Shawabty

Egyptian
Third Intermediate Period, Dynasty 21–24
1070–712 B.C.


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

Dimensions

Height x width x depth: 12 x 4.0 x 2.9 cm (4 3/4 x 1 9/16 x 1/18 in.)

Accession Number

91.265

Medium or Technique

Faience

Not On View

Collections

The Ancient World

Classifications

Shawabties and shawabty boxes

This is a shawabty of faience with a light blue glaze. It depicts a figure wearing attire of the living, including a flaring skirt/kilt and a duplex wig. Black glaze colors the wig and accents the facial details. Black bands appear around the figure’s wrists. The figure’s hands are crossed and opposed on the chest, holding implements or field work (also rendered in black) for use in the Afterlife. There are very slight traces of black hieroglyphic text on the front, though nothing legible can be distinguished.

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), necropolis. 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