Shawabty

Egyptian
Likely Late Period, Dynasty 25–30
760–332 B.C.


Dimensions

Height: 23 cm (9 1/16 in.)

Accession Number

02.537

Medium or Technique

Faience

Not On View

Collections

The Ancient World

Classifications

Shawabties and shawabty boxes

This faience shawabty was likely once covered with a blue-glazed, which has now mostly worn away except for the feet. Other areas are now discolored to black. It depicts a mummiform figure wearing a tripartite wig and a long false beard. Its hands are shown crossed and opposed on the chest with sleeves indicated. Each hand hold holds a hoe, implements of field work for use in the Afterlife. Seven horizontal bands of hieroglyphic text have been applied to the legs,separated by dividing lines. Both text and lines are now very faint. Fragments are broken away from the foot, wig, and beard. The nose was broken but has been restored.

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

Credit Line

Gift of the Estate of Mrs. Samuel D. Warren