New Kingdom, Dynasty 19
1295–1186 B.C.

Findspot: Nubia (Egypt), Aniba, Tomb SA 37


Height: 12.9 cm (5 1/16 in.)

Accession Number


Medium or Technique


Not On View


Africa and Oceania, The Ancient World


Shawabties and shawabty boxes

This shawabty of pottery (reddish-brown clay) depicts a mummiform figure of smoothed, but somewhat awkward modeling. It wears a tripartite wig. Arms are shown as folded on the chest as though beneath wrappings. Hands are not indicated. The shawabty is broken at the lower legs and mended, with a fragment missing. Remnants of white paint or possibly salt efflorescence are evident on the lower legs.

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 Aniba, tomb SA 37. 1910: excavated by the E.B. Coxe Expedition of the University of Pennsylvania; assigned to the University of Pennsylvania in the division of finds by the Sudanese government; 1910-1991: University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology; 1991: received by the MFA through exchange with the University of Pennsylvania Museum.

(Accession date: March 25, 1992)

Credit Line

MFA-University of Pennsylvania Exchange