Shawabty of Meskherper

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


Height x width x thickness: 22.2 x 6.3 x 3.8 cm (8 3/4 x 2 1/2 x 1 1/2 in.)

Accession Number


Medium or Technique


Not On View


The Ancient World


Shawabties and shawabty boxes

This shawabty of fine grained, light limestone depicts a characteristically mummiform figure of well smoothed and rounded proportions. Its arms are crossed over over the chest, right over left. Eyes and eye brows are painted black. A column of hieroglyphic text on the body is applied in black. The foot is broken off and was once mended (now broken again).

Translation of the text: “Osiris Mes-kher-per, True of Voice (justified)”
Transliteration of the text: Wsir Ms-xr-pr .. mAa xrw

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