Shawabty

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


Dimensions

Height: 13.6cm (5 3/8in.)

Accession Number

RES.22.14

Medium or Technique

Pottery, molded

Not On View

Collections

The Ancient World

Classifications

Shawabties and shawabty boxes

This shawabty of buff clay was formed by mold in the shape of a mummiform figure wearing tripartite wig. Hands are crossed opposite, with arms shown folded over the chest as though bundled under linen wrappings. Hardly any modeling of facial detials is evident. There are no indications of painted decoration beyond scattered traces of white, which could be salt efflorescence. There are no signs of applied texts.

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 1922: with John Ellerton Lodge, Esq.; 1922: given to the MFA by John Ellerton Lodge, Esq. (Accession Date: April 6, 1922)

Credit Line

Gift of John Ellerton Lodge