Shawabty

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


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

Dimensions

Height: 24 cm (9 7/16 in.)

Accession Number

12.1352

Medium or Technique

Wood

Not On View

Collections

The Ancient World

Classifications

Shawabties and shawabty boxes

This wooden shawabty of wood depicts a male figure wearing the dress of the living, including a flaring kilt/skirt and duplex wig. The hands are crossed over the chest and opposed. No obvious remnants of paint are evident. The shawabty is uninscribed. It is in generally cracked condition with the right portion of the feet cut away.

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 Naga el-Deir, grave N 12/45. 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