Shawabty of Huy
New Kingdom, Dynasty 18–20
Height x width: 18.7 x 5.4 cm (7 3/8 x 2 1/8 in.)
Medium or Technique
Not On View
This shawabty is carved from a fine-grained, yellow-brown wood. It depicts a mummiform figure who wears a tripartite wig with long frontal lappets. Arms are crossed left over right on the chest, each holding a narrow-bladed hoe (implements of field work for use in the Afterlife). Five horizontal bands of hieroglyphic text in black cover the legs. The text records a version of the “Shawabty Spell” and an identification of the owner as “Chief Scribe of Works Huy.” The body is cracked, and the foot is chipped.
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.
By 1836: Robert Hay Collection, Linplum, Scotland; 1863: to his son, Robert James Alexander Hay; 1868-1872: Way Collection, Boston (purchased by Samuel A. Way through London dealers Rollin and Feuardent, 27 Haymarket); 1872: given to the MFA by Samuel's son, C. Granville Way. (Accession Date: June 28, 1872)
Hay Collection—Gift of C. Granville Way