26th Dynasty Ushabti Figure, ca. 550 BC
Appraised Value: $6,000 - $8,000
IMAGE: 1 of 2
Appraisal Video: (2:48)
GUEST: This is a piece that my mother bought when she was doing service during World War II in Cairo, Egypt.
APPRAISER: Have you any idea what it is?
GUEST: I really don't. I just assumed it was a trinket from a gift shop.
APPRAISER: Well, it's a funerary piece. And it's commonly called a ushabti figure. And they were placed in the tomb with grave goods as a substitute for the deceased, and intended to be called upon should the deceased be asked to perform manual labor. It's made out of faience, which is a non-clay ceramic. It's sometimes called the first high-tech ceramic. The color is very typical, blue-green. They started using these funerary figures in the Middle Kingdom, which was about 1900 BC. And they continued using them until the Ptolemaic period, which was about 2,000 years later.
APPRAISER: This is from the 26th dynasty, which is about 646 to 525 BC. It's on the later part of that. It's quite typical. They're usually on this rectangular base.
APPRAISER: And they also have a tripartite wig, which is striated. It has a pick and a hoe either side, all very typical, very common. And here we have nine rows of hieroglyphs. And these are taken from the sixth chapter of the Book of the Dead. And that again is quite common. This one doesn't have a name, which would usually be on the back column. It's made in a mold. There are some condition problems.
APPRAISER: We have a bit of nose damage here. That might have been done in the making of it. And so that will detract slightly. The discoloration that you see in the surface here, it's not uncommon. I think some people might find it a distraction. Sometimes it comes in the firing, and sometimes it's occurred in the burial over the years.
APPRAISER: There's nothing you can really do about it. It is already stable, so you can leave it as it is. Your mother brought this out in the Second World War, correct?
APPRAISER: Which means that it's legal for you to sell it.
GUEST: Oh, okay. I never thought about that.
APPRAISER: And there is a sort of a cut-off point, I think, of about 1970.
APPRAISER: And so this falls well within that.
GUEST: Why was my mother able to purchase this? I mean, did somebody have a little stand on the side of the road, or...?
APPRAISER: There are lots of antique shops in Cairo. And then you could still buy the real things. Unfortunately, they're quite often fakes.
GUEST: Oh, okay.
APPRAISER: I think a conservative retail price for this would be between $6,000 and $8,000.
GUEST: Okay. That's nice, that's nice. That's very nice.
This website is produced for PBS Online by WGBH Boston. ©1997-2013 WGBH Educational Foundation.
ANTIQUES ROADSHOW is a trademark of the BBC and is produced for PBS by WGBH under license from BBC Worldwide.
WGBH and PBS are not responsible for the content of websites linked to or from ANTIQUES ROADSHOW Online.
PBS is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization.