Shawabty of Pentaweret

Late New Kingdom or later Dynasty 19–24
1295–712 B.C.


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 shawabty of pottery is a mummiform figure wearing a tripartite wig and multi-stranded pectoral collar/necklace. It is depicted with arms crossed over chest, right over left, and hands holding implements of field work. The right hand holds a hoe, while the object in the left hand is indistinct. Much painted decotation is preserved. There is an overall white ground. Greenish-yellow is used for the face and legs, while the wig is a dull greenish-blue. Strands of the pectoral are red, black, and green. Vertical bands of hieroglyphic text are rendered in black on the legs with reddish-orange dividing lines. The text identifies the shawabty’s owner as Pentaweret and record a version of the “Shawabty Spell.”

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