New Kingdom, late Dynasty 18–20
1390–1070 B.C.


Height x width: 18.1 x 5 cm (7 1/8 x 1 15/16 in.)

Accession Number


Medium or Technique


Not On View


The Ancient World


Shawabties and shawabty boxes

This shawabty of light brown wood depicts a mummiform figure wearing a tripartite wig. Surfaces are heavily worn, with facial modeling especially dulled. Traces of black paint are evident. Arms are crossed over the chest, right over left, with black remnants indicating the hands originally held objects. A hoe appears likely on the left shoulder. Eight horizontal bands of incised hieroglyphic text have been applied to the legs and indicate the owner was “Head Gardener Pawer” (Hry-kAry pA-wr), for whom a version of the “Shawabty Spell” is recorded. The shawabty has a sizable crack on it sproper right side.

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)

Credit Line

Hay Collection—Gift of C. Granville Way