The collection of the Museo Egizio in Turin includes a shabti-box inscribed for an official named Djehutyhotep, listed as no. 2443 in the catalogue Regio Museo di Torino. Antichità egizie.1 In the collection there are presently 46 shabti-containers (Table 1: 22 wooden boxes, 3 pottery boxes and 21 shabti-jars). Most of them belong to the collection sold by the Consul General of France, Bernardino Drovetti, to King Carlo Felice of Savoy in 1823.2 This collection is the result of many years of activity by the Consul, beginning in 1806 with purchases on the Egyptian antiquarian market and followed by the gradual addition of antiquities from archeological excavations.3 Therefore it is often impossible to determine from which site the pieces originate. Shabti-box Turin Cat. 2443 is no exception to this rule. Furthermore, its typological classification and the identity of its owner are problematic, and this severely affects the possibility of exact dating.4

One of the oldest documents referring to Drovetti’s objects is a list sent by Carlo Vidua to Count Prospero Balbo during the negotiations for the purchase of the collection.5 The document consists of a catalogue divided into nine categories: within each category, each entry describes only features that were of interest to antiquarians.6 Of course, shabti-boxes and shabtis were not recognized as such at the time and are accordingly not distinguishable in Vidua’s list. Most probably, all shabtiboxes arrived as part of the Drovetti collection are included, along with other boxes with different functions, in the category “objets en bois”.7

However, it is often impossible to identify them. Descriptions *310, *311 and *312 are an exception, as they correspond to some pr-nw chapel-shaped shabti-boxes.8

The three entries are described as follows:

  • *310 Une caissette à trois divisions, avec figures et2 hiéroglyphes ; les couleurs sont de la plus parfaite conservation et fraicheur; 30 c. sur 15.
  • *311 Une idem à deux divisions; 22 c. sur 15.
  • *312 Une idem à une seule division; 32 c. sur 10.

The specific mention of the tripartite subdivision, the excellent preservation and the fraicheur of box *310 speak strongly for an identification with the shabti-box of Nefermesi (Turin Cat. 2445; Fig. 1),9 as does the fact that the latter’s height and width – 30 and 17 cm., respectively – are very close to those given for this item in the list. This is a wooden shabti-box, (Type Marini IIIa – Type IV Aston),10 plastered and painted. It has a bottom with protruding edges and with four jambs, with a vaulted lid between each pair. The long sides are decorated with a scene showing the deceased offering to the gods: Osiris and Isis on the front, and Horus and Nephthys on the back. The short sides portray the four sons of Horus.11

Shabti-box of Nefermesi (Turin Cat. 2445), Twentieth Dynasty. H. 30 cm. Photo by Nicola Dell’Aquila/Museo Egizio.

Shabti-box of Nefermesi (Turin Cat. 2445), Twentieth Dynasty. H. 30 cm. Photo by Nicola Dell’Aquila/Museo Egizio.

The description of box *311 in Vidua’s list suggests that it should be similar to the previous one, but bipartite. The only box in the Museo Egizio of Turin corresponding to this description is the shabti-box of Nia (Cat. 2444).12 Like the box of Nefermesi, it carries scenes of the deceased worshiping gods and the four sons of Horus (Fig. 2). The only obstacle against this identification are its measurements – h. 30.5 cm, base 25 × 22 cm – which do not match those given by Vidua.

Shabti-box of Nia (Turin Cat. 2444), Nineteenth Dynasty. H. 30.5 cm. Photo by Nicola Dell’Aquila/Museo Egizio.

Shabti-box of Nia (Turin Cat. 2444), Nineteenth Dynasty. H. 30.5 cm. Photo by Nicola Dell’Aquila/Museo Egizio.

The entry for box *312 gives only a very short description, specifying the object’s morphology – “à une seule division” – and that it has a polychrome decoration. Among the boxes conserved in Turin, two may correspond to this description: the shabti-box of Nebhepet (Cat. 2435)13 and that of Djehutyhotep (Cat. 2443). The box of Nebhepet, even though belonging to the type with one pr-nw chapel, has a very different decoration than the previous two. Its front side is decorated with the false-door motif (Fig. 3), while the other sides show a texture imitating woodgrain.14 Furthermore, the tops of the two short sides – forming jambs rising above the box – are graced with the head of a sparrowhawk. Box Turin Cat. 2443, on the contrary, is very similar to the above-mentioned and illustrated coffer of Nia (Cat. 2444), especially in the representation of relatives worshipping their dead ancestors and the decorative polychrome strips, with geometric motifs reproducing a false-door on the bottom and, on the top, floral motifs of blue lotus petals. It therefore seems more likely that this is the box described under number *312 in Vidua’s list. The iconography described above makes the links among the three objects seem stronger: we note that, in the list entries, the items are distinguished primarily on the basis of morphology, with little mention of decoration.3-4

Shabti-box of Nebhepet, Twentieth Dynasty, (Turin Cat. 2435). Photo by Nicola Dell’Aquila/Museo Egizio.

Shabti-box of Nebhepet, Twentieth Dynasty, (Turin Cat. 2435). Photo by Nicola Dell’Aquila/Museo Egizio.


Djehutyhotep’s shabti-box is a plastered and painted wooden box, 31.5 cm tall and 16 × 14.2 cm in plan.15 It rests on a protruding base and culminates in two lateral jambs, between which a vaulted lid is set. On the front of the box and on the corresponding side of the lid are two button-shaped knobs. They were used to fasten the lid by means of a now lost string. The box resembles a Predynastic pr-nw chapel in shape. Its surface is entirely covered by a thin plaster layer – relatively well preserved with some losses here and there – on which brightly colored funerary scenes are painted.

Shabti-box of Djehutyhotep, 3D model. By Vlad for Micropasts and Museo Egizio

Shabti-box of Djehutyhotep, 3D model

By Vlad for Micropasts and Museo Egizio

cc by-nc-nd 4.0

The front side (Fig. 4) is almost entirely occupied by the representation of a masculine figure, facing rightwards, sitting on a chair with a high backrest and lion-paw feet. He is wearing sandals, a white pleated robe knotted at the belly with very wide sleeves, a wesekh collar, some green bracelets and a “double wig”. The figure wears a goatee and drinks from a cup held in the right hand. The left hand is raised in a gesture of devotion. The cup is filled by a stream of water coming from a hes vase, held by a female figure whose body rises from the branches of a tree in front of the male figure. A second stream of water, coming from the same hes vase, fills a second cup placed under the chair. From this cup a human-headed bird drinks. The scene represents the dead person and his ba drinking the purifying water poured by the sycamore tree goddess (Fig. 4).

Shabti-box of Djehutyhotep (Turin Cat. 2443), front. H. 31.5 cm. Photo by Nicola Dell’Aquila/Museo Egizio.

Shabti-box of Djehutyhotep (Turin Cat. 2443), front. H. 31.5 cm. Photo by Nicola Dell’Aquila/Museo Egizio.

On the right side (Fig. 5), the owner of the box is represented as a mummy on a pedestal, facing left towards an offering table beyond which is a bouquet. He is wrapped in white bandages and wears a wesekh collar. He wears a goatee and a “double wig” surrounded by a yellow band. An ointment cone rests on the wig.

Shabti-box of Djehutyhotep, right side. Photo by Nicola Dell’Aquila/Museo Egizio.

Shabti-box of Djehutyhotep, right side. Photo by Nicola Dell’Aquila/Museo Egizio.

The back is less well preserved, but the decoration is still clearly visible. The scene is dominated by the standing figure of the owner, dressed as he would have been when alive: elegant sandals on his feet, an elaborate garment with wide sleeves, gathered at the waist, and a double wig. He wears a wesekh collar and bracelets, and holds flabellum in his left hand. A second male figure is aspersing him with purifying water issuing from a hes vase. This figure has a shaved head and wears a short white pleated robe and a leopard skin on the shoulders, the typical attire of the sem priest. Even though no caption specifies the identity of this second individual, it might be one of the sons of Djehutyhotep, since this kind of scene typically depicts the worship of dead ancestors (Fig. 6).

Shabti-box of Djehutyhotep, back. Photo by Nicola Dell’Aquila/Museo Egizio.

Shabti-box of Djehutyhotep, back. Photo by Nicola Dell’Aquila/Museo Egizio.

The left side shows a scene divided in two by a central column of hieroglyphs, featuring two mummiform figures, facing one another. They wear a large wesekh collar, a tripartite wig and a false beard with well-visible black lines connecting it to the ears. In front of each figure is a bouquet extending from the feet to the knees. Hieroglyphic captions at the top of the scene identify the figures as Amset and Hapi, respectively on the right and left (Fig. 7).

The four scenes are clearly inspired by wall paintings in Theban tombs of the New Kingdom.16 The scenes are graced by polychrome borders with geometrical and floral motifs; the one below reproduces a stylized false-door motif, the one above a row of blue lotus petals.5

Shabti-box of Djehutyhotep, left side. Photo by Nicola Dell’Aquila/Museo Egizio.

Shabti-box of Djehutyhotep, left side. Photo by Nicola Dell’Aquila/Museo Egizio.


The walls of shabti-box Cat. 2443 are inscribed with columns and rows of very well-preserved hieroglyphs,17 written confidently and steadily in black ink. When the text is not limited to a mere caption, but also mentions names and titles of the figures represented in the scenes, it eulogizes the dead or evokes some typical funerary rituals of the Theban area.


  • Wsjr jmy-r pr18 9Hwty-Htp
  • The Osiris, the steward Djehutyhotep

Left side:

  • anx bA=k rwD Ha.w=k Sbn=k Sms.w 1r Wsjr sSm(w)-Hb n Jmn jmy-r pr 9Hwty-Htp mAa-xrw
  • May your ba live, may your limbs be strong. May you join19 the followers of Horus.20 The Osiris, the leader of the festival of Amun, the steward Djehutyhotep, justified.
  • Jmstj 1pj
    Amseti Hapi


  • Wsjr jmy-r pr 9Hwty-Htp mAa-xrw
  • The Osiris, the steward Djehutyhotep

Right side:

  • Sms=k 4kr HDw r xx=k mAA=k Jnpw nb tA-HD21 sbi=f tw m bnw r AbDw Wsjr jmy-r pr 9Hwty-Htp mAa-xrw
  • May you follow Sokar, onions being round your neck, may you see Anubis, lord of the Land of Dawning,22 while he leads you as a heron to Abydos. The Osiris, the steward Djehutyhotep.


  • Wsjr sSm(w) Hb n Jmn 9Hwty-Htp mAa-xrw
  • The Osiris, leader of the festival of Amun, Djehutyhotep, justified

Among these many inscriptions the most interesting is the one on the right side. It refers to the god Sokar, to the ritual use of onion and to the journey of the dead to Abydos. These three elements are related to a funerary rite attested during the New Kingdom. The rite was carried out in the night between the 25th and the 26th of Khoiak, on the west bank at Thebes. It was related to the nTrjt23 festival, more specifically to the invigoration of the mummy of the god Sokar-Osiris and to the procession on board a boat to the Temples of Millions of Years and to the necropolis.24 During that night, privately, the ka-priests and/or the kinsmen of the Theban dead carried out rites of libation or purification in the chapels of the tombs. They wore necklaces made of braided onions and offered them to Sokar and to the dead.25 The previous two nights of the 23rd and 24th of Khoiak were devoted to the embalming of the statue of Sokar-Osiris, the rite of the opening of the mouth, and the protection of the mummy, which, being one with Osiris, sailed on the nSmt-boat to Abydos, where the deceased became mAa-xrw.26

Onion was much used in Egypt, where it was grown since ancient times. It is mentioned in the Pyramid Texts, where it is designated by the word HDw.27 It was used in various contexts, for example in medicine-magic,28 especially against the bites of snakes and scorpions.29 Its antiseptic properties were much appreciated. During the process of mummification, it was placed on the chest and the upper belly, and in the facial cavities (mouth and eyes).30


The morphological features of the shabti-box of Djehutyhotep place it among the shabti-boxes of Type Marini I (Aston Type II), dated to between the middle and the end of the Eighteenth Dynasty.31 Nevertheless, the scenes decorating it – representing the dead6 man in the presence of his ancestors, the sycamore tree goddess and his ba – and the elaborate borders with lotus flower petals and the false-door motif are closer in style and subject matter to the boxes of the “Marini IIb and IIIa” types (Aston Type II and IV, respectively), featuring double and triple pr-nw chapels and dated between the mid-Nineteenth and the Twentieth Dynasties.32 Even though the morphology of shabti-boxes is typically crucial in determining their typology and dating, in this case it has less diagnostic value. Indeed, reuse of canonical artistic forms from the Eighteenth Dynasty is commonly attested during the Nineteenth and Twentieth Dynasties.33 The choice of specific subjects such as the sycamore tree goddess and the ba, on the contrary, constitutes a more certain terminus post quem: the two subjects are, indeed, widely attested in the wall paintings of Theban tombs and on shabtiboxes. The representation of the sycamore tree goddess is clearly inspired by Chapter 59 of the Book of the Dead; although the scene is attested on the walls of some tombs of the Eighteenth Dynasty,34 it becomes popular only in the Ramesside age,35 when it also enters the iconography of shabti-boxes.36 The representation of the ba is also first attested on the walls of Theban tombs of the Eighteenth Dynasty , but is more widespread in the Ramesside age.37 In particular, the theme of the ba drinking the water poured by the sycamore tree goddess is seen only from the Nineteenth Dynasty onward, both in wall paintings38 and on coffers.39 Moreover, another element suggesting a date no earlier than the Nineteenth Dynasty for the box is the two polychrome strips, with false-door motifs below and lotus-flower petals above. This feature can be seen on several double pr-nw chapel-shaped shabti-boxes, possibly dating to the Nineteenth40 and Twentieth Dynasties.41

The shabti-box of the royal scribe, chief steward of the Southern City and leader of the feast of Amun-Re Djehutyhotep

Djehutyhotep, the owner of shabti-box Turin Cat.7 2443, bears the titles of jmy-r pr (steward) and sSm(w)-Hb n Jmn-Ra (leader of the feast of Amun-Re). Both the name and the titles suggest that he is the same Djehutyhotep who owned a shabti in the Civico Museo di Storia e Arte in Trieste (Inv. no. 5390, Fig. 8),42 inscribed with the following titles:

  • sS nswt = royal scribe;
  • jmy-r pr wr n niw.t-rs.t = chief steward of the Southern City;
  • sSm(w)-Hb n Jmn-Ra = leader of the feast of Amun-Re.

Shabti of Djehutyhotep II (Trieste 5390). H. 28,5 cm. Photo by Enrico Halupca/Civico Museo di Storia e Arte in Trieste.

Shabti of Djehutyhotep II (Trieste 5390). H. 28,5 cm. Photo by Enrico Halupca/Civico Museo di Storia e Arte in Trieste.

Claudia Dolzani dates this statuette to the end of the Eighteenth Dynasty on stylistic and typological grounds.43 Franco Crevatin reminds us that Wolfgang Helck – in Zur Verwaltung des Mittleren und Neuen Reichs –, also attributes the blade of a bronze knife (Fig. 9) kept in the Metropolitan Museum of New York (n. inv. 48.105.3) and the head of a granite statue (Fig. 10) in the Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek (Copenhagen ÆIN 1019) to the owner of shabti Trieste 5390.44 Both the knife and the head are attributable to a famous Djehutyhotep45 who lived during the reign of Hatshepsut.

Knife of Djehutyhotep I (The Met 48.105.3). L. 14 cm.

Knife of Djehutyhotep I (The Met 48.105.3). L. 14 cm.

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The bronze blade was found by the archeological mission of the Metropolitan Museum near the funerary temple of Hatshepsut in Deir el-Bahari.46 Close to the junction between the blade and the now lost handle – probably originally of wood – is the inscription: jmy-r pr n nTr-nfr 9Hwty-Htp = steward of the good god, Djehutyhotep. Hayes attributes it to the same Djehutyhotep as the owner of the Copenhagen statue.47

Head of a statue of Djehutyhotep (Copenhagen, Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek, ÆIN. 1019). H. 25 cm. Photo by Ole Haupt.

Head of a statue of Djehutyhotep (Copenhagen, Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek, ÆIN. 1019). H. 25 cm. Photo by Ole Haupt.

The head of the granite statue belongs to a type with a back-pillar, smooth wig, and short beard. It has pierced earlobes and shaded eyebrows48 and it bears the titles jmy-r pr sSmw Hb n Imn 9Hwty-htp (chief steward, leader of the feast of the god Amun, Djehutyhotep). Otto Koefoed-Petersen dated it between the Eighteenth and Nineteenth Dynasties.49 Furthermore, pierced earlobes appear on depictions of men in the last decade of the reign of Amenhotep III and then became very popular during the Amarna period and later.50 Shaded eyebrows also became common towards the end of the reign of Horemheb.51 Finally, the mouth is of a shape found on statues of the Ramesside period. All these data thus do not support Helck’s attribution, but rather point to a date between the end of the Eighteenth and the early Nineteenth Dynasty.

Moreover, the British Museum has a small vaulted wooden lid with a semicircular section, a more or less square base, a knob on the front lunette and a column of hieroglyphs on the top (Fig. 11) reading sS nswt jmy-r pr wr m njw.t-rs.t sSm(w)-Hb n Jmn-Ra 9Hwty-htp (royal scribe, chief steward of the Southern City [=Thebes], leader of the feast of Amun-Re, Djehutyhotep [BM EA 30801]).52 The shape, the dimensions8 (9.3 × 8.6 cm) and the knob on the lunette suggest that it is a lid for a single pr-nw chapel-shaped shabti-box, datable to the Eighteenth Dynasty.53 The closest parallel is indeed the lid of a shabtibox of an Amenemhat (New York, Brooklyn Museum 50130a-b) dated to the reign of Thutmosis IV.54

Shabti-box lid of Djehutyhotep (BM EA 30801). H. 3.56 cm, l. 9.03 cm, w. 8.06 cm. Photo by Paolo Marini.

Shabti-box lid of Djehutyhotep (BM EA 30801). H. 3.56 cm, l. 9.03 cm, w. 8.06 cm. Photo by Paolo Marini.

The homonymy and the sameness of the title on all the above objects suggest that they might all belong to the same owner. However, their stylistic dating does not support this hypothesis. Indeed, knife blade New York 48.105.3 and shabti-box lid London BM EA 30801, as we have seen, date from the Eighteenth Dynasty. Statue head Copenhagen ÆIN 1019, instead, can be dated between the end of the Eighteenth and the early Nineteenth Dynasty, and shabti-box Turin Cat. 2443 cannot be earlier than the Nineteenth Dynasty. A later date can also be suggested for shabti Trieste 5390, which shows elements such as the painted layered wig and other stylistic details that are typical of the Ramesside age.

In the light of the above, then, the objects must in fact belong to at least two homonymous individuals: one who lived in the age of Hatshepsut (Djehutyhotep I) and another who lived in the late Eighteenth to early Nineteenth Dynasty (Djehutyhotep II). Further support for this hypothesis can be found in a stylistic comparison between three of the five objects, namely, shabti-box lid London BM EA 30801, shabti-box Turin Cat. 2443 (Fig. 12) and shabti Trieste 5390. Three objects from the same funerary assemblage should surely resemble one another. Instead, the lid in the British Museum piece is very different in style from the shabti-box in Turin and the shabti in Trieste, most notably because it is unpainted, whereas both of the latter objects carry a fine pictorial decoration.

Shabti-box lid of Djehutyhotep (Turin Cat. 2443). H. 4 cm, l. 9 cm, w. 8.4 cm. Photo by Nicola Dell’Aquila/Museo Egizio.

Shabti-box lid of Djehutyhotep (Turin Cat. 2443). H. 4 cm, l. 9 cm, w. 8.4 cm. Photo by Nicola Dell’Aquila/Museo Egizio.

Shabti-box Turin Cat. 2443, as the decoration suggests, was thus probably made during the reign of Ramesses II for an eminent official who lived and was buried in the Theban area. The object is a very interesting and rare example of its kind: it has the usual decoration of shabti-boxes of Type Marini IIIa (Aston Type IV) but the morphology of shabti-boxes of Type Marini I (Aston Type II). Indeed, it does not seem to fit into any existing typological slot.9

Table 1

Complete list of the shabti-containers of the Museo Egizio of Turin

Container Material Inventory number Name of the deceased Typology Dating
1 Box Wood Cat. 2444 Nia IIc Ramesses II
2 Box * Wood Cat. 5199 Nefertari ? ?
3 Box Baked clay Cat. 3453 IIc Nineteenth Dynasty
4 Box Baked clay Cat. 3454 Pakharu Nineteenth Dynasty
5 Box Baked clay Cat. 3455 Nineteenth Dynasty
6 Box Wood Cat. 2443 Djehutyhotep II IIc Nineteenth Dynasty
7 Box Wood Cat. 2434 Amenemope Variant II Nineteenth Dynasty
8 Vase Baked clay Cat. 3485 Khay A Nineteenth Dynasty
9 Vase Baked clay Cat. 3487 A Nineteenth Dynasty
10 Vase Baked clay Cat. 3488 Isi A Nineteenth Dynasty
11 Vase Baked clay Cat. 3489 Nashuyu A Nineteenth Dynasty
12 Vase Baked clay Cat. 3490 Takhesha A Nineteenth Dynasty
13 Vase Baked clay Cat. 3491 Neheh A Nineteenth Dynasty
14 Vase Baked clay Cat. 3492 Isi A Nineteenth Dynasty
15 Vase Baked clay Cat. 3493 Amenhat A Nineteenth Dynasty
16 Vase Baked clay Cat. 3494 A Nineteenth Dynasty
17 Vase Baked clay Cat. 3495 Nay A Nineteenth Dynasty
18 Vase Baked clay Cat. 3496 Djehutymes A Nineteenth Dynasty
19 Vase Baked clay Cat. 3497 Perkhemenu A Nineteenth Dynasty
20 Vase Baked clay Cat. 3498 Meh A Nineteenth Dynasty
21 Vase Baked clay Cat. 3499 Mesmen A Nineteenth Dynasty
22 Vase Baked clay Cat. 3500/2* A Nineteenth Dynasty
23 Vase Baked clay Cat. 3500/3* A Nineteenth Dynasty
24 Vase Baked clay Cat. 3502 A Nineteenth Dynasty
25 Vase Baked clay Cat. 3504 A Nineteenth Dynasty
26 Vase Baked clay Cat. 3533 Pakharu A Nineteenth Dynasty
27 Vase Baked clay Cat. 3542 A Nineteenth Dynasty
28 Vase Baked clay Provv. 5650 A Nineteenth Dynasty
29 Box Wood Provv. 260 Tahesibehed IIIa Nineteenth/Twentieth Dynasty
30 Box Wood Cat. 2435 Nebhepet Variant II Twentieth Dynasty
31 Box Wood Cat. 2445 Nefermesi IIIa Twentieth Dynasty
32 Box Wood Cat. 2430 Patjauemditamun IV Twenty-First Dynasty
33 Box Wood S. 905 VIc Twenty-First Dynasty
34 Box Wood Provv. 729 ? VIIa Tenth/ninth cent. BC
35 Box Wood Cat. 2440 Pep VIIb Seventh cent. BC
36 Box Wood Cat. 2441 Pep VIIb Seventh cent. BC
37 Box Wood Provv. 3296 Ur VIIc Twenty-Fifth Dynasty
38 Box Wood Provv. 728 ? VIIc Twenty-Fifth Dynasty
39 Box Wood Provv. 727 Tjaienhotepet VIIc Twenty-Fifth Dynasty
40 Box Wood Cat. 2437 Paiuiu VIIc Twenty-Fifth Dynasty
41 Box Wood Provv. 726 Namenekhamenemope VIIc Twenty-Fifth Dynasty
42 Box Wood Cat. 2439 Harsiesi VIIIa Seventh cent. BC
43 Box Wood Provv. 721 Usirhor VIIIb Seventh cent. BC
44 Box Wood Cat. 2451 Pentjenef VIIIb Seventh cent. BC
45 Box Wood Provv. 5651 ? VIIIb Seventh cent. BC
46 Box Wood Cat. 2438 Nayeftjaurudj VIIIb Seventh cent. BC


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