Just before the Easter break, we ran some sessions about the Ancient Egyptian afterlife for the museum’s Home Educator’s Day. It turned out to be a really relaxing day! A few people asked if we could make the resources available for those further afield, too. So if you’d like to find out more about one of our favourite afterlife objects – shabti – and try out the worksheets yourself, read on!
The Ancient Egyptians believed that even in the Afterlife they would still have to do the same kind of chores and tasks that they did during their lives. So they came up with a sneaky way to get around this: magical little figures called shabti or ushabti. These would be placed with you in your tomb. Once you reached the Afterlife, you could then call your shabti to work for you instead – while you relaxed in the beautiful Field of Reeds!
Shabti figurines were made of many different materials. Faience was a common choice, but we also find stone, wood, clay, metal, mud or even glass shabtis! Faience is made from ground quartz or sand mixed with lime, natron (a type of salt) and water to make a paste. It was also brightly coloured to look like gemstones – blue, green, and turquoise were the most popular colours.
The magic spell was important for activating your shabti in the Afterlife – many of the shabti spells include the line:
‘Here I am!’ you shall say, whenever you are called upon to work
You can download our shabti factsheet here:
Or have a go at creating and labelling your very own shabti using our worksheet, complete with a handy hieroglyph guide!
Our visitors created so many amazing shabti from paper and from modelling clay. They were given jobs helping with everything from washing the dishes to doing homework and even taking the bins out – we’d love to see what you come up with, too!