Shawabty of King Seti I

Egyptian
New Kingdom, Dynasty 19, reign of Seti I
1294–1279 B.C.


Dimensions

Height x width: 14.3 x 3.8 cm (5 5/8 x 1 1/2 in.)

Accession Number

72.4100

Medium or Technique

Wood

Not On View

Collections

The Ancient World

Classifications

Shawabties and shawabty boxes

This shawabty of dark brown wood retains ample traces of a bitumen coating, now cracked and flaked off from many areas. The figure is mummiform in shape, wearing a tripartite wig. Hands are crossed and opposed. It is unclear if they were originally depicted as holding any kind of implements. Heiroglyphic text appears through breaks through the bitumen coating, including a portion that identifies the owner as King Seti I of early Dynasty 19.

This is one of several hundred shawabtys of both faience and wood known for King Seti I.

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.

Provenance

Likely originally from the tomb of King Seti I (KV 17), Valley of the Kings, Thebes. 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)

Credit Line

Hay Collection—Gift of C. Granville Way