Shawabty of Imhotep

Late Period, Dynasty 26
664–525 B.C.


Height: 15.5 cm (6 1/8 in)

Accession Number


Medium or Technique


Not On View


The Ancient World


Shawabties and shawabty boxes

Faience shawabty of a man wearing a long wig and false beard, with arms crossed, proper right over proper left, holding a pair of hoes. Ther is one vertical line of text down the center of the legs naming the seal bearer Imhotep.
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 lengths 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 1931: Horace L. Mayer collection; lent to the MFA by Horace L. Mayer February 5, 1931; given to the MFA by Horace L. Mayer December 17, 1964.

Credit Line

Gift of Horace L. Mayer