Shawabty of Nefertari

Egyptian
New Kingdom, Dynasty 19, reign of Ramesses II
1279–1213 B.C.


Dimensions

Height: 17 cm (6 11/16 in.)

Accession Number

04.1768

Medium or Technique

Wood

Not On View

Collections

The Ancient World

Classifications

Shawabties and shawabty boxes

This wooden shawabty is coated completely with bitumen. It depicts a mummiform figure wearing a tripartite wig. Its arms are crossed opposite right over left on the chest. Very faded remnants of yellowish-white paint are still evident for detailing of attributes such as hair tresses in the wig and facial features. The hands hold implements of field work now mostly indistinct but likely a hoe held against each shoulder. Three horizontal bands of hieroglyphic text with dividing lines also appear on the legs, painted in yellow that has largely faded. The text includes the cartouche of Queen Nefertari, wife of King Ramesses II of Dynasty 19. The front of the foot has broken away.

For parallels see also 04.1766-04.1767, 04.1769.

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

Said to be from the Valley of the Queens (Thebes), Tomb of Queen Nefertari (QV 66). 1904: purchased for the MFA from Mohamed Mohassib, Luxor, Egypt by Albert M. Lythgoe as part of a group (04.1953-04.1956, 04.1766-04.1769) for £40. (Accession Date: January 1, 1904)

Credit Line

Emily Esther Sears Fund