Secret Egypt – objects in detail

Shabti box © Birmingham Museums and Art Gallery

As Secret Egypt nears the end of its time at the Herbert, I am taking the opportunity to look at some of its fascinating objects in more detail. If you would like to find out more about some of the objects come along to our final Revealing Objects gallery talk. I’m giving the last one about our mummy, Perenbast, on Wednesday 1st June 1-1.30pm.

Shabti box

Ancient Egyptian history spans thousands of years, from early settlers in the Nile valley over 7000 years ago to the last use of hieroglyphic writing around AD 400. While some aspects of the culture, religion, writing and daily life remained the same for hundreds of years there were still many changes. When designing an exhibition about ancient Egypt it is very difficult to convey this huge period of time and all the changes within it. Sometimes we generalise and use the most common examples of practice.

Shabtis, which would have been stored in this box, are a good example of this. Shabtis feature in almost all exhibitions about ancient Egypt. They were placed in tombs and would magically come to life to do the tomb owner’s bidding in the afterlife. However shabtis were not placed in all tombs, they were in use from about 1900 to 300 BC – long after the pyramids of Giza were built.

Over time the number of shabtis included in tombs increased, so much so boxes were made to contain them. This box dates to about 1300 to 1185 BC and belonged to a scribe called Ptah-hetep. Here you can see him worshipping the god Horus and goddess Maat. Ptah-hetep is wearing a very fine pleated linen garment with a decorative collar and bracelet.



Posted on 18/05/2011, in Exhibitions, Secret Egypt and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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