Shawabty

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


Dimensions

Height x width: 14.4 x 4.4 cm (5 11/16 x 1 3/4 in.)

Accession Number

11.1527

Medium or Technique

Limestone

Not On View

Collections

The Ancient World

Classifications

Shawabties and shawabty boxes

This shawabty is carved of a soft, white limestone. It depicts a mummiform figure with arms crossed opposite right over left on the chest. It wears a detailed duplex wig. No indications of painted decoration or text can be made out. Surfaces are scratched. The shawabty was broken diagonally through the upper body but has been mended.

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 1909: purchased in Egypt by Joseph Lindon Smith; 1909: on loan to the MFA; 1911: purchased by the MFA through funds provided by Mary S. Ames.
(Accession date: August 3, 1911)

Credit Line

Gift of Miss Mary S. Ames