Antiquities > Egyptian Antiquities

Identification help required please for Shabti


Hi everyone.

I know this is probably an easy thing for most of you, but Ive always been intrigued by ancient artifacts after a school trip to the Egyptology museum in our University.

Ive never acquired anything like this before and had to use Wikipedia to find out what a Shabti or Ushabti is, was and how the ancient Egyptians used them. Im wondering if its possible to approximate a date on it like you can with coins. Apparently it is made from Egyptian faience which yet again I knew nothing about until I used Wikipedia again!

What Im wondering is...
a) Is it faience?
b) Is it possible to translate the inscriptions?
and c) Can it be roughly dated at all?

Sorry for so many questions, but glad of any help that can be given.

Thank you.

Hi David,

     Shabti/ushabti is a specialized field and beyond me; nevertheless, here is my two cents.

1.     From the photos you attached, I cannot tell if this item is actually ancient. I am not saying it is a fake/reproduction, but everything that is unfamiliar to me becomes suspect, especially when or if my money is concerned.
2.     "Faience" when used to describe a ceramic ware dating to ancient times is much misused. The ancient Egyptians and Greeks made faience as did cultures in the Levant. How "true faience" was made is still a mystery; scientists and fakers have been trying to discover the secret for over 100 years, without much success. Besides faience, the ancient Egyptians made blue fruit (Egyptian Blue, patte de verre) and various compositions ranging from mud to quartz sand.
        Your shabti is brown/tan in color on my monitor. Does the surface show any traces of green glaze? Green glaze tends to fade to brown; blue-green fades to tan; and, blue fades to white. Is the surface hard or porous? Is the surface fine and smooth or is it rough with the marks made by plant matter that was incinerated during the firing process? All of these substances, except blue frit(?) were used to make shabti. You have to determine whether yours is true faience or composition. When all else fails call it "composition", or "Glazed composition". Is yours glazed? Is the surface hard and shiny. Even glazed faience can deteriorate to a matte surface or become chalky.
3.     I think the presence of a column running up the back of your shanti should help date it, a little. I forget its significance.
4.     The inscription uses real hieroglyphs but remember ignorant workers were also making shabti in ancient times.
5.     An excellent starting place for shabti, in general, is: Petrie, W.M.F. Shabtis, London, 1935. It was re-printed in 1974. I don't know if it is available on line.
     Auto correct is running amok, trying to correct words it does not recognize, so please, excuse its errors that I missed.
     I hope this helps.

Jay GT4:
Take a look at these very helpful sites


Just some notes, in general.

1.     "Stick" shabti (made of wood) tend to date to the Middle Kingdom, and the column and base on the back date to the Site/Late Period. When there are extreme differences in characteristics on one item it becomes suspect; but, during the Late Period there was a renewed interest in the "antique" and styles or characteristics of earlier periods were copied.

2.     Attached, is some solid info and a great bibliography on shanti: (Not a type-o, I just tired of fighting with auto correct)


Many thanks to you both!

After nearly an hour of reading up on Shabti, I think I have made myself even more confused... Holding it in front of me, there are very, very tiny almost non existent micro spots of green on the sides, and the material feels like a sandstone. It does indeed seem porous, but I havent put any water on it in case I damage it.

There looks like flecks in it, like the way you get flecks of quartz in stone. I think it most definitely is sandstone.

Reading from all those websites has made me more confused now than when I started  ;D

Would love to know what the inscriptions say. Could be someones name!!!!

Many thanks,


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