Shawabty of Huy

New Kingdom, Dynasty 18–20
1550–1070 B.C.


Height x width: 15.8 x 5 cm (6 1/4 x 1 15/16 in.)

Accession Number


Medium or Technique


Not On View


The Ancient World


Shawabties and shawabty boxes

This shawabty of pottery is a mummiform shape. Its arms are crossed, seemingly right over left, with hands opposed. The upper body is a buff color, and the wig is painted dull green. Facial features are accented in black, and a pectoral necklace/collar of several strands is rendered in thin black lines about the neck and upper torso. Each of the shawabty’s hands holds a curved hoe, painted in black. Much additional painted decoration remains: a band of black around legs has white-gray lines dividing the field into four bands of white-gray hieroglyphic text for the shawabty’s owner. Above and below the black text field vertical red lines on upper legs and feet appear, with possible indications of a hieroglyphic sign in red at the top. If this is the case, the black text field may result from secondary use or usurpation of the shawabty, as it would cover an earlier inscription. The shawabty was broken through the legs but has been mended.

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 18, 1872)

Credit Line

Hay Collection—Gift of C. Granville Way