Shawabty

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


Findspot: Egypt, Abydos

Dimensions

Height: 19 cm (7 1/2 in.)

Accession Number

00.697

Medium or Technique

Pottery

Not On View

Collections

The Ancient World

Classifications

Shawabties and shawabty boxes

This shawabty of reddish clay depicts a mummiform figure with tripartite wig, painted blue. Much of the rest of the figure appears to have been yellow. Its arms are crossed opposite right over left on the chest, holding implements of field work. The left hand holds a hoe against the opposite shoulder, while the implement in the right hand is either a pick or another hoe. The legs likely once carried a painted inscription of hieroglyphic text, which has worn off. The shawabty was broken through the middle but has been mended.

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 Abydos. 1900: excavated by William Matthew Flinders Petrie and Arthur Cruttenden Mace for the Egypt Exploration Fund, assigned to the Egypt Exploration Fund in the division of finds by the government of Egypt, received by the MFA through subscription to the Egypt Exploration Fund. (Accession Date: November 1, 1900)

Credit Line

Egypt Exploration Fund by subscription