A superb shabti, made in the style that is usual for the period, but much better than the average example. It was made of Egyptian white faience with details in black and various shades of red-brown. The face is beautifully and naturistically modelled. The figure is shown mummiform with only his hands and head protruding, both coloured. He is wearing a short wig with sidelock, identifying him as sem priest, a title that was usually worn by the high priest of Ptah. The figure holds the usual agricultural implements in his hands, which were executed in relief and not just painted. He also wears a broad collar, consisting of several layers or strings and a row of beads.
A column of wonderfully executed hieroglyphic text along the front, containing much more information than is usual, gives us the titles and the name of the person depicted: he is the king's son Ramesses. He carries the titles "fan-bearer at the right hand side of the king", "chief bowman", "king's scribe", "overseer of the army", and also a title which is more problematic due to the unclear writing; it might read "overseer of the fleet", or "overseer of the foreign lands". The combination of these data is highly interesting, and deserves further research.
First of all, who was this person? He is called son of the king, so a prince, but which one? One Egyptologist has expressed the idea that this is either the second son of pharaoh Ramesses II (who was also called Ramsesses), or even Ramesses II himself when he was a prince under his father Seti I. If this is correct, that would make this a sensational shabti.
However, there are many more options. There was of course a whole series of pharaohs called Ramesses, and among their children were innumerable princes, several of which had the name Ramesses, and it is not always easy to identify these with certainty (see below). We were hoping to identify the owner of this shabti on the basis of the combination of the titles, but so far no positive identification has come up.
In fact, we cannot even be sure that our Ramesses was royal. The name was popular and was given to many non-royals also (see Ranke, p. 218), and the words "king's son" were also used as a title for the viceroy of Nubia in the period in which this shabti was made. The viceroy of Nubia also carried the titles "fan-bearer at the right hand side of the king" and "overseer of the southern countries", so the combination on this shabti with the title "overseer of the foreign lands" could point in this direction. However, as mentioned above, the reading of the word for "foreign lands" is uncertain. More importantly, there are lists mentioning all the known viceroys, and our Ramesses does not appear in this list (see the publication by Müller).
An extremely interesting object that merits further research!
Ramesses II had more than 100 children, born to him by multiple wives. For detailed surveys of these see Schmidt and Willeitner (1994); Leblanc (1999); Fisher (2001); Brand (2016). Much about these children is known thanks to processional lists that appear on various temple monuments, lists that are however often unevenly preserved (Brand, p. 12). We know that the first son born from one of his wives, Isetnofret, was called Ramesses (see for example Brand, p. 14; 17); he was the second son of Ramesses II, following his brother Amunherkhopeshef, the first born son of Ramesses and Nefertari; after his death, prince Ramesses became crown prince for a while (Fisher, vol. I, p. 76-79).
Similar problems arise for the following period, when Ramesses III, being a great admirer of Ramesses II, copied his predecessor in many ways, including the processional lists of princes on temple walls. The genealogy of the 20th dynasty royal family has been debated for decades. Studies are to a large extent based on interpretations of the list of princes in the temple of Ramesses III at Medinet Habu, but this list was never completed. Some titles and/or names were unfilled and additions were made by Ramesses IV, VI and VIII. Furthermore, some princes of Ramesses III were given identical names or titles, and it is difficult for scholars to differentiate them from each other (Demas - Agnew (2012), p. 63-64 with bibliography).
The title "fan-bearer at the right hand side of the king" was an honorary title that could be given to high officials, in particular those who were close to the king either professionally or genealogically. Pharaohs like Eje and Horemheb carried the title before they were enthroned. An ostrich feather, symbol of the title, can be seen in the hands of many of the sons of Ramesses II in depictions on temple walls. Of only few of these princes extensive titles have been recorded, but the title "fanbearer at the right hand side of the king" is always there (see Helck, p. 281-284; Schmitz, p. 1161-1163).
Peter J. Brand, "Reconstructing the Royal Family of Ramesses II and its Hierarchical Structure", Journal of Ancient Civilizations, Volume 31 (2016), p. 7-44;
Martha Demas - Neville Agnew (eds.), Valley of the Queens Assessment Report Volume 1, Conservation and Management Planning. A collaborative project of the Getty Conservation Institute and the Supreme Council of Antiquities, Egypt (Los Angeles, Getty Conservation Institute, 2012);
Marjorie Martin Fisher, The Sons of Ramesses II (Ägypten und Altes Testament, 53) (Wiesbaden, Harrassowitz Verlag, 2001);
Wolfgang Helck, Zur Verwaltung des Mittleren und Neuen Reichs (Probleme der Ägyptologie, 3) (Leiden, E.J. Brill, 1958);
Christian Leblanc, Nefertari, l'Aimée-de-Mout. Épouses, filles et fils de Ramsès II (Monaco, Éditions du Rocher, 1999;
Ingeborg Müller, Die Verwaltung Nubiens im Neuen Reich (Meroitica, schriften zur altsudanesischen Geschichte und Archäologie, volume 18) (Wiesbaden, Harrassowitz Verlag, 2013);
Hermann Ranke, Die ägyptischen Personennamen, Band I (Glückstadt, 1935);
Heike C. Schmidt - Joachim Willeitner, Nefertari, Gemahlin Ramses' II. Mit Aufnahmen aus dem Königinnengrab von Alberto Siliotti (Zaberns Bildbände zur Archäologie, 10) (Mainz am Rhein, Philipp von Zabern, 1994);
Bettina Schmitz, Untersuchungen zum Titel S3-NJSWT "Königssohn" (Bonn, Rudolf Habelt Verlag, 1976);
Bettina Schmitz, "Wedelträger", in Lexikon der Ägyptologie, begründet von Wolfgang Helck und Eberhard Otto, herausgegeben von Wolfgang Helck und Wolfhart Westendorf, Band IV (Wiesbaden, Harrassowitz Verlag, 1986), p. 1161-1163.
New Kingdom, 19th dynasty.
Height circa 14.5 cm.
Spanish private collection of Dr. Leopoldo Benguerel y Godó, Barcelona, acquired in London in the 1960s; thereafter with J. Bagot Arqueología, Barcelona; thereafter German private collection H.P., acquired from the above on 16 June 2014.
Intact, with some encrustation and surface wear.