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

Findspot: Nubia (Egypt), Aniba, Tomb SA 7


Height: 10.8 cm (4 1/4 in.)

Accession Number


Medium or Technique


Not On View


The Ancient World


Shawabties and shawabty boxes

This faience shawabty is coated with a thick beige glaze. It depicts a characteristically mummiform figure wearing tripartite wig. Hands are crossed opposite and combined. The form of the arms is indicated slightly through modelling as though bundled beneath wrappings. The hands hold implements of field work: a hoe in the left hand and a now indistinct object in the right. These are rendered in painted glaze. A single column of painted hieroglyphic text has been applied down the front of the lower torso and legs to identify the shawabty’s owner. The front of the foot has broken off. There is a large chip in the surface glaze from the upper right corner of the head. Brown incrustations are found under the chin. Scattered pock marks from firing are also evident.

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 7. 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