Shawabty

Egyptian
New Kingdom, Dynasty 19, reign of Ramesses II
1279–1213 B.C.


Dimensions

Height: 19 cm (7 1/2 in.)

Accession Number

04.1766

Medium or Technique

Wood

Not On View

Collections

The Ancient World

Classifications

Shawabties and shawabty boxes

This wooden shawabty is covered fully with bitumen. It depicts a mummiform figure with fully modelled arms crossed opposite over the chest, right over left. Yellowish-white paint has been used for details including hair tresses in the tripartite wig worn by the fiture, facial features, and five horizontal lines across the upper chest which likely represent a 3-5 stranded pectoral collar/necklace. The hands hold field equipment: a hoe against each shoulder as well as the cords to a yoke held around to the back. Four bands of hieroglyphic text with dividing lines appear on the legs, also painted with yellow but considerably faded. A small chip is missing from the shawabty’s foot.

For parallels see 04.1767-04.1769.

An ancient Egyptian shawabty is a funerary figurine that was intended to magically animate in the Afterlife in order to act as a proxy for the deceased when called upon to tend to field labor or other tasks. This expressed purpose was sometimes written on the shawabty itself in the form of a “Shawabty Spell,” of which versions of various length are known. Shorter shawabty inscriptions could also just identify the deceased by name and, when applicable, title(s). However, many shawabtys carry no text at all. The ideal number of such figurines to include in a tomb or burial seems to have varied during different time periods.

Provenance

Said to be from the Valley of the Queens (Thebes), Tomb of Queen Nefertari (QV 66). 1904: purchased for the MFA from Mohamed Mohassib, Luxor, Egypt by Albert M. Lythgoe as part of a group (04.1953-04.1956, 04.1766-04.1769) for £40. (Accession Date: January 1, 1904)

Credit Line

Emily Esther Sears Fund