Shawabty

Egyptian
Likely New Kingdom, Dynasty 18–20
1550–1070 B.C.


Findspot: Egypt, Giza or Rifeh

Accession Number

07.562a

Medium or Technique

Limestone

Not On View

Collections

The Ancient World

Classifications

Shawabties and shawabty boxes

This limestone shawabty is a mummiform figure of bulky proportions. It is shown with somewhat pronounced arms folded at the chest and rendered as though bundled under linen wrappings with no indications of hands. Modelling of facial features is minimal. The wig may have been intended as either a tripartite or duplex style, though it is difficult to say for certain. Slight traces of black on the wig may suggest that minimally it was painted. There are no indications of text.

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 Giza or Deir Rifa. 1907: Excavated by W.M. Flinders Petrie for the Egyptian Research Account; assigned to the Egyptian Research Account by the government of Egypt in the division of finds; given to the MFA by the Egyptian Research Account. (Accession Date: October 10, 1907)

Credit Line

Egyptian Research Account by subscription