Shabti, modern tourist art

Production date
Early 20th Century CE
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Object detail

Figure, terracotta shabti in the form of a mummiform figure. The fabric is mostly grey, buff accretions and dark brown colouration in the crevices. The reverse is flat and a mottled buff, brown, and dark grey colour. The figure has a tripartite wig, almond shaped eyes, triangular nose and prominent lips. Around the neck is a six-stranded collar. The arms are well formed and crossed over the chest. Each hand holds a flail. Below the arms is a rectangular panel surrounded by a single line, inside which are a series of genuine glyphs forming a non-intelligible inscription. The feet are indicated only by a slight flaring of the base. Repaired.
CH classification ARCHAEOLOGY Egyptian figure
Production date
Early 20th Century CE
Production place
H170mm X W55mm X D39mm
Media/Materials description
Pottery -made of fired clay, complete or fragmented
Inclusions to make the clay less sticky, reduce shrinkage, increase resistance to thermal shock and strength prior to firing.
History and use
In the First World War, many servicemen saw duty in foreign lands, collecting ancient items of material culture and sending these back to loved ones back home.

For the amateur soldier-archaeologist there were many opportunities to secure Egyptian antiquities. A short horse ride with a local guide to a rich gravesite, would secure a dozen scarabs after a few minutes of digging. Curios could be purchased from street sellers, authentic antiquities dug up from the desert sands, or faux objects ‘inspired’ by authentic pieces, such as large scarab paperweights.

Selling replicas as genuine antiquities has been big-business in Egypt for hundreds of years. At the start of the war the trade in Egyptian fake antiquities was large, and proved a decent money earner for street sellers in Egypt. The number of soldiers travelling through or training in Egypt would have been an absolute boon for the souvenir sellers, including those selling ‘genuine’ antiquities and faux objects ‘inspired’ by the genuine antiquities, such as this object.
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