Shawabty

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


Dimensions

Height x width: 22.6 x 7.1 cm (8 7/8 x 2 13/16 in.)

Accession Number

11.1496

Medium or Technique

Wood

Not On View

Collections

The Ancient World

Classifications

Shawabties and shawabty boxes

The surface of this wooden shawabty is discolored with brown in many areas. It depicts a mummiform figure wearing an undetailed duplex wig. Fully modelled arms are crossed opposite right over left on the chest. Traces of reddish-brown remain on the upper body, while scant traces of black painted hieroglyphic text on a yellow field can be discerned on the legs. Facial details have been accentuated with black paint as well. The surface of the shawabty is chipped. Part of the foot has broken off.

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