Shawabty for unnamed individual

Late Period, Dynasty 25
760–660 B.C.


Height x width x thickness: 19 x 6.3 x 4.7 cm (7 1/2 x 2 1/2 x 1 7/8 in.)

Accession Number


Medium or Technique


Not On View


The Ancient World


Shawabties and shawabty boxes

This shawabty of fine-grained, grayish limestone depicts a characteristically mummiform figure wearing a tripartite wig with incised lines to indicate strands and bands at the ends of the front lappets. Arms are crossed over chest with emphasis on detailing of the hands, which hold implements of agricultural work (two hoes, rendered by incision). Considerable brownish incrustation appears on the right side. Incised hieroglyphic text has been applied to the legs: five incomplete horizontal bands with dividing lines record a version of the “Shawabty Spell.” Some blanks in the text likely reflect mass production, such that the name of the purchaser/owner would be added later. In this case such was not done (or was applied in paint that has not survived).

The text reads:
1- Spoken… Osiris
2-.. if I am summoned and if I am counted off
3-… … (to) irregate
4- (to transport) to the West and to the East
5- …..

Line 1- Dd….. Wsir
Line 2- … ir ir
Line 3- … …. smHt
Line 4- … r Imntt (?) r iAbtt
Line 5- …..

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