Shawabty of Antiu
New Kingdom, Dynasty 18–20
Height x width x thickness: 14.3 x 4.7 x 3.8 cm (5 5/8 x 1 7/8 x 1 1/2 in.)
Medium or Technique
Brown stone (sandstone or quarzite?)
Not On View
This shawabty figurine of brown stone depicts a mummiform figure wearing a tripartite wig with long lappets. Incised lines indicate hair tresses, and each front lappet has a band at the end indicated by incised lines. Hands are crossed and opposed, holding implements of field work – a hoe in each hand – against the shoulders. An incised hieroglyphic text appears below the arms on the legs in a primary column surrounded by five horizontal bands. The text records a version of the “Shawabty Spell” for the the owner, who is identified as Antiu (‘ntiyw). No traces of color are evident. There is a small crack in the feet, but the shawabty is otherwise 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)
Hay Collection—Gift of C. Granville Way