Shawabty of the Priest of Khnum Pendjerty

New Kingdom, late Dynasty 18–19
1390–1186 B.C.


Height x width: 22.5 x 9.8 cm (8 7/8 x 3 7/8 in.)

Accession Number


Medium or Technique


Not On View


The Ancient World


Shawabties and shawabty boxes

This is a fragment of a shawabty carved of fine-grained, white limestone. It is the top portion of a characteristically mummiform figure wearing an elaborately carved duplex wig. Well modelled arms are crossed opposite, right over left on the chest, shown holding an unusual bag/bundle that is also carved in relief with red painted straps. Bracelets have been incised on the wrists. Remaining facial details appear in black, with red used for a single-stranded pectoral necklace/collar on the upper torso. Four horizontal bands of incised hieroglyphic text are carried on the remaining portion of the upper legs, likely of an original 6-7 lines. There are traces of blue/black fill in the glyphs with dividing lines both incised and painted red. The shawabty is broken off at about mid-leg, with the lower part missing.

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