Shawabty of the Lady of the House Nebtawy

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


Height x width x thickness: 21.3 x 7.9 x 5 cm (8 3/8 x 3 1/8 x 1 15/16 in.)

Accession Number


Medium or Technique


Not On View


The Ancient World


Shawabties and shawabty boxes

This sandstone shawabty is a bulky mummiform figure. It wears a tripartie wig with incised lines denoting tresses. Hands are crossed and opposed on the chest, each holding a hoe and a bag. No traces of paint or glaze remain. Six horizontal bands of incised heiroglyphic text (with dividing lines) are applied to the legs, carring a version of the “Shawabty Spell” for the owner.

Translation of the text:
1- “The illuminated one, Orisris, the lady of the house,….
2- ‘O Shawabtys, if I am sent (?)
3- if (I) am counted off to do every task that is to be done (in the necropolis)
4- to (transport) sands from the east (to) the west…
5- (to) irrigate the shores …
6- …….’”

Transliteration of the text:
Line 1: sHD Wsir nb(t) pr …
Line 2: SAwabtyw ir hAb(tw)  (.I)
Line 3: ir ip.t  r irt kAt nbt irrt
Line 4: … Sa n iAbt (r) imntt
Line 5: (r) smHt wDbw iry …
Line 6: …..

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