Shawabty of Patwer

New Kingdom, Dynasty 18
1550–1295 B.C.


Height x width: 21 x 6.5 cm (8 1/4 x 2 9/16 in.)

Accession Number


Medium or Technique


Not On View


The Ancient World


Shawabties and shawabty boxes

This shawabty of grayish, fine-grained limestone depicts a characteristically mummiform figure wearing a tripartite wig and false beard. Hands are crossed and opposed, resting on the chest. Black paint has been used to detail facial features and bracelets on the wrists. Nine slightly irregular horizontal lines of incised hieroglyphic text have been applied to the lower torso and legs with no dividing lines. These have also been filled with black paint. The text identifies the owner as Patwer and record a version of the “Shawabty Spell” for him. The legs were broken laterally near the middle but have been mended. Much of the false beard has broken off and is missing.

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 1934: with Frances Lowell Burnett; March 21, 1934: Lent to the MFA by Frances Lowell Burnett; 1991: Given to the MFA by Francis Lowell Burnett.
(Accession Date: November 20, 1991)

Credit Line

Gift of Frances Lowell Burnett