Shabtis would serve them [See Warburton 2007, 185].

World Historical ContextEdit

Ramesses IV served as one of the last pharaohs of Egypt and marked the decline of the New Kingdom. Soon after his reign, Egypt ceased to be ruled by Egyptians and was conquered by one world power after another including the Nubians, the Persians, and Alexander the Great. Worldwide civilization collapse and rebuild was happening during this time due to a period of warming and drying. Climate change during this time led nomadic invaders to migrate to societies like Egypt and conquer them using chariot warfare. Eventually (post 1600) the decline of nomadic rule led to creation of larger territorial states; namely the New Kingdom in Egypt, The Hittites, and the Shang State [See Tignor 2001, 91]. The Twentieth Dynasty claimed to be an innovative and cosmopolitan reign, trying to improve Egypt after it's fall to the Hyksos invaders. This wooden Shabti represents the beginnings of worldwide (and especially Mediterranean) trade and the rise of cosmopolitan societies. While ancient Egypt's dynastic period ended, Egypt's world influence and prosperity continued to grow during this time. There is also evidence that other Mediterranean societies that influenced and traded with Egypt during this time, such as Rome and Babylonia, also participated in contractual slavery [See Silver 2009, 627]. This Shabti slave, representative of the decline in Egyptian Dynasties simultaneously symbolizes the eventual rise of worldwide cultural diffusion, cosmopolitanism, and bureaucracy.

Bibliography Edit

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