Shawabty

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


Findspot: Egypt, Nag el-Deir, N 12 / 45

Dimensions

Height: 14 cm (5 1/2 in.)

Accession Number

12.1188

Medium or Technique

Pottery

Not On View

Collections

The Ancient World

Classifications

Shawabties and shawabty boxes

This is a fragment of a shawabty made of pottery (reddish clay). Traces of white priming/paint are evident. It is a crudely modelled mummiform figure wearing a tripartite wig. Hands are crossed and opposed on the chest. Traces of yellow paint on the right side suggest the figure may have been represented holding objects in its hands (minimally a hoe in the left hand against the right shoulder). The lower legs and feet have broken off and are missing. The shawabty is uninscribed.

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 Egypt, Naga el-Deir tomb N12/45. 1912: Excavated by the Harvard University-Museum of Fine Arts Expedition; assigned to the MFA by the Government of Egypt in the division of finds. (Accession Date: December 5, 1912)

Credit Line

Harvard University—Boston Museum of Fine Arts Expedition