Magic was important to the ancient Egyptians— in death as in life. Ritual attended each stage of the mummifying process, and various spells and instructions to guide the departed spirit in the afterlife were written on illustrated papyrus sheets that comprised the "Book of the Dead," as it has come to be known.
Ushabtis were little magical statues placed in tombs to assist the deceased by coming to life and performing any necessary, unpleasant chore in the afterworld, such as plowing the fields. The word ushabti means "answerer."
The small ushabti pictured here (approximately 23/8" tall) is a Late Kingdom mummiform figure dating to about 400 BCE. It is made of faience (a type of fired clay) and bears painted hieroglyphics.