Requires Photography

Shawabty

Egyptian
Third Intermediate Period, Dynasty 21–24
1070–712 B.C.


Findspot: Egypt, Giza, Street G 7300 debris S of wall G 7300 Pt

Dimensions

Overall: 3.7 cm (1 7/16 in.)

Accession Number

27.2228

Medium or Technique

Faience

Not On View

Collections

The Ancient World

Classifications

Shawabties and shawabty boxes

This is a mid-leg fragment of a shawabty which dates to the Third Intermediate Period. As is typical for this period, there is no back pillar. The fragmentary text is written in black in one vertical column down the front of the figure as well as in three horizontal bands encircling the body.

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.

This shawabti is inscribed with the shabti spell (chapter 6 of the Book of the Dead) in horizontal lines. The full text of the shabti spell reads: “O shabti(s), if N is called to do any work that is done there in the necropolis, then an obstacle will be struck there as a man at his duties. ‘Here he is,’ you will say. You will be counted at any time it may be done there to cultivate a field, to irrigate the shoreland, to ferry sand of the west to the east and vice versa. ‘Here I am (/we are),’ you will say.”

Provenance

From Giza, Street G 7300, debris S of Roman crude brick wall G 7300 Pt . 1927: 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