Shawabty

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


Findspot: Egypt, Sheikh Farag, S.F. / 170

Dimensions

Height: 24.3 cm (9 9/16 in.)

Accession Number

13.3847

Medium or Technique

Wood

Not On View

Collections

The Ancient World

Classifications

Shawabties and shawabty boxes

This is a severely damaged wooden shawabty. It once depicted a mummform figure wearing a tripartite wig. There are possible remnants of a false beard. Arms appear to have been fully modelled and crossed over chest, though it is unclear in what precise arrangement. Legs are delineated by shallow incision. Large fragments are missing from front, especially head, possibly due to battering, insect damage, or both. A white-gray plaster-like substance now covers the shawabty in varying thickness over much of surface, including some of the breaks.

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 Sheikh Farag (S.F. / 170). 1913: excavated by the Harvard University-Museum of Fine Arts Expedition; assigned to the MFA by the government of the Egypt in the division of finds.
(Accession Date: December 4, 1913)

Credit Line

Harvard University—Boston Museum of Fine Arts Expedition