Fragment of a shawabty of King Malowiebamani
Napatan Period, reign of Malowiebamani
Findspot: Nubia (Sudan), Nuri, Pyramid 11
Overall: largest 8.6 cm (3 3/8 in.). Overall: smallest 1.3 cm (1/2 in.)
Medium or Technique
Not On View
These are fragments of a shawabty belonging to King Malowiebamani. When complete the figure wears the king’s nemes headdress with uraeus and has a long beard. There are 5 horizontal lines of incised text encircling the body. The text is framed and there is a narrow blank area up the center of the back. The object was broken in 25 pieces and small fragments and is not mended. This mummiform shape does not have a back pillar or base. The arms are not crossed, the hands are positioned right above left. In each hand the figure holds a hoe. In addition the left hand holds a cord to a seed bag which is slung over the left shoulder. The back of the head, ankles, feet and left elbow are missing. The head is intact on the largest piece. The beard is chipped. It is housed in two boxes.
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 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.
From Nubia (Sudan), Nuri pyramid 11 (tomb of Malowiebamani). 1917: excavated by the Harvard University–Boston Museum of Fine Arts Expedition; assigned to the MFA in the division of finds by the government of Sudan.
Harvard University—Boston Museum of Fine Arts Expedition