Egyptian faience Ushabti with hieroglyphics, 332-30 B.C. (Ptolomaic period)

The Ushebtis were figurines representing mummified people and were destined to serve the deceased in the hereafter. They used to be made of fayenza (glazed ceramics), semiprecious stones or wood. The mission of these was to serve the deceased in the Egyptian beyond, the still, following the belief that earthly life continued in death, therefore also required work. So if, for example, one was a baker in the other life, he would also be a baker and if he was part of the elite, he would continue to maintain his status in death. They used to be devoid of decoration. However, during the 18th and later dynasties this custom changed, and chapter VI of the "Book of the Dead" was written, which contains precisely the "Formula for a Ushabti to carry out works for someone in the Hereafter". The disposition of the Ushebtis in the tombs was not something uniform: Sometimes, they were placed directly on the mummy; other times, they were placed next to the coffin or sarcophagus of the deceased; many were scattered on the floor, or they were deposited in a special niche excavated in one of the walls of the funerary chamber; and in the case of high officials or the pharaohs themselves, a large number of them were placed in special chests or boxes (called chapels), which had a rectangular floor plan and vaulted cover, being richly decorated among other elements with false doors through which the Ushebtis could magically enter or leave. Normally it was common that at least the deceased had a servant for each day of the year, which in Egypt was up to 401 days.


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