Shawabty fragment

Late Period, Dynasty 25
760–660 B.C.


Height x width: 9.8 x 5.7 cm (3 7/8 x 2 1/4 in.)

Accession Number


Medium or Technique


Not On View


The Ancient World


Shawabties and shawabty boxes

This fragment of a shawabty represents approximately half of the original of dark gray-black serpentinite. The figure is of mummiform shape, wearing both a tripartite wig and a false beard. Its arms cross at the chest, right over left, and its hands hold implements of field work. There are two horizontal bands of heiroglyphic text and remnants of a third on the body, clearly having continued below the break with lower portion now missing. White incrustations appear on some areas.

Translation of the text:
… this (Shawabty) if (this) Osiris is counted off to …
in the Necropolis

Transliteration of the texts:
Line 1: pn ir Wsir …
Line 2: .. i mm Xrt-nTr …

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