Shawabty of King Seti I

New Kingdom, Dynasty 19, reign of Seti I
1294–1279 B.C.

Catalogue Raisonné



Height x width: 18.7 x 5.7 cm (7 3/8 x 2 1/4 in.)

Accession Number


Medium or Technique


Not On View


The Ancient World


Shawabties and shawabty boxes

This is a royal shawabty of brown wood with substantial remnants of bitumen coating. It depicts a characteristically mummiform figure wearing a tripartite wig. Its arms are crossed right over left on the chest. The black coating obscures whether they were originally intended to be shown holding implements. Six horizontal bands of incised hieroglyphic text have been applied to the legs, most still filled with bitumen. The text records a short version of the “Shawabty Spell” for King Seti I of early Dynasty 19. Surfaces are generally worn and cracked.

This 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.


Likely 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