Requires Photography

Shawabty

Egyptian
Late Period, Dynasty 25
760–660 B.C.


Findspot: Egypt, Giza, N of subsidiary pyramid G I-b

Dimensions

Overall: 7.7 cm (3 1/16 in.)

Accession Number

25.5265

Medium or Technique

Faience

Not On View

Collections

The Ancient World

Classifications

Shawabties and shawabty boxes

This is a torso fragment of a shawabty which falls between the TIP and Late Period and likely dates to Dynasty 25. This form is characterized by a tripartite wig, long beard, and a naturalistic back, (without a back pillar or base which are Late Period features). The figure holds two hoes, not a pick and hoe, as well as a painted cord to a small seed bag slung over the left shoulder. The tools and bag are modelled in relief. The details of the wig, beard and tools are painted black. There is a framed vertical column of incised text on the front of the figure.

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, N of subsidiary pyramid G I-b. 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