Shabti Dolls of Ancient Egypt - Helpers in the Afterlife


Kelly Macquire
published on 12 December 2021

Shabti dolls from Ancient Egypt were funerary figures that accompanied the deceased into the afterlife and were basically your personal helper in the afterlife. A shabti formula (which was a spell) was inscribed on each shabti doll, which specified the function of the doll in the afterlife. The function of the shabti dolls was made clear in the Egyptian Book of the Dead, and there is a spell, specifically for the shabti dolls which is known as the “Spell for causing a shabti to do work for a man in the realm of the dead.”

The ancient Egyptians believed that after you died, your soul went to the duat or underworld, and if it made it through and passed the weighing of the heart against the white feather of Ma’at in the Hall of Truth and the judgement before Osiris and the Forty Two judges, the soul passed on to paradise known as The Field of Reeds. The soul would be rowed by a boatman across Lily Lake, also known as The Lake of Flowers, and start their afterlife. The Field of Reeds was believed to be a mirror image of life on earth where you would find your home, departed loved ones and pets, and there would be food, beer, merriment and all the joys one had in life. The ancient Egyptians valued community, so even in paradise, you would work. On earth, if you couldn’t fulfil an obligation to your community because of sickness or personal obligations, you could send someone in your place, in the afterlife though, your place could be taken by a shabti doll.



0:00​ Introduction
0:53 What is a Shabti Doll?
2:29 Shabti Dolls in the Afterlife
4:07 Development of Shabti Dolls
6:33 Outro

Shabti Dolls: The Workforce in the Afterlife
Egyptian Afterlife - The Field of Reeds—the-field-of-reeds/
Grave Goods in Ancient Egypt
Ancient Egyptian Burial
Egyptian Book of the Dead

The Egyptian Book of the Dead - A Guide to the Underworld
Interview with Garry Shaw - Egyptian Mythology Travel Guide
The Rosetta Stone: What is it and Why is it so Important?
Comparing Two Ancient Civilisations: Ancient Egypt vs. Mesopotamia

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The music used in this recording is the intellectual copyright of Michael Levy, a prolific composer for the recreated lyres of antiquity, and used with the creator's permission. Michael Levy's music is available to stream at all the major digital music platforms. Find out more on:

rob koopman
CC BY SA 2.0 -
The Metropolitan Museum of Art
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World History Encyclopedia

#shabtisdolls #ancientegypt #bookofthedead

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About the Author

Kelly Macquire
Kelly is a graduate from Monash University who has completed her BA (Honours) in Ancient History and Archaeology, focussing on iconography and status in Pylos burials. She has a passion for mythology and the Aegean Bronze Age.

Cite This Work

APA Style

Macquire, K. (2021, December 12). Shabti Dolls of Ancient Egypt - Helpers in the Afterlife. World History Encyclopedia. Retrieved from

Chicago Style

Macquire, Kelly. "Shabti Dolls of Ancient Egypt - Helpers in the Afterlife." World History Encyclopedia. Last modified December 12, 2021.

MLA Style

Macquire, Kelly. "Shabti Dolls of Ancient Egypt - Helpers in the Afterlife." World History Encyclopedia. World History Encyclopedia, 12 Dec 2021. Web. 22 Apr 2024.