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Published onSep 09, 2020


Ancient Egypt was one of the largest and longest existing empires in the ancient world. Consider, there was more time between Cleopatra and the great pyramids (2780 BCE–30 BCE) than there was between Cleopatra and today (30 BCE–2020 CE). Experts agree that Egypt became culturally complex, meaning it had settled down into a sedentary society, around the year 3100 BCE. Egypt was not alone in this early development. Nubia, the civilization along the Nile River just south of the Egyptian Empire, came into its own at the same time. There was immense cultural exchange between the two civilizations. In fact, during the 25th dynasty (744–656 BCE), Nubian kings ruled Egypt. In the 20th century, especially after the discovery of King Tut, the mystique of the ancient Egyptian world seemingly captivated all those who encountered it.

The Egyptian objects in the permanent collection are as culturally significant as they are dazzling. The Shabti (also known as ushabti and Shawabti) are mummiform burial figures, often glazed in blue, that became popular in the 2nd Intermediate Period of Egypt (1800 BCE–1570 BCE). The figures were funerary objects used to join the deceased in the underworld and act as surrogates when they are called upon for corvée labor (unpaid work for the king). In fact, their duty is in their name– ushab can be translated to mean “answer” in Ancient Egyptian, and these small figures are created to answer the call for work in the afterlife. A person being buried would ideally have at least 366 shabati, one for each day of the year, however some tombs have been discovered with more than 400 shabati figures.

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