Shawabty

Egyptian
New Kingdom, Dynasty 18–20
1390–1070 B.C.


Dimensions

Height: 19.3 cm (7 5/8 in.)

Accession Number

02.529

Medium or Technique

Wood

Not On View

Collections

The Ancient World

Classifications

Shawabties and shawabty boxes

This wooden shawabty depicts a mummiform figure wearing a tripartite wig. Facial details are reasonably well modelled. Arms are crossed opposite right over left on the chest. Remnants of a white ground are evident over many areas. Traces of reddish-orange paint appear on the upper torso near the hands, probably originally depicting implements of agricultural work held 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 the estate of Mrs. S.D. Warren. (Accession Date: October 11, 1902)

Credit Line

Gift of the Estate of Mrs. Samuel D. Warren