Shawabty

Egyptian
Middle Kingdom, Dynasty 12–13
1991–1640 B.C.


Findspot: Egypt, Sheikh Farag, S.F. 64

Dimensions

Height: 14.1 cm (5 9/16 in.)

Accession Number

13.3629

Medium or Technique

Wood

Not On View

Collections

The Ancient World

Classifications

Shawabties and shawabty boxes

This wooden shawabty depicts a mummiform figure of narrow proportions. Arms are slightly visible, crossed opposite over the chest (left over right?). There are traces of blue paint on the figure’s wig, which seems to be a short tripartite style. Facial details are rendered in black, and flaky remnants of white remain on areas of the body.

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 (SF 64. 1913: Excavated by the Harvard University–Boston Museum of Fine Arts Expedition; assigned to the MFA by the Egyptian government in the division of finds. (Accession Date: December 4, 1913)

Credit Line

Harvard University—Boston Museum of Fine Arts Expedition