Shawabty

Egyptian
New Kingdom, late Dynasty 18–20
1390–1070 B.C.


Dimensions

Height: 21 cm (8 1/4 in.)

Accession Number

16.46

Medium or Technique

Wood

Not On View

Collections

The Ancient World

Classifications

Shawabties and shawabty boxes

This is a shawabty of hard, fine-grained, light brown wood. It depicts a very well modelled mummiform figure with well defined facial features. It wears a duplex wig well modeled arms crossed opposite over the chest, right over left. Eyes, eye brows, and a long necklace are indicated with painted black lines, the latter of which seems also represented by two modelled strands between the front lappets of the wig. There is a prominent crack down right side of head and down front of figure. There are indications of white plaster or paint on some areas. 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

By 1916: in the possession of Mrs. Charles A. Cummings; given to the MFA by Mrs. Charles A. Cummings. (Accession Date: March 2, 1916)

Credit Line

Gift of Mrs. Charles Amos Cummings