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Ancient Egypt: The ushabtis of Neskhons
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The ushabtis of Neskhons

    Amen-Re, king of the gods, the great god, the first to come into being, says: I shall charge the ushabtis which one has made for Neskhons, daughter of Tahenthoth, with performing all the services one has performed for Neskhons, daughter of Tahenthoth, in everything which ushabtis can do being in the service of a human who has died, who has been brought to the necropolis and who has become divine, without failing.
This is the speech which Amen has spoken: I shall cause them to make them for Neskhons, daughter of Tahenthoth.
    Amen-Re, king of the gods, the great god, the first to come into being, says: I shall charge the ushabtis which one has made for Neskhons with doing everything for which ushabtis are being made, for exempting every deceased perfect one, for them to exempt Neskhons. I shall charge them with protecting her all year round, every month, every decade, every day and on all epagomenal days.
 
    The contents of the writing placed before Amen-nesti-tawi of the temple of the solar obelisk in the year 5, 4th month of summer, day 2: Amen-nesti-tawi of the temple of the solar obelisk, the great god, says in two copies of the writing which attest: Concerning all which they have paid to the makers of faience for the ushabtis made for Neskhons, daughter of Tahenthoth, in copper, clothing, loaves of bread, cakes, fish likewise as all that has been paid to them (i.e. the makers) for them (i.e. the ushabtis) and will also be paid to them for them, the makers of faience are paid by this (this) being the payment for their value.
Concerning all that one has done to the ushabtis in order to pay them for being made, with the intention of replacing somebody at work, saying: "I shall do everything he does," this is the price for the ushabtis to do it, in order to pay back Neskhons, daughter of Tahenthoth, and for them to be good to her and for them to do her good.
- This text is apparently the divinely approved version which confirms the legal purchase of the ushabtis and their obligation to perform the duties incumbent upon the deceased in the afterworld. A second version which did not confirm Neskhons' claims was probably destroyed after being rejected by the oracle.
In the first part of this text the ushabtis are bound to perform all the personal services Neskhons had received during her lifetime, in the second part they are charged with fulfilling the duties Neskhons, like any other Egyptian, was supposed to be subject to.
-Neskhons: wife of the High Priest Pinodjem II (c.990-969 BCE), under the 21st dynasty
-ushabti: the form wSb.tj is being used.
-decade: the Egyptian week of ten days.
-epagomenal days: the Egyptian year had twelve months with thirty days each and five epagomenal days to make up a year of 365 days.
-The contents of the writing placed before Amen-nesti-tawi: the oracle of Amen approved of the claims made by Neskhons, i.e. the ushabtis had been legally bought and were therefore bound to serve their owner.
It would be interesting to know if the enslavement of humans was subject to a similar judicial procedure.

 

After a French translation in J. Cerny, Le caractère des Oushebtis d'après les idées du Nouvel Empire, BIFAO 41 (1942), p.110 {1]

 


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-[1] J. Cerny, Le caractère des Oushebtis d'après les idées du Nouvel Empire, BIFAO 41 (1942)
 

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