The Ushabtis were funerary figurines placed in
tombs among the grave goods and were
intended to act as substitutes for the
deceased, should he be called upon to do the
manual labor in the afterlife. They were used
from the Middle Kingdom (around 1900 BC)
until the end of the Ptolemaic Period, nearly
2000 years later. The ushabtis were believed
to magically animate after the dead had been
judged, and work for the dead person as a
substitute labourer in the field of Osiris.
Ushabti inscriptions often contain the 6th
chapter of the Book of the Dead, translated as:
“Illumine the Osiris NN, whose word is truth.
Hail, Shabti Figure! If the Osiris Ani be decreed
to do any of the work which is to be done in
Khert-Neter, let everything which standeth in
the way be removed from him-wether it to be
plough the fields, or to fill the channels woth
water, or to carry sand from the East to the
West. The Shabti figure replieth: I will do it,
verily I am here when thou callest”.
Perhaps no single object can epitomize the
spirit of ancient Egypt better than the ushabti.
This ushabti is shaped like a divine mummy.
The hands hold two hoes, and the basket
carried on the back recall the rural, agrarian
culture of the land.