TITLE: Ushabti for Khaemweset
CULTURE: Ancient Egypt
PERIOD: New Kingdom, Dynasty XIX, Kingdom of Ramesses II, 1279 - 1213 B.C.
DIMENSIONS: Height 14 cm.
PRICE: 5,500 Euros.
PROVENANCE: Private collection of Dr. L. Benguerel Godó, Barcelona, acquired in London in the 1960s.
CONDITION: Intact. DESCRIPTION: This ushabti figurine is depicted as a labourer, as he is holding two hoes to cultivate the fields of Osiris in the afterlife. He is wearing a short wig with a lock of hair falling on the right side. He also has a curled Osiris-style beard ending in a closed outward curl. Only his hands protrude from his mummyform shroud which covers all the body. These are crossed on his chest and are holding the agricultural implements already mentioned.
The body is inscribed with a vertical column of hieroglyphs. This reads: "Glorified be the Osiris, Sem-Priest, King's Son, Khaemweset, justified".
Khaemweaset was a prince of Egypt, the fourth son of the Pharaoh Ramesses II and the second of his second High Royal Wife, the queen Isetnofret. He is by far the best known son of Ramesses II, and his contributions to Egyptian society were remembered for centuries after his death. Khaemweset has been described as "the first Egyptologist" due to his efforts in identifying and restoring historic buildings, tombs and temples. He was the high priest of Ptah and, at the end of his life, governor of Memphis and heir to the throne. He died at the age of 56 in the year 55 of the reign of his father. His tomb is probably in Saqqara where remains were found that could be from this.
The tomb was found by the French Egyptologist, Auguste Mariette, during the first exploration of the Serapeum at Saqqara, between 1851 and 1853. He had to use explosives to blow up a great piece of rock, and found an intact coffin with the mummy covered by a gold mask and with jewellery that showed his name: Khaemweset, son of Ramesses and builder of Serapeum. These remains have been lost and Egyptologists believe that this was not, in fact, the tomb of Khaemweset but rather the remains of an Apis bull converted into human form to resemble that of the prince.
He is best known for his duties as a priest and for the restoration of temples and sanctuaries. He became a priest of Ptah in Memphis, as the Sem-priest Huy. During his time as priest he took part in diverse rituals such as the burial of the Apis bulls in the Serapeum of Saqqara. He remodeled the Serapeum, building an underground gallery with various burial chambers that allowed for the burial of various Apis bulls. When he was Sem-priest he expanded the temple in Memphis as is recorded in inscriptions from that time.
Khaemweset restaured the monuments of previous kings and nobles, so it was not in vain that the Sem-priest of Ptah was the Chief Directing Artisans. Texts with information about the restoration have been found in the pyramid of Unas at Saqqara, in the mastaba of Shepseskaf, the sun temple of Nyuserre, the pyramid of Sahure, the stepped pyramid of Djoser and the pyramid of Userkaf. He also restored a statue of the prince Kawab, son of Khufu, and inscribed on the throne of the latter his name and details of the work carried out.
Auguste Mariette found ushabti figurines of Khaemweset (son of Ramesses II) in the Serapeum at Saqqara, made of limestone, faience and estatite that are today conserved in the Louvre Museum. These ushabtis and those of other royal personages from the reign of Ramesses II, along with high priests of Ptah in Memphis, have some to light in the middle of the 19th Century and the beginning of the 20th and are conserved in private collections and in museums such as the Antikenmuseum in Basel, the Musées royaux d'art et d'histoire in Brussels, and the Rijksmuseum van Oudheden in Leiden.
Ushabti were made from one original bi-valve mold. Once the two pieces were joined and the rough edges removed, and while the material was still moist, the details of the image were retouched and the columns were marked on which the hieroglyphs would be incised. This meant that each ushabti was unique, even though they had come from the same mold.
The material used for the creation of this ushabti is faience, composed of fine sand cemented with sodium carbonate and sodium bicarbonate extracted from natron. Fired at 950 degrees C, the mixture gives an enamel-like finish with the carbonates forming a vitreous surface. It was a simple procedure and therefore not costly. The green and blue tones were achieved by the addition of a few grams of copper oxide extracted from malachite or azurite. The red tones were achieved with iron oxide, the intense blues with cobalt, the black by mixing iron oxide and magnesium oxide with water. All that was needed was to paint the chosen details in the selected colour with a brush before the firing.