Curator's Choice: St. Alban's Museum

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The Independent Culture
The object I've chosen is an ushabti from the tomb of Pinedjem II, high priest of Amun. The ushabti is a small figurine in the form of an overseer, about 14 cm high, made from clay and with a glossy turquoise glaze. The overseer wears a kilt and holds a whip.

In ancient Egypt everyone, including the Pharaoh, had to perform some kind of work but in the after-life you really wanted to be able to put your feet up. So you had these little figurines placed in your tomb and could send one of them to do the work for you.

This object comes from a cache that was robbed from the tomb in the late 19th century. It was given to us in the early part of this century by a mayor of St Albans but how he came by it is uncertain. Pinedjem II's tomb was found in the hills around the Valley of the Kings at Thebes by members of a famous family, who for generations had made their living by plundering tombs.

The Egyptian Director of Antiquities at the time realised that there was something peculiar going on because objects from the same period were appearing on the open market. He got hold of the younger brother of the family and legend has it that he beat his feet until he agreed to tell him where the tomb was.

Egyptology fascinates everyone and although this figurine is only 14 cm high, you can get so much information from a little object like this.

Vivienne Holgate is the Keeper of Archaelogy for the Museum of St Albans, Hatfield Rd, St Albans, Herts (0727 819340). 'Out of Egypt' runs to 14 Aug, Mon-Sat 10am-5pm, Sun 2-5pm

(Photograph omitted)