Shawabty

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


Dimensions

Height: 14.5 cm (5 11/16 in.)

Accession Number

72.474

Medium or Technique

Faience

Not On View

Collections

The Ancient World

Classifications

Shawabties and shawabty boxes

This mummiform shawabty of faience with a greenish white glaze is in the classic Late Period form, characterized by a tripartite wig, long false beard, back pillar and rectangular base. The hands are crossed and opposed, with the left holding a large hoe and a cord to a small seed bag slung over the back fo the left shoulder and the right holding a pick. The tripartite wig has incised lines denoting tresses and the beard is plaited. An inscription is carried on the front in a band of hieroglyphic text that reads: “Osiris, the prophet Hor-sa …, son of Neb-wadjet …” (Wsir Hm-nTr Hr- sA (?)- … ms n nb-wDAt …).

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 1872: General di Cesnola collection; 1872: purchased by the MFA from General di Cesnola as part of a group.* (Accession Date: May 15, 1872)

*Total price for 72.1-72.473: $3316.18

Credit Line

Museum purchase with funds donated by subscription