Shawabty

Egyptian
Likely New Kingdom, Dynasty 18–20
1550–1070 B.C.


Findspot: Egypt, Ihnasya el-Medina (Herakleoplis Magna)

Dimensions

Height: 21.8 cm (8 9/16 in.)

Accession Number

91.261

Medium or Technique

Wood

Not On View

Collections

The Ancient World

Classifications

Shawabties and shawabty boxes

This shawabty of light wood depicts a mummiform figure. The figure wears a tripartite wig, painted black. Its arms are crossed opposite over the chest, likely right over left. Facial are details are accentuated with black paint. A pronounced furrow indicates the division between the figure’s legs. No indications of text are evident. This shawabty is intact.

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

From Ihnasya el-Medina (Herakleoplis Magna). 1890-1891: excavated by Edouard Naville for the Egypt Exploration Fund, assigned to the EEF by the Egyptian government; October 1891, presented to the MFA by the EEF. (Accession date: December 8, 1891)

Credit Line

Egypt Exploration Fund by subscription