Shawabty

Egyptian
New Kingdom, Dynasty 19–20
1295–1070 B.C.


Dimensions

Height: 14.7 cm (5 13/16 in.)

Accession Number

05.93

Medium or Technique

Limestone

Not On View

Collections

The Ancient World

Classifications

Shawabties and shawabty boxes

This shawabty is carved of limestone with fairly well smoothed surfaces. It depicts a mummiform figure wearing a duplex wig and a short false beard. Its hands are crossed and opposed on the chest, partially covering an incised three-stranded pectoral collar/necklace. Additional lines may indicate objects held in the hands, possibly a djed-pillar (the hieroglyphic sign for “stability”) in each. Hair detailing has also been rendered by incision. There are no indications of painted decoration or applied text. The proper left side is cracked, and a fragment of the foot has broken off. Some surfaces exhibit minor abrasions and small chips.

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 1905: with Theodore M. Davis; 1905: Given to the MFA by Theodore M. Davis.
(Accession Date: September 19, 1905)

Credit Line

Gift of Theodore M. Davis