Shawabty of Nefertari

New Kingdom, Dynasty 19, reign of Ramesses II
1279–1213 B.C.


Height: 16 cm (6 5/16 in.)

Accession Number


Medium or Technique


Not On View


The Ancient World


Shawabties and shawabty boxes

This wooden shawabty is coated completely with bitumen. It depicts a characteristically mummiform figure wearing a tripartite wig. Its arms are rendered fully, shown crossed over the chest. Very faded remnants of yellowish-white paint are still evident for detailing of attributes such as hair lines in the wig, facial features, and agricultural equipment (indistinct, though likely either two hoes or one pick and one hoe). Three wide horizontal bands of hieroglyphic text with dividing lines also appear on the legs, painted in yellow that has largely faded. At least one cartouche can be made out, likely that of Queen Nefertari, wife of King Ramesses II of Dynasty 19. Some areas of the bitumen coating have flaked off.

For parallels see also 04.1766-04.1768.

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.


Said to be from the Valley of the Queens (Thebes), Tomb of Queen Nefertari (QV 66). 1904: purchased for the MFA from Mohamed Mohassib, Luxor, Egypt by Albert M. Lythgoe as part of a group (04.1953-04.1956, 04.1766-04.1769) for £40. (Accession Date: January 1, 1904)

Credit Line

Emily Esther Sears Fund