Shawabty of Bakmut
New Kingdom, Dynasty 19–20
Height x width: 19.1 x 5.7 cm (7 1/2 x 2 1/4 in.)
Medium or Technique
Not On View
This shawabty of pinkish pottery retains a thick white ground with drab yellow coating (if not simply discolored white) and ample remains of painted decoration. It is of a mummiform shape, wearing a black tripartite lappet wig with hands crossed over chest, right over left. Each hand holds a hoe against the shoulder. The face is painted reddish-brown, as are the hands. Attire includes a pectoral necklace/collar painted black and reddish-brown on a yellowish ground. Four bands of black painted hieroglyphic text have been applied to the legs between reddish-brown dividing lines. The text records a brief version of the “Shawabty Spell” for the owner, “The Chantress of Amen, Bakmut.” A fragment has broken away from the foot.
The text reads:
(It is the) Osiris, the Lady/Mistress of the House, the Chantress of Amun, Bakmut
True-of-Voice, who says: “O Shabty (if) a task is assigned ….”
Transliteration of text:
Wsir nbt-pr, SmAt n Imn BAk-mwt
mAa xrw (?) Dd.f i Sabty ipt iry kAt.
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