Shawabty

Egyptian
New Kingdom
1550–1070 B.C.


Dimensions

Height: 6.8 cm (2 11/16 in.)

Accession Number

19.29

Medium or Technique

Pottery

Not On View

Collections

The Ancient World

Classifications

Shawabties and shawabty boxes

This shawabty of pinkish pottery depicts a characteristically mummiform figure wearing a wig, likley duplex style, painted in black. The body is painted white with a yellow stripe down the center, on which hieroglyphic text is painted in black (worn away and difficult to read). Paint is generally somewhat 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