Shawabty of King Seti I

New Kingdom, Dynasty 19
1294–1279 B.C.

Catalogue Raisonné


Accession Number


Medium or Technique


Not On View


The Ancient World


Shawabties and shawabty boxes

This royal shawabty is carved of light brown wood with substantial remnants of a bitumen coating. It depicts a mummiform figure wearing tripartite wig. Hands are crossed opposite, resting on the chest. Both the black coating and wear obscure whether the hands were originally intended to be shown holding objects. Five horizontal bands of incised hieroglyphic text on the legs record a short version of the “Shawabty Spell” for King Seti I of early Dynasty 19. The surface is worn and cracked.

This example is one of several hundred faience or wooden shawabtys 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