A Coffin for Shabty

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Submitted By lsabler84
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Pages 4
The Brooklyn Museum possesses numerous displays on ancient Egypt with lots of focus on depiction of the Egyptian’s fixation with death and the afterlife. In the days of ancient Egypt it was believed that the afterlife (Kingdom of the Dead) is the continuation of an individuals mind, memories, and essentially their entire soul. The ancient Egyptian view on death and rebirth is a topic that intrigues many and noticed to attract some of the largest crowds to the museum. Among various artifacts on display, which stood out as particularly intriguing, was a coffin of a Shabty. Shabty, in particular, applies to figurines that have found to be inscribed with chapter six of the Book of the Dead with a specific spell which made them answer when the dead was called to work. Essentially, a Shabty is a small figurine in adult male or female form inscribed with a special “instruction” and is depicted to represent the function declared within its spell to carry out physical/manual tasks on behalf of a the deceased. The name 'Shabty' means 'answerer'.

In ancient Egypt, its citizens were obligated to annually dedicate a certain portion of their time to labor for the various projects the Pharaoh had appointed. If, for whatever reason, an individual could not fulfill his obligation, he would be able to send someone else to work in his place - but he was allowed to do so only do so only once. Since the Egyptians believed that the after-life to be a continuation of its earthly existence it was believed that Osiris (God of the Dead) had his own projects commenced therefore the function of the Shabty was then to 'answer' for the dead when they were called upon for work. Starting from the New Kingdom (1550-1070 BCE) and going forward it was expected from the dead to partake within the maintenance of the 'Field of Reeds', where they lived for all eternity. By this, it means that…...

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