Shawabty of Amenhotep

New Kingdom, late Dynasty 18–20
1352–1070 B.C.


Height x width: 14.6 x 5.7 cm (5 3/4 x 2 1/4 in.)

Accession Number


Medium or Technique


Not On View


The Ancient World


Shawabties and shawabty boxes

This shawabty of reddish pottery is mummiform in shape with white paint over most surfaces to imitate linen bandages. It wears a gray-blue tripartite wig, and the face is painted reddish brown. Hands are rendered in reddish-brown paint as though crossed and opposed on the chest. Each hand holds a hoe against the shoulders, painted in a slightly brigher reddish-brown. A bag is rendered on its back as well. A column of hieroglyphic text runs down the front of the legs: a yellow band with red borders and black text which identifies the owner as “Osiris Amenhotep, True-of-Voice (i.e. vindicated/justified)” (transliteration: Wsir Imn-Htp mAa-xrw). This yellow band expands over the upper chest and neck area, possibly to denote a pectoral collar/necklace or similar. The shawabty is intact.

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