Shawabty of the Overseer of Works of Amen in Karnak, Benermerut

New Kingdom, Dynasty 18–20
1550–1070 B.C.


Height x width x thickness: 17.1 x 7.9 x 6.3 cm (6 3/4 x 3 1/8 x 2 1/2 in.)

Accession Number


Medium or Technique


Not On View


The Ancient World


Shawabties and shawabty boxes

This large fragment of shawabty of yellow-brown limestone preserves approximatley the upper half of the original, now attached to a base. It depicts a mummiform figure wearing a tripartite wig and false beard. Arms arms crossed at chest, right over left. The break has occurred at the thighs with the lower legs and foot missing. Five horizontal bands of incised hieroglyphic text begin below the arms with a fifth line broken off. The face and hands show traces of deep reddish-brown paint. There are also slight traces of blue fill in some hieroglyphic signs.

Translation of the text:
“Recitation (by) the Overseer of Works, Amen-nakht
‘…that which I desire; He says, O (this) Shawabty
If this royal buttler (?) is counted for
every task that is to be done in the necropolis in …’”

Transliteration of the text:
Line 1: Dd mdw (?) Imy-r kAt Imn-nxt
Line 2: imrt.i Dd.f i Sabty
Line 3: (i)r wbA nsw (?)
Line 4: (kA)t nbt irrt m Xrt-nTr m..
Line 5: [damaged]

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