Shawabty

Egyptian
New Kingdom, Dynasty 18–20
1349–1070 B.C.


Dimensions

Height: 12 cm (4 3/4 in.)

Accession Number

02.532

Medium or Technique

Clay

Not On View

Collections

The Ancient World

Classifications

Shawabties and shawabty boxes

This pottery (red clay) shawabty is extremely well preserved, including its painted decoration. It depicts a figure adorned in attire of the living: a robed garment with flaring kilt/skirt. He wears a duplex wig. Its hands are crossed and opposed on the chest. Each hand holds a hoe, implements of field work for use in the Afterlife. A general white ground likely indicates fabric. The face, hands, and a column down front of kilt are painted yellow. Reddish-brown has been used for a pattern of horizontal lines on the kilt, which run perpendicular to border lines on the text column of the same color. The wig and facial detailing are painted in black (plus small areas of white in the eyes), as are the implements in the hands.

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

By 1902: with the estate of Mrs. S.D. Warren; 1902: given to the MFA by the estate of Mrs. S.D. Warren. (Accession Date: October 11, 1902)

Credit Line

Gift of the Estate of Mrs. Samuel D. Warren