Peg shawabty

New Kingdom, Dynasty 20
1186–1070 B.C.


Height x width x thickness: 15.5 x 4.7 x 2.8 cm (6 1/8 x 1 7/8 x 1 1/8 in.)

Accession Number


Medium or Technique

Travertine (Egyptian alabaster)

Not On View


The Ancient World


Shawabties and shawabty boxes

This “peg” shawabty of travertine (Egyptian alabaster) exhibits the bundle-like, outlined mummiform shape characteristic of this sub-type of shawabty. Fairly faint traces of black painted detailing remain for facial features and a column of hieroglyphic text on the legs. The foot is broken away and missing.

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 just identify the deceased by name and, when applicable, title(s). However, many shawabties carry no text at all. Sometimes the rather “fetal” appearance of peg shawabtys has also been associated with rebirth symbolism. 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)

Credit Line

Hay Collection—Gift of C. Granville Way