Shawabty

Egyptian
Late Period, Dynasty 26–30
664–332 B.C.


Dimensions

Height x width: 19.7 x 5.4 cm (7 3/4 x 2 1/8 in.)

Accession Number

72.1677

Medium or Technique

Faience

Not On View

Collections

The Ancient World

Classifications

Shawabties and shawabty boxes

This faience shawabty has a pale green glaze that has worn down to underlying brown paste in many areas. It is in the classic Late Period form which is characterized by tripartite wig, long false beard, back pillar, and rectangular base. The figure holds the pick on the right shoulder and hoe and cord to a small seed bag on the left. The hands grasping the tools are crossed, right over left with sleeves indicated. Nine horizontal bands of incised hieroglyphic text with dividing lines are rendered around the legs. This shawabty is in intact, but exhibits much wear and some incrustations.

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 1836: Robert Hay Collection, Linplum, Scotland; 1863: to his son, Robert James Alexander Hay; 1868-1872: Way Collection, Boston (purchased by Samuel A. Way through London dealers Rollin and Feuardent, 27 Haymarket); 1872: given to the MFA by Samuel's son, C. Granville Way. (Accession Date: June 28, 1872)

Credit Line

Hay Collection—Gift of C. Granville Way