Shawabty of Ptahhotep
Late Period, Dynasty 26–30
Findspot: Egypt, Giza, Pit G 7520 X, debris of room I
Overall: 3 cm (1 3/16 in.)
Medium or Technique
Not On View
This is a head and shoulders fragment of a shawabty which dates to the Late Period. The typology of this period consists of a tripartite wig, long beard, back pillar and base, with the figure holding the pick on the right shoulder and hoe and cord to a small seed bag on the left. Here the hands are crossed and opposed. The right holds a large hoe and cord to a small seed bag slung over the back of the left shoulder. The left hand holds the pick. The incised text is on the flat back of the figure. The object is inscribed for the It netcher, Ptahhotep. The details are indistinct and there is no back pillar, hair line or seed bag.
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 lengths 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 one vertical line containing Ptahhotep’s name.
From Giza, Pit G 7520 X, debris of room I. 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.
Harvard University—Boston Museum of Fine Arts Expedition