Shawabty of the Overseer of Works, Taimbebu

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


Height: 26 cm (10 1/4 in.)

Accession Number


Medium or Technique


Not On View


The Ancient World


Shawabties and shawabty boxes

This limestone shawabty depicts a mummiform figure of slightly wide proportions. It wears a tripartite wig and false beard. Hands are crossed and opposed on the chest. The legs are inscribed with hieroglyphic text: one horizontal line atop columns that record a version of the “Shawabty Spell.” Traces of color remain in small patches: blue on the wig, white on the torso and feet, and yellow on the face and hands. The feet were broken off at bottom and mended.

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.


Brought from Egypt by John Lowell.

(Accession Date: January 1, 1878)

Credit Line

Gift of Thomas Bradford