Egyptian faience ushabti for Neferhetep, New Kingdom, 1279-1213 B.C.

This ushebti figure is represented as a worker, since he wields two hoes to work in the fields of Osiris of the Hereafter. He is touched with the short wig from which a braid protrudes on the right side. He wears a curly osiríaca beard, finished in a closed curve towards the front. From his mummiform shroud that covers the whole body, only the hands stand out, crossed on the chest, holding the agricultural tools already mentioned. On the body there is a vertical register of hieroglyphic writing. This horizontal inscription is translated: "Let the Osiris, Neferhetep, be illuminated, just of voice". Auguste Mariette, found in the Serapeum of Saqqara ushebti figures of Khaemwaset (son of Ramses II) in limestone, steatite and fayenza, which today are preserved in the Louvre Museum. These ushebtis and those belonging to other royal figures of the reign of Ramses II, as well as high priests of Ptah in Menphis, have come to light in the mid-nineteenth and early twentieth century and are preserved in private collections and museums such as the Antiken Museum in Basel, the Royal Museum in Brussels, and the National Museum of Antiquities in Lieden. The ushebtis were modelled from a bivalve original. Then the burr was removed from the joint, and when the paste was still wet the details of the image were retouched and the registers on which the signs of the writing were engraved were distributed. This makes each ushebti unique, even using the same mold. This material used for its creation is fayenza, composed of fine sand cemented by a silicate of soda (carbonate and sodium bicarbonate, extracted from Natrum). Cooked in an oxidizing atmosphere of 950º, the mixture offered a glazed finish, since the carbonates formed a vitreous layer on the surface. It was a simple procedure and therefore an inexpensive material. The green and blue tones were obtained by the addition of a few grams of copper oxide, extracted from the malachite or azurite. The red tones were obtained with iron oxide, the intense blues with cobalt, the black mixing iron oxide and magnesium with water. It was enough to paint with a brush before baking the details that you wanted to get with another color. The ushebtis, an Egyptian term meaning "those who respond", were figures representing the deceased himself; they appeared in the Middle Empire and their use became popular during the New Empire, they were part of the funeral trousseau. On his body was placed chapter VI of the Book of the Dead, referring to these figures, or a very simple version with the name and titles of the deceased. Its use allowed the owner to enjoy the Mas Allá and the ushebti acted as a worker, substituting its owner in the work of the Aaru fields, the Egyptian paradise, since the Egyptians thought that the spirits of these figures would work for them in the afterlife and thus obtain their sustenance. The ushebtis placed in the trousseau were 365 figurines, one for each day of the year. In addition, 36 foremen could be added, who commanded each of the crews composed of 10 workers, to avoid possible revolts. These figures could be arranged in a wooden box for this purpose, or in many cases placed in a group in a place near the sarcophagus. In Late Times these figurines were mass-produced, increasing their number and use in the tombs of that period.


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