Shawabty of Tairbastet
Late Period, Dynasty 26–30
Findspot: Egypt, Giza, debris in pit G 7450 X II
Overall: head 5 cm (1 15/16 in.) Overall: foot 4.5 cm (1 3/4 in.)
Medium or Technique
Not On View
This is a head and foot fragment, the torso is missing, of a shawabty inscribed for Tairbastet, the name of the parent is given as Besirbia (bs-jr-bjA). It dates to the Late Period. The typology of this period consists of a tripartite wig, long beard, back pillar and base, with the figure holding the pick on the right shoulder and hoe and cord to a small seed bag on the left. Here the arms are crossed right over left. There are 3 horizontal lines preserved of incised text encircling the body, ending at the back pillar. The tripartite wig has incised lines denoting tresses and the beard is plaited. The object is in two pieces and is not mended, as they do not join.
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 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.
This shawabti is inscribed with the shabti spell (chapter 6 of the Book of the Dead) in horizontal lines. The full text of the shabti spell reads: “O shabti(s), if N is called to do any work that is done there in the necropolis, then an obstacle will be struck there as a man at his duties. ‘Here he is,’ you will say. You will be counted at any time it may be done there to cultivate a field, to irrigate the shoreland, to ferry sand of the west to the east and vice versa. ‘Here I am (/we are),’ you will say.”
From Giza, debris in pit G 7450 X II. 1927: Excavated by the Harvard University–Boston Museum of Fine Arts Expedition; assigned to the MFA by the government of Egypt.
Harvard University—Boston Museum of Fine Arts Expedition