Stick Shawabty

Likely Middle Kingdom, Dynasty 12–13
1991–1640 B.C.

Findspot: Egypt, Naga el-Deir, Na 12 / above 32


Height: 21 cm (8 1/4 in.)

Accession Number


Medium or Technique


Not On View


The Ancient World


Shawabties and shawabty boxes

This is a “stick” shawabty, a type of shawabty characterised by crude carving of a stick/dowel into a highly stylized mummiform figure. Facial details are roughly modelled, with no significant modelling of the body except for blocked in feet. A hieratic inscription is painted in black on three sides. A small fragment has broken away from the feet.

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.


From Naga el-Deir (Na 12 / above 32). 1912: Excavated by the Harvard University-Museum of Fine Arts Expedition; assigned to the MFA by the Government of Egypt in the division of finds. (Accession Date: December 5, 1912).

Credit Line

Harvard University—Boston Museum of Fine Arts Expedition