After finding a broken piece of pottery in the box at St Luke’s Hospice store at Crystal Peaks, the charity’s area retail manager Chris Quinlan sought out the advice of internationally renowned archaeologist, Dr Joann Fletcher.
Much to the surprise of the shop’s staff, Dr Fletcher, who is an honorary visiting professor at York University, confirmed that the item was in fact an Ancient Egyptian shabti which dates back to the days of the pharaohs.
Shabtis tend to be up to 30cm in size, made from wood, stone, clay, metal or glass and look like miniature Egyptian mummies. They were placed in tombs among the grave goods of the dead in Ancient Egypt and popular belief has is that they were supposed to act as servants or minions for the deceased, if they were called upon for manual labour in the afterlife.
According to the National Trust, their small size and low weight means shabtis were often brought home by early travellers as souvenirs.
Although the Sheffield shabti has its bottom section missing, it remains finely decorated and is thought to be worth up to £200.
Shop manager Lana Beech said: “This proves yet again that it’s always worth having a good look around your nearest St Luke’s shop because you really don’t know what you’re going to discover. It’s incredible that something that has survived for thousands of years should end up on our shelves.”
The Shabti is being sold online via the St Luke’s eBay page.