Shawabty fragment

Late Period, Dynasty 25–30
760–332 B.C.


Height: 7 cm (2 3/4 in.)

Accession Number


Medium or Technique


Not On View


The Ancient World


Shawabties and shawabty boxes

This is the upper portion of a shawabty of highly polished brown-black serpentinite, having broken off through the arms. It is part of a mummiform figure wearing a tripartite wig with long front lappets and a short false beard. Hands are crossed opposite, resing on the chest. A small seed bag is slung over the figure’s right shoulder. The surface shows scuffing, and a white substance adheres in some areas. It is unclear if this is remnant as paint, salt, or a foreign incrustation.

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 1967: with Miss Aimée and Miss Rosamund Lamb. 1967: Given to the MFA by Miss Aimée and Miss Rosamund Lamb (for Reserve Study Collection). (Accession Date: Dec. 13, 1967)

Credit Line

Gift of Miss Aimée and Miss Rosamond Lamb