Requires Photography

Shawabty of Queen Arty

Napatan Period, reign of Shebitka
698–690 B.C.

Object Place: Nubia (Sudan), el-Kurru, Pyramid 5, debris between Chambers A and B


Overall: 13.0 cm

Accession Number


Medium or Technique


Not On View


The Ancient World


Shawabties and shawabty boxes

This is a shawabty of Queen Arty, daughter of Piankhy, sister-wife of Shebitka. The arms are not crossed, the hands are positioned left above right. One hoe is held in the right hand resting on the left shoulder and the left hand holds a cord to a small bag slung over the right shoulder This mummiforn shape does not have a back pillar or base. Features such as the legs, knees and hips are shaped. The arms are not crossed, the hands are positioned right above left. There are several small cracks on the face.

The ancient Nubians included shawabtys in their tombs only in the Napatan Period, about 750–270 B.C. These funerary figurines are based on Egyptian shawabtys, but differ from them in many features of their iconography. For instance, the known Nubian examples are only from royal tombs. Also, they have unique texts, implements, poses and are known to have the largest number of shawabtys included in one tomb. Their function, it is assumed, was the same as that of the Egyptian shawabty, namely 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 lengths 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.”


From Nubia (Sudan), el-Kurru, Pyramid 6 (tomb of Queen Arty), washed into debris between Chambers A and B. Unregistered. 1919: excavated by the Harvard University–Boston Museum of Fine Arts Expedition; assigned to the MFA in the division of finds by the government of the Sudan.

(Accession Date: September 8, 2006)

Credit Line

Harvard University—Boston Museum of Fine Arts Expedition