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HOME : Egyptian Antiquities : Egyptian Ushabtis : Egyptian Faience Ushabti
Egyptian Faience Ushabti - ES.8526
Origin: Egypt
Circa: 664 BC to 525 BC
Dimensions: 6.5" (16.5cm) high x 2" (5.1cm) wide
Condition: Extra Fine

Location: Great Britain
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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 labour in the afterlife. They were used from the Middle Kingdom (around 1900 BC) until the end of the Ptolemaic Period, nearly 2000 years later. 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. This is why they sometimes carry hoes, to execute the hard manual labours mentioned in Chapter VI of the Book of the Dead: “whether it be to plough the fields, or to fill the channels with water, or to carry sand from the East to the West”.

Egyptian faience is a type of heated quartz ceramic displaying surface vitrification which creates a bright lustre of various colours, with blue-green being the most common. Although faience should not be considered as a category of pottery, as it doesn’t contain any clay and instead contains the major elemental components of glass (silica, or silicon dioxide, or quartz, the primary constituents of sand), faience is frequently discussed in studies relative to ancient pottery. Notably, faience is though considerably more porous than glass and can thus be cast in molds to create vessels or objects. Egyptian faience was widely used for objects of smaller dimensions from beads to figurines and statuettes and faience artefacts have been unearthed in both elite classes and lower classes urban and funerary contexts. It was the most common material for the creation of scarabs and other forms of amulets, including ushabti figures, cosmetic articles, bowls and drinking cups and it was frequently employed in the production of ancient Egyptian jewellery, as the glaze made it smooth against the skin. Egyptian faience was both exported widely in the ancient world and produced in a number of local workshops in numerous locations, and exported faience articles have been retrieved in Mesopotamia, in numerous localities around the Mediterranean basin but also in northern Europe as far away as Scotland. - (ES.8526)


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