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

Findspot: Egypt, Tell Nabasha, Tomb 41


Height: 17.1 cm (6 3/4 in.)

Accession Number


Medium or Technique


Not On View


The Ancient World


Shawabties and shawabty boxes

This shawabty of coarse, reddish clay is a crudely modelled mummiform figure wearing a tripartite wig. Its arms are crossed over its chest with awkwardly rendered hands crossed and opposed on the chest. Very faint traces of black lines remain along with some very small patches of white (either paint or salt efflorescence).

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.


From Tell Nabasha, Tomb 41. 1886, excavated by William Matthew Flinders Petrie for the Egypt Exploration Fund, assigned to the EEF by the Egyptian government; presented to the MFA at EEF fifth annual general meeting; sent over June 24, 1887. (Accession date: June 24, 1887)

Credit Line

Egypt Exploration Fund by subscription