Shawabty of Renes-seneb

Middle Kingdom, Dynasty 12
1991–1783 B.C.

Findspot: Nubia (Sudan), Semna


Height x width x depth: 14.8 x 4.1 x 2.9 cm (5 13/16 x 1 5/8 x 1 1/8 in.)

Accession Number


Medium or Technique

Travertine (Egyptian alabaster)

Not On View


The Ancient World


Shawabties and shawabty boxes

This travertine (Egyptian alabaster) shawabty is characterized by well-modeled facial features and a striated lappet wig. It is a fully mummiform figure with no modeling of arms or hands. A collumn of incised hieroglyphic text records an offering formula (“hetep di nisu”). Scant traces of black may indicate that facial features and the text were originally filled with black pigment. The shawabty’s feet are broken off and restored, and the tip of its nose is chipped off. The inscription reads: “An offering which the King gives (to) the ka of Renes-seneb, born of Iku, True-of-Voice.”

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). As with this example, offering inscriptions could also appear. 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 Semna. April, 1924: excavated by the Harvard University-Museum of Fine Arts Expedition; assigned to the MFA by the government of Sudan in the division of finds. (Accession Date: January 1, 1924)

Credit Line

Harvard University—Boston Museum of Fine Arts Expedition