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About the Culture
This sculpture comes from an ancient Egyptian burial site and depicts the pharaoh Akhenaten (ah-ken-nah-ten).
About the Art
This shabti was made for Akhenaten’s tomb. Shabtis were intended to perform work that the deceased was called upon to do in the afterlife. Akhenaten furnished his tomb with at least two hundred shabtis, but none of them have been found intact.
- This head is just over three inches tall and was originally part of a larger figure. How big do you think the figure was?
- Imagine the block of stone the shabti was carved from. How do you think the artist figured out where to carve the face? What guidelines might they have used to develop proportions?
- Egyptian art reflects a desire for order. Horizontal and vertical guidelines were used on the surface of the carving block. What do you notice about this sculpture that reinforces this idealized and balanced form? What looks distinctly Egyptian about this figure?
Akhenaten imposed a monotheistic religion on ancient Egypt. However, he furnished his tomb traditionally, with shabtis connected to the god Osiris. After his death Egypt returned to a polytheistic tradition. Most depictions of Akhenaten, such as this shabti, were destroyed or damaged to erase his memory.
- How does the act of damaging an image impact its power to represent a person or idea?
- How does art play a role in how your culture remembers people?
- What does this shabti teach us about Egyptian culture and their beliefs about the afterlife?
- What objects might you find that could teach a future civilization about our culture?
- If that object were uncovered three thousand years from now, what might students of the future think of it?
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