Late Period, Dynasty 26–30
664–525 B.C.


Height x width x depth: 20.7 x 5.3 x 4.3 cm (8 1/8 x 2 1/16 x 1 11/16 in.)

Accession Number


Medium or Technique


Out on Loan

On display at Houston Museum of Natural Science, TX, May 17, 2013 – June 30, 2018


The Ancient World


Shawabties and shawabty boxes

This faience shawabty carries a light blue glaze, which has worn away especially in lower areas of the figure. Its mummiform shape is in the classic Late Period form which is characterized by tripartite wig, long false beard, back pillar, and rectangular base. The tripartite wig has incised lines denoting tresses and the beard is plaited. The hands are crossed right over left with sleeves indicated, holding implements of field work. The figure holds the pick on the right shoulder and hoe and cord to a small seed bag on the left. From the waist down, nine bands of incised hieroglphic text with divider lines have been applied, recording a version of the “Shawabty Spell” for the owner.

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