Late Period, Dynasty 26–30
Height x width: 13.6 x 4.1 cm (5 3/8 x 1 5/8 in.)
Medium or Technique
Not On View
This faience shawabty has a light green glaze, some of which has worn down to the underlying brown paste in may areas. It is in the classic Late Period form which is characterized by tripartite wig, long false beard, back pillar, and rectangular base. The hands are crossed and opposed. The figure holds the pick on the right shoulder and hoe and cord to a small seed bag on the left. From the waist down nine bands of incised hieroglyphic text with dividing lines have been applied, recording a version of the “Shawabty Spell” for the owner. The overall composition is somewhat awkward, but the shawabty is in generally good 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.
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)
Hay Collection—Gift of C. Granville Way