Egyptian large shabti of Amenemonet
During the Third Intermediate Period (circa 1070 – 664 BC) the use of shabtis in burials became ever more popular.
The result of this was a general decline in quality accompanying the rise in output. It was not uncommon for a tomb to now contain 365 shabtis (one for each day of the year) and a further 36 “overseer shabtis” to direct this army of servants or slaves.
Some very fine blue faience shabtis with painted features and inscriptions do exist from this period though they were produced for royal or very high status burials.
Egyptian faience shabti of Djed-Hor
In the Late Dynastic Period (circa 664-323 BC) most shabtis were produced in faience.
Previously inscriptions had been painted onto the surface of the figure but technological innovations meant that these inscriptions could now be moulded into the figure during production. This technique allowed for mass-production of personalised shabtis yet many examples were produced to a very high standard.
Egyptian small inscribed faience shabti
The Ptolemaic Period( circa 323-30 BC) saw the decline of the use and also quality of shabtis.
Figures from this period are often more crudely moulded and generally of a smaller size also.
Shabtis are among the most recognisable ancient objects from Egypt if not antiquity.
Modern interest in these figures dates back to at least the 18th Century but firmly gripped the public imagination following Napoleon’s campaigns in Egypt (1798-1801) and the ensuing flow of “exotic curios” into Europe.
These enigmatic and often aesthetically pleasing figures remain one of the most popular subjects for collecting among antiquarians. Inscribed shabtis will not only reveal the name of the owner for whom they were commissioned but thanks to extensive records and research they can also often be traced back to their original tomb and date of excavation.