Shawabty of the scribe Nebmerutef

New Kingdom, Dynasty 19
1295–1186 B.C.


Height x width x depth: 18.7 x 7 x 3.5 cm (7 3/8 x 2 3/4 x 1 3/8 in.)

Accession Number


Medium or Technique


Not On View


The Ancient World


Shawabties and shawabty boxes

This shawabty is carved of brownish stone, possibly sandstone. The figure is a male with an elaborately detailed duplex hairstyle/wig and pronounced plaited kilt. Its arms are crossed, right over left, and clutching a ba-bird to the chest. The shawabty carries an inscription onthe back and sides in horizontal bands of incised hieroglyphic text recording a version of the “Shawabty Spell.” A central column on the front bottom of the kilt to identifies the name and title (“scribe”) of the owner. The face has broken off and is missing, as is the foot.

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