Shawabty of the Lady of the House Behdetnedjmet
New Kingdom, Dynasty 18
Height x width x thickness: 22.2 x 6.3 x 5 cm (8 3/4 x 2 1/2 x 1 15/16 in.)
Medium or Technique
Not On View
This shawabty of light colored, fine-grained limestone preserves considerable original painted decoration. The mummiform figure is painted white, likely in imitation of linen wrappings. Arms are crossed, right over left, on the chest. It wears a black painted tripartite wig. The hands and face are a reddish-brown, while a necklace of several strands is indicated by yellow, red, and black. Six horizontal bands of incised hieroglyphic text, painted black, are carried on the legs, separated by orange dividing lines.
Translation of the text:
“The Lady/Mistress of the house, Behdetnedjmet
O Shawabty, (if I am) counted off for …
The Lady/Mistress of the house Behdetnedjmet”
Transliteration of the text:
Line 1: nbt-pr BHdt-nDmt.
Line 2: (SA)bty ipt iry
Line 3: nbt-pr BHdt nDm(t)
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