Shawabty

Egyptian
New Kingdom, Dynasty 18–20
1349–1070 B.C.


Dimensions

Height: 6.6 cm (2 5/8 in.)

Accession Number

19.28

Medium or Technique

Pottery

Not On View

Collections

The Ancient World

Classifications

Shawabties and shawabty boxes

This is a shawabty of pottery (reddish-brown clay). It is very crudely modelled with awkward proportions. It wears a wig and the dress of the living, including flaring kilt/skirt. Remnant paint indicates that the body was painted white with yellow stripe down the center, on which hieroglyphic text is painted in black. Additional yellow in the neck area may be intended to represent a necklace/collar. The wig (unclear if meant to be duplex or tripartite style) was originally black. Paint is heavily worn.

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 1919: with Miss Mary C. Wheelwright; 1919: given to the MFA by Miss Mary C. Wheelwright. (Accession Date: February 6, 1919)

Credit Line

Gift of Miss Mary C. Wheelwright