Rapporti di dipendenza e ideologia funeraria. L’ushebty, immagine al contempo dello schiavo e del padrone
Poole , Federico (1997) Rapporti di dipendenza e ideologia funeraria. L’ushebty, immagine al contempo dello schiavo e del padrone. Annali dell’Università degli Studi di Napoli “L’Orientale”. Rivista del Dipartimento di Studi Asiatici e del Dipartimento di Studi e Ricerche su Africa e Paesi Arabi, 1997 (57 (3-4)). pp. 375-404. ISSN 0393-3180
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The author re-examines the concept of the shabti as a ‘slave’ as formulated by Jaroslav Černy and developed by Hans Schneider. He begins by proposing a definition of slavery based on the work of Claude Mcillassoux; a slave system (esclavagisme) is one in which labour is reproduced by ‘acquisition’ from the outside. Within this perspective, he discusses some peculiarities of Egyptian ‘slavery’. Then he proceeds to reconsider the notion that, in the course of the New Kingdom, shabits came to be identified with slaves, and this resulted in their ‘depersonalization’, reflected especially in the ‘anonymous’ mass of shabits per individual found in the Third Intermediate Period. His conclusions are the following. Shabits probably remained images of the deceased throughout their history. The main evidence for this is their iconography and the fact that the decesead’s name and titles were inscribed upon them. Schneider’s claim that this inscription eventually became the owner’s brand is hardly plausible. The identification of shabits with slaves was not the result of a transition from their identification with household members (relatives and/or ‘individual servants’), as shabits are called slaves (ḥmw) from the very beginning of the Eighteenth Dynasty, and the notion of ‘individual servant’ as opposed to ‘slave’ is a misconception. If the shabti was indeed a substitute or representative of a relative ( a proposition based on the sole, albeit significant evidence of the inscriptions on three stick-shabits), a threefold identification of the shabit must be deduced: image of the master, of his or her slave, and of his or her relative as well. The clause of the book Found at the Neck of King Wesermaatra in the Necropolis, ‘they were all his male and female slaves of when he was on earth, it is he who has bought them’, while not a sign of the ‘reduction into slavery’ of the shabti (a much earlier conception), is possibly a reflection of the fact that purchase, as opposed to assignment of war captives by the State, had become the typical way of procuring slaves. As to the documents referring to the sale of shabits (the Decree for the Shabits of Neskhons and BM 10800), they have some specific characteristics that set them apart from contracts for the sale of slaves (of which only examples of later date are known), notably the magical role of the guarantee of the craftsman that the shabti will perform its duty in the hereafter. Thus, they belong to the ideological sphere of funerary beliefs, and can hardly be interpreted as a mere transposition to the divine domain of customs and practices of the world of the living.
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