Akhenaten Ushabti

Ushabti of king Akhenaten from Amarna (ancient Akhetaten – Akhenaten’s experimental ‘new capital’ that was dismantled upon his death.

A Ushabti was a figurine representing the deceased that would help with duties in the Afterlife.

Akhenaten Ushabti. Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna, Austria. INV 10166
Akhenaten Ushabti. Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna, Austria. INV 10166

A Ushabti (Egyptian: wšbtj or šwbtj) was a funerary figure in the form of the likeness of the deceased, and was engraved with spells and incantations or, most commonly, a verse from the Book of the Dead (Chapter 6 most prevalent).

The reason for the Ushabti’s creation was to help provide the deceased with spiritual welfare, and help with activities and chores the deceased may have to partake in during their journey to the Afterlife, and while inhabiting the Afterlife. The Ushabti became a traditional funerary item during the Old Kingdom.

Ushabtis are statuettes which, like coffins, generally reproduce the mummy of the deceased. They represent an unusual and seemingly isolated aspect of the Egyptian concept of the afterlife, namely, the notion that the deceased could be called upon to do forced labour in the afterlife, wherefore he or she addressed the ushabti as follows: “If I am called upon to till fields, irrigate banks, transport sand from east to west…’I’ll do it!’ You shall say”, as we read in the spell often found written on ushabti.