Shawabty

Egyptian
New Kingdom


Findspot: Egypt, Giza, North of G 7110

Accession Number

25.5255

Medium or Technique

Pottery

Not On View

Collections

Africa and Oceania, The Ancient World

Classifications

Shawabties and shawabty boxes

This is a head and torso fragment of a New Kingdom shawabty. The figure is made of pinkish pottery with a white gesso coating and polychrome decoration, much worn. Ont he face and wig there are traces of yellow, the hands are red. The pectoral is composed of short white and red vertical strips with black dots on them. The torso has traces of short horizontal registers of black painted text which are enclosed by black rectangular text lines. The eyes are outlined in black and are white with a black pupil. The hands are crossed right over left and do not hold any implements.

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 lengths 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 Giza, north of G 7110. 1924: excavated by the Harvard University–Boston Museum of Fine Arts Expedition; assigned to the MFA in the division of finds by the government of Egypt.

Credit Line

Harvard University—Boston Museum of Fine Arts Expedition