Anubis, guardian of the underworld, was the original Ancient Egyptian God of the dead (a role later associated with Osiris), and is usually portrayed as a man with the head of a jackal. This sculpture is based on the one found in the tomb of Tutankhamun, and is unusual in that it depicts Anubis as a full jackal.
Anubis had many tasks to perform such as watching over the mummification process to ensure that all is done properly and conducting the souls through the underworld, and testing their knowledge of the gods and their faith. He would also place the heart of the deceased on the Scales of Justice during the Judging of the Heart, to determine the worthiness of the individual to enter the realm of the dead.
In Ancient Egypt, wild dogs and jackals are said to have scavenged and patrolled the peripheries of the deserts, and it is thought that the first tombs were constructed to protect the burial sites of the dead. For the Ancient Egyptians, the colour black was closely associated with fertility.
It is thought that the portrayal of Anubis as black in colour as opposed to the natural brown colour of a Jackals hide, signifies themes of rebirth and the afterlife.