This homogeneous group of twenty-two ushabti, funerary figurines, is from the tomb of the pharaoh Seti I, father of the great Ramesses II. The burial site, located in the Valley of the Kings, was discovered on 16 October 1917 by Giovanni Battista Belzoni. It is still considered to be the most splendid royal burial site ever discovered. Although the tomb had been violated, some of the grave goods were still conserved inside. Among the items recovered there were around 700 ushabti, now dispersed in various collections throughout the world. It is likely that the Vatican specimens arrived directly from Belzoni himself, who also donated a group of papyri to the Museum.
These ushabti were produced using several species of wood. They are mummiform with a tripartite hairpiece and the arms crossed on the chest. On the body there is a hieroglyphic inscription containing the name of the sovereign and Chapter VI of the Book of the Dead.
The ushabti were covered with a glossy black substance, identified as a resin of vegetable origin conventionally known as “black varnish”, a symbol of survival beyond death.
The figurines served as substitutes for the deceased, who called upon them to take his place working in the fields in the afterlife. They were produced in different materials and sizes, located inside boxes or placed next to the sarcophagus, but their function remains that of “responding” to the call of the deceased: indeed, ushabti means “he who answers”.