Exploring Biographies. Ancient Egyptian Funerary Statuettes at the University Museum of Cultural History in Oslo


  • Saphinaz-Amal Naguib Department of Culture Studies and Oriental Languages University of Oslo




Ancient Egypt, shabti, shawabti, ushebti, The Museum of Cultural History of Oslo University



Small funerary statuettes shaped as mummiform figurines are among the most common ancient Egyptian artefacts to be found in museums of cultural history worldwide. The Museum of Cultural History, University of Oslo (MCH) is no exception. The present article explores the biographies of material culture, materiality, objectification and shifts in meaning. It probes the many ways small artefacts, often categorized as ‘minor art objects’ of no importance, provide us with valuable insights into ancient Egyptian beliefs, society and culture. Selecting a few pieces from different periods, it delves into the multi-layered narratives and intersecting storylines where the objects’ biographies are tied to a web of relations across time and space as well as to the history of the ancient Egyptian collection at the MCH. The article discusses questions related to museological and heritage management, and addresses ethical issues concerning the provenance and ownership of archaeological artefacts in museums.


Author Biography

Saphinaz-Amal Naguib, Department of Culture Studies and Oriental Languages University of Oslo

Professor emerita


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