Shawabty of Huy

New Kingdom, Dynasty 19–20
1295–1070 B.C.


Height x width: 15.9 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 (pinkish-buff clay) has been treated with a black wash. Lines and hieroglphic signs have been applied in white, of which only some traces remain, often faded to grayish. The shawabty is a mummiform figure wearing tripartite wig. The hands are crossed and opposed on the chest with combined sleeves. The hands each hold an object which, though somewhat indistict, are likely implements of field work, probably two hoes. Three wide horizontal bands of hieroglyphic inscription are discernible, thought very faint. Enough remains to identify the owner’s name as Huy. The shawabty was broken and 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 28, 1872)

Credit Line

Hay Collection—Gift of C. Granville Way