Tag Archives: Thebes

Object biography # 25: A ‘stick shabti’ of Teti-sa-Intef

Although among the rather less prepossessing artefacts in the Manchester collection, this crudely carved wooden figurine holds significant interest. Often called a ‘stick shabti’, the figurine may in fact not really be a shabti – in the conventional Egyptological sense of a ‘servant’ – at all.

6038

Acc. no. 6038. Photo by Glenn Janes.

Often described as ‘mummiform’ in shape, several examples of similar crude wooden figurines have been found in small wooden coffins and/or wrapped in linen. They apparently all date to the late Second Intermediate Period and early New Kingdom. A recent find by an Egyptian-Spanish team at Dra Abu el-Naga consisted of several such figurines wrapped in linen, some within a small wooden coffin. These were uncovered underneath the outer courtyard of the tomb of Djehuty (TT 11, reign of Hatshepsut) and appear to have been left there by a donor some time after the funeral – perhaps on the occasion of the ‘Beautiful Festival of the Valley’, when friends and family of the deceased would visit the tomb chapel.

Indeed, unlike most shabtis, which were buried close to the deceased in the inaccessible parts of the tomb, stick shabtis are mainly recorded as being found buried in the outer, open areas of tomb chapels – often in significant numbers. Texts are usually inked onto the wood but rather than the standard ‘shabti spell’ (Chapter 6 of the Book of the Dead) these consist of names, titles and perhaps an offering formula, suggesting a different function to most shabtis.

The fact that these figurines are ‘crude’ to our eyes need not imply they were created or dedicated by less well-off people – several seems to have been commissioned by wealthy and important members of society. The choice of wood may represent a deliberate means of employing reworked detritus from coffin manufacture, imbued with a special power and connection to the deceased. There is also an intriguing suggestion that the use of the figurines in contexts such as the ‘Beautiful Festival of the Valley’ influenced the later perception recorded in Herodotus and Plutarch that a figure of the mummy was sometimes exhibited at Egyptian feasts.

VISTAS AEREAS DE LA EXCAVACION EN DRA ABU EL-NAGA (10º CAMPAÑA 2011)

Aerial view of Dra Abu el-Naga, 2011, by J.  Latona/©Proyecto Djehuty

This example is dedicated to (rather than by) a man called Teti-sa-Intef (meaning ‘Teti son of Intef’, Intef being a name of some significance at Dra Abu el Naga from the Middle Kingdom onwards). Several other figurines are known donated in honour of this individual, known to come from the tomb of the mayor of Thebes Tetiky (TT 15, a monument from which parts of relief had been stolen) from the very beginning of the Eighteenth Dynasty and excavated by a team working for Howard Carter and Lord Carnarvon in 1908. The Manchester example, although its precise find spot is not recorded, probably derived from the same area.

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MAES lecture, 8/4/13: Chris Naunton, “Regime Change in 25th Dynasty Thebes”

BM EA 1770

Sphinx of Taharqa. BM EA 1770.

The next Manchester Ancient Egypt Society lecture will be given by Dr. Chris Naunton, Director of the EES

Regime Change and the Administration of Thebes During the Twenty-Fifth Dynasty.

Monday 8th April, 7:30pm
Days Inn, Sackville Street, Manchester, M1 3AL
All welcome

The Piye Stela suggests that the Nubian king of that name invaded Egypt and defeated a series of local, independent to re-establish central authority after a brief period when the country had become divided. In fact however there are good reasons to think that the country had been divided for some time and that the Kushites already had control of quite a bit of it, but never really had total control of the whole of the Two Lands. The study of the administration immediately beneath the level of King, and the titles held by important individuals in particular, can tell us a great deal about the processes involved and the reality behind the propaganda.

Dr Chris Naunton is Director of the Egypt Exploration Society. He studied Egyptology at the universities of Birmingham and Swansea and wrote his PhD thesis on regime change in the Twenty-fifth Dynasty. He has excavated in the field at Abydos and in el-Asasif, Western Thebes but his research focuses now on the EES archives and the history of Egyptology. He is the presenter of the 2012 BBC film Flinders Petrie: ‘The Man Who Discovered Egypt’.

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