Shawabty of King Seti (?)

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


Height x width: 18.4 x 5.1 cm (7 1/4 x 2 in.)

Accession Number


Medium or Technique


Not On View


The Ancient World


Shawabties and shawabty boxes

This shawabty of dark brown wood has well smoothed surfaces, though portions of the surface are incrusted with black likely from an original bitumen coating. The figure is mummiform, wearing a tripartite wig. Its hands are crossed and opposed on the chest. There are no indications of painted decoration or hieroglyphic text. Features are generally muted due to minimal modeling of details. Fragments have broken away from the foot and are missing.

This may be a royal shawabty of King Seti I of early Dynasty 19. If so, it is one of several hundred shawabtys of either faience or wood known for King Seti I.

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.


Possibly originally from the tomb of King Seti I (KV 17), Valley of the Kings, Thebes. 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