Requires Photography

Shawabty of King Piankhy (Piye)

Napatan Period, reign of Piankhy (Piye)
743–712 B.C.

Findspot: Nubia (Sudan), el-Kurru, Ku 5, filling on stairs


Overall: 4 cm (1 9/16 in.)

Accession Number


Medium or Technique


Not On View


The Ancient World


Shawabties and shawabty boxes

This is a head fragment of a shawabty of King Piankhy (Piye). The male figure wears a tripartite wig, an uraeus and a long beard. The object is half molded with a flat dressed back.

The ancient Nubians included shawabtys in their tombs only in the Napatan Period, about 750 - 270 B.C. These funerary figurines are based on Egyptian shawabtys, but differ from them in many features of their iconography. For instance, the known Nubian examples are only from royal tombs. Also, they have unique texts, implements, poses and are known to have the largest number of shawabtys included in one tomb. Their function, it is assumed, was the same as that of the Egyptian shawabty, namely 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 inscription


From el-Kurru, Ku 5 (tomb of Qalhata), filling on stairs, originally from Ku 17 (tomb of King Piankhy (Piye) ). 1919: excavated by the Harvard University–Boston Museum of Fine Arts Expedition; assigned to the MFA in the division of finds by the government of the Sudan.

Credit Line

Harvard University—Boston Museum of Fine Arts Expedition