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The Internet, Mistaken Identity, and a Dog without a Tail

This shabti appeared on the antiquities market pretty recently in large numbers (Seems like the earliest sighting was in 2004?).  Bron of Collector's Antiquities has translated the text on them as Wennebpawepwaoetdjeseroeiamet. They have been the subject of a discussion on Yahoo  Groups Ancient Artefacts Group for a long time due to their lack of provenance.
Many buyers purchased them from an English or German dealer. Many of these dealers claim a Dutch collection  (perhaps Stormboek) to be the source of the Shabtis.
 Aton galleries in Germany cites the origin of theirs as "A Spanish Collection", while one collector buying from a Spanish dealer (who may be said Spanish Collection) found that the dealer provenanced the collection as from England. The Dutch dealers also traced the objects back to England.
 A few collectors and dealers have concluded from this shaky provenance that the shabti has been recently looted.
For further threads on this topic, look at:
It seems like most of the purportedly reputable dealers online have taken their "Wenneb" shabtis off of their sites (some transferring them to Ebay) , and there are rumours that the shabtis have been looted based on the above.
The basic facts are that we do not know where these items are coming from barring further information from the scholarly community and the antiquities dealers, and this issue serves to highlight the antiquated practices of the later.


The good thing about the slew of these shabtis on the internet is that there is a good sample of them available for the curious layperson like myself to examine. I have become very curious about who Wenneb was, and though we may never know where he was buried, we can at least try to translate his name, which is a bit of a puzzle. Also, the various Ebay listings show the shabti in different light which allow certain parts of the inscription to become more legible.
A Yahoo Groups member transcribes this inscription as
wn nb pA wp-wAwt Dsr(w) jt jAmt,  Which he translates as: "The master of the Opener of Roads, the saint of the tent exists. " (van Bommel, 2009)
While, given the highly abbreviated nature of the inscription, this could make grammatical sense, the translation is awkward theologically and does not correspond to the standard formulae for a shabti, where would expect to find the name of the owner, the title of the owner, maybe the owner's parentage, and maybe an introduction along the lines of "Illuminate the Osiris John Smith, son of Jane Doe".
There are no names starting with "Wenneb" in Ranke, which is puzzling, though not definitive proof that Wenneb is not the man's name. The "Opener of Roads" is, of course, Wepwawet, the canine funerary god sometimes associated with Anubis, but probably originally his precursor, and we should only expect the words wp-wAwt, or "The opener of Roads" to be represented with the dog glyph if we are referring to the God and not to the phrase.
In this light, the definite article pA before wp-wAwt becomes troubling. Unlike Osiris, the dead were never associated with or incarnated as Wepwawet or Anubis, so while we read of the deceased as "The Osiris, John Doe", we couldn't read of them as "The Anubis". There is only one Anubis. So neither wpwAwt or jnpw is going to work as a translation of the dog glyph if we maintain that the p is an abbreviated pA. Of course, the p could also be a phonetic complement of the previous signs, wn and nb or r. There are no "p"s in either of those syllables, so pA seems like the only option that is going to make any sense.
Looking at the dog again, you'll notice that it is sitting  on its haunches in all the carvings. There are only two glyphs that are commonly used that depict a dog on its haunches. All the rest have it lying on its belly or standing.
These are Gardiner's Sign number E14B and E267. The first one looks very much like our animal except for one thing. It has a very visible tail that is separate from the body. In fact, all of the glyphs of dogs do. Whether the dog is sitting, standing, lying or perched on a standard, it always has a visible tail either club-shaped or curly. If you look at our sign, you'll notice that none of the dogs has a tail. You'll also notice, though, that the bottom of the rear haunch of the dog is curved and almost teardrop shaped, perhaps depicting a part of the silhouette that is not part of the leg itself.
There is one sitting animal where the tail is sometimes over the body, partially obscuring the back paws in silhouette. (Note that the cat can also be carved with a long skinny tail stretched straight up behind it as is seen in some of the links below. There does not seem to be any grammatical difference between the two variations of the glyph.)
  I think our dog is actually a cat, which would then be "PA- mjw" -- "Tomcat", which was a very popular man's name in the third intermediate period, especially (but not limited to) the 22nd dynasty.

PA-mjw spelled in this highly abbreviated way is also in Ranke. (Ranke 1935, p105)

An issue that van Bommel has raised is that the ears in the carving seem too large for a cat. (van Bommel, 2010) I would say that this overstatement is a characteristic of incised examples of this glyph in general and of  carving on this shabti in particular.   In fact, long ears which are of equal length to the snout do not seem rare in carved examples of the mjw glyph.
The two circular figures below the cat glyph can be translated fairly easily. Van Bommel proposes Dsr as the translation for the two strokes with the line beneath them, (van Bommel, 2009) however, in all examples, the straight line below the two circular figures never connects to them as we would expect in a glyph of a bent forearm grasping a knife. There seem to be three glyphs here instead of one. Also, the adjective Dsr, (holy) is problematic here. So, instead of
, I would suggest
sA n(y) or "son of", written with the egg sign. This would make the linear sign below the egg a n sign. (Moje, 2010). This is a common spelling in the Late Period and is used in place of the goose sA glyph. SA n(y) is also expected in this place in abbreviated shabti inscriptions.
So, what is the name of PA-Miw's parent?  The first sign is unclear on most of the shabtis. I first theorized that it might be "mr", but an examination of the upper rightmost shabti reveals that the symbol is in fact the "i" reed leaf. (van Bommel, 2009)   A "t" loaf
  is visible on several of the shabtis, but is omitted in others. Perhaps the t's  omission indicates that it is redundant, which supports the translation of the arrow-like symbol to the left of the "i" as the
"t" . (Moje, 2010)
This would make the name of the parent "It", which is attested as a name in Ranke. Further research will be done on the specific people of this name.
There is a possibility that the person's name could also be, as proposed by van Bommel, Iamt, (van Bommel, 2009) but this name with this spelling is not attested in Ranke. (Ranke 1935, p56);

So, on the assumption that our shabti owner's name is Pa-Miw, what does the wn-r or wn-nb above the p mean? If you'll note above, in most of the examples the top of the basket in the nb sign curves downward indicating that our symbol is probably not a nb at all, but an r-the open mouth glyph. This holds for the majority of the examples above, and indicates that we should interpret the nb as an r.
Shabti inscriptions are formulaic enough that we can expect the name Pa-Miw to be preceded by either a title or the word "the Osiris", or "a verb such as illuminate+the Osiris+ name"  We only have two characters to play with if we assume that the last is true. The rabbit glyph could be the verb "wnn", or "to be"  (Erman 1971, p323) However, as far as I know the word wn is unattested as an introductory verb in shabti formulae. This would also force the following character to be the object of the verb. "r is".  The Egyptians, by the way, didn't usually write "is" unless they were emphasizing that something had "become" something. This doesn't make a whole lot of sense. If we want to stretch things, we could hypothesize that the "r" is really a badly written eye or "ir" glyph. This might be an abbreviation for "Osiris".  This interpretation would require some grammatical acrobatics, none of which we have much proof for given that the "r" does not look like an "ir" in any of the examples, and that there are no complements on the "wn" to tell us what verb-form it might be. Is this because there is no gemmination on the wn, or is this because the writing on the shabti is so abbreviated anyway? And even if we try to translate this along the lines of "The Osiris Becomes Pa Miw" or "The Osiris exists, namely Pa-Miw" , we realize that the translations are either grammatical fantasy constructions or make no theological sense!
We can get a more concrete translation with less poking at the grammatical puzzle if we rule the verb+Osiris option out and concentrate on the other two.
In personal correspondence with members of the EEF mailing list, it was suggested that wn-r could be an abbreviation for Wenen-nefer, which was a popular epithet of Osiris. Rendering this as wn-r is an odd abbreviation which I have not seen before. Perhaps we could explain this by saying that the most logical abbreviation,

which would have been tricky to carve into the rather squished vertical space.

However, the the thing that is most convincing to me that this is not the correct translation is that given space concerns, it would have been far more logical to inscribe wsir in this space than wn-nfr. This abbreviation of Wsir (Osiris),
is standard on late shabtis and would easily fit into the space taken by Wn-r on this shabti. Wsir is the way in which the dead person as Osiris is usually addressed, not Wenen-nefer. It would have made perfect sense here if the scribe had intended to refer to the dead as "The Osiris" with these characters. We should then assume that the glyphs wn-r are here because the carver intended to put them there.
Wn-r, spelled like it is on our shabti,
can be translated from Late Egyptian as "opener of the mouth".  (Wainwright 1932, p160) This is a priestly title attested from at least the time of Djoser, and it is associated with the high priest of Letopolis.  The inscription wn-r pA mjw makes grammatical sense on a shabti.  However, it is generally accompanied with other titles of the High Priest. If PA Mjw were the high priest, he would have had other titles. That these are ommitted in favour of this one is curious. Also, it has been noted that these shabtis are crude and overfired. You can see the burnt bubbling on the back of some of the shabtis It seems suspicious that a high-priest as important as the wn-r priest of Letopolis would have gotten such a shoddy burial assemblage. One option is that wn-r is not the correct translation. However, I feel that it is the translation of these two characters which makes the most sense logically. I'm in the process of researching the social status of this type of priest in the Ptolemaic or Late period in which this piece would have been fired. Perhaps the holder of this ancient title was less exhaulted as native Egyptians lost power.
Finally, there is also a definite possibility that this piece is a fake--support for this is in the  clumsy firing, the lack of provenance, the fairly recent appearance of these shabtis on the market, the crudeness of the workmanship (Moje, 2010) and the  difficulty of the inscription.

So, on the chance that this Shabti is real, we can translate it as:

Wn-r pA-miw sA n(y) jt

The Wn-r priest Pa Miw, son of It

So, who was Pa-Miw? When I find out, I'll let you know.


Erman, Adolf. Grapow, Hermann. Worterbuch der Aegyptischen Sprache, Band I. Aufrage der deutschen Akademien. Univeranderter Nachdruck. Berlin. 1971. p 323.

Ranke, Hermann. Aegyptische Personennamen, Band 1: Verzeichnis der Namen. J.J. Augustin. Gluckstadt. 1935. pp 56, 105.

van Bommel, Dik.  Correspondence via Email, April 3, 2010.
                              Correspondence via Email, April 4, 2010.
                              Correspondence via Email, April 20, 2010.

van Bommel, Dik.   Shabti Translation Wennebpawepwaoetdjeseroeiamet. Yahoo Groups. Jan 31, 2009. Online, Available as of 5/10.

Moje, Dr. Jan. Freie Universitat, Berlin. Seminar fur Aegyptologie. Correspondence via Email, April 20,2010.

Wainwright, G. A. Letopolis. Journal of Egyptian Archaeology. Egypt Exploration Society. Vol 18, No 3/4. Nov 1932. Online, available as of 5/10. pp159-172.

I would like to express sincere thanks to Dik van Bommel and Dr. Moje for their help, as well as the other EEF and Yahoo Groups users who have lent their helpful input to this problem. Mr. van Bommel has been especially helpful in getting me interested in this problem to begin with and in helping me find sources. The help of the EEF members has also been invaluable in helping me get over several hurdles in this translation. If you would rather not have your name cited (or see a place where I missed your name in the citations) in association with this piece, let me know.