Shabtis and  ancient Egypt
The Shabti Collections
The Amasis Collection
SHABTIS A Private View
Glenn Janes
Third Intermediate Period

By the Third Intermediate Period (1069–525 BC), numbers of shabtis increased dramatically although they became smaller in size at around 10 cm in height. The figures wearing the dress of daily life during the 19th Dynasty had fully evolved into ‘overseer’ figures by the 21st Dynasty. The position of the arms changed for ‘overseers’ and they have one arm folded across the chest with the other hanging down by the side of the body, the hand of the fold arm carrying a whip. ‘Overseer’ shabtis usually wear a short–sleeved tunic, kilt and triangular apron and often a bipartite wig [126]-[128]. Each ‘overseer’ was supposed to supervise ten mummiform ‘worker’ shabtis. The appearance of the whip perhaps suggests that the shabti figures were now being considered as slaves or servants rather than deputies for the deceased. Sometimes worker shabtis were modified into ‘overseer’ figures by simply applying an apron to the front of the figure and adding an arm hanging down by the side of the body. This modification sometimes leaves an ‘overseer’ shabti having three arms [129]-[131]! There are ‘overseer’ shabtis that have the arms crossed on the chest like workers and only have the apron applied [132-133].

The hoes that were carried by worker shabtis are no longer differentiated as being broad and narrow-bladed. Along with other details, the hoes are painted in black but sometimes they are modelled in raised relief and then painted [134]. There a large variety of the painting of baskets on the back of shabtis - some have crossed-hatched detail, while others are square-hatched or diamond hatched or just simply outlined only. They vary in shape from being trapezoidal, rectangular or square. Although quite rare, some baskets are modelled in relief and then painted [135]. If an inscription is very faint on the front of a shabti, baskets can often be used to identify an owner by way of comparison.

The prescribed number of figures was 401, comprising one shabti for every day of the year and 36 ‘overseer’ figures, one for every ten workers. Usually made of blue glazed faience, they were rather crudely formed in open moulds, and the sides and back were usually trimmed flat. There were other shabtis made of pottery and also sun–dried clay as well as a small number that were made of bronze that come from Tanis [136]-[138]. Only one owner is so far known to have had shabtis made of wood [139]. During the 25th Dynasty a group of nobles in the Theban area had shabtis made mostly in stone. The most illustrious was the Chief Lector Priest, PadiAmenemipet, the owner of the largest tomb ever built for a private individual in Egypt, who had a magnificent set of usually large shabtis although most are now rather fragmentary but there are complete examples known. They were made in steatite, serpentine, granite, faience and pottery [140]-[141]. Their features are a throwback to the Middle Kingdom and are an example of archaism in ancient Egypt.

Two notable additions to the appearance of shabtis during the Third Intermediate Period period are the seshed headband, introduced in the reign of Theban High–Priest Masaharta, being regarded as an aid to resurrection [142], and the modelling of breasts on female worker shabtis, sometimes even with nipples [143]-[144]. Both elements were copied from coffins of the period. It should be noted that some shabtis are found from the New Kingdom with these elements, but they are certainly not common. The inscriptions on shabtis of the Third Intermediate Period are usually very brief, only giving the Osiris epithet, name, and title of the deceased.

The kings, ruling high-priests and their families also had shabtis buried with them although there are a number for whom shabtis are not yet known. The modelling of these royal shabtis is usually of a much higher quality than for lesser individuals, and they are also taller and are often inscribed with Chapter 6 of the Book of the Dead. They are usually made of brilliant bright blue glazed faience. Psusennes I had shabtis made of faience and also of bronze [145]-[149].
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[126] HorpenIset (Liverpool, WM 58.32.11)
[127] Tentipet (Collection K)
[128] Nesypaperan (Collection K)

[129] Queen Henuttawy (Cairo Museum)
[130] MaatkaRe (Collection A)
[131] AnkhefenMut (Macclesfield, WPM 1810.1977)

[132] PadiKhonsuiy (Liverpool, WM M14016)
[133] Henuttawy (Collection A) 

[134] Gautseshen (Manchester, MM 1244)

[135] Collage of baskets

[136] TentAmen (Manchester, MM 5951.1)
[137] TabakenKhonsu (Liverpool, WM 24.9.00171)
[138] Wenjebauendjed (Collection A)

[139] [TentshedMut] (Collection A)

[140]-[141] PadiAmenemopet (Art market, London; London, BM EA 8720) 

[142] Nesypaperan (Liverpool, WM 56.5.24)

[143] AnkhefenKhonsu (Collection K)
[144] TawedjetRe (Milan, E 0.9.40189)

[145] Pinudjem I (Liverpool, WM
[146] Masharta (Art market, London)
[147]-[148] Psusennes I (Art market, London; Collection A) 
[149] Pinudjem II (Manchester, MM 13958)