Shawabty

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


Dimensions

Height x width: 16.5 x 5.4 cm (6 1/2 x 2 1/8 in.)

Accession Number

72.1651

Medium or Technique

Pottery

Not On View

Collections

The Ancient World

Classifications

Shawabties and shawabty boxes

This shawabty of reddish-brown clay depicts a mummiform figure wearing a tripartite wig with terminal bands on the front lappets and incised striations denoting tresses. A beaded pectoral collar/necklace is also incised around the neck. Hands are crossed and opposed, holding a hoe in each. No glaze is evident. White areas on the head may be remnants of an original white ground. There is also no evidence of inscription. The shawabty is in somewhat worn condition.

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