SC/63 BACK to NK Shabtis on SC number

Shabti database info:
The illuminated, the Osiris, the King
H: 20.5 CM, W: 6.4 CM, D: 3.9 CM
Wood, varnish
The illuminated, the Osiris, the King, Men-Maat-Ra (+ Chapter VI, five lines around body)
Valley of the Kings –KV17
19th dynasty (Seti I’s reign, 1294-1279 BC)
Schneider code 3.1.0.

Not as rare as the stone shabti of SC/54, the wooden shabtis of Seti I remain one of the most desirable wooden shabtis.
The shabtis are covered in black varnish (not bitumen as often, wrongly stated by many). The wooden shabtis were originally fully covered in black varnish for multiple reasons. Black was associated by the ancient egyptians with Osiris and since everyone wanted to be associated with Osiris in death, they covered some of these wooden shabtis in black varnish, see for another example of such varnish SC/6. However, the other, more practical, background was that the varnish protected the wood from rotting and woodworms, thus sustaining their function in the afterworld.
Parallels of wooden Seti I shabtis can be found in many musea, often containing lots of similar shabtis. See for an overview: Schneider, part II, page 30-32. Further examples in Chappaz, les figurines funeraires egyptiennes du musee d'art et d'histoire et de quelques collections privees, page 21-22.
The number of 700 to even 1000 shabtis has been mentioned for Seti-I, but this figure does not come from Belzoni or one of his contempories and remains difficult to verify. However, in 1977 already some 350 shabtis were recorded in public and private museums. The fact that Belzoni used the wooden shabtis as torches to light the graves for people visiting the site (!) must have caused a substantial amount of wooden shabtis to disappear forever, so the number of 700 does make sense.


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