Stick shawabty

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

Findspot: Egypt, Sheikh Farag, SF 167


Height: 25 cm (9 13/16 in.)

Accession Number


Medium or Technique


Not On View


The Ancient World


Shawabties and shawabty boxes

This “stick” shawabty is very roughly carved from a wooden peg/dowel. Details are extremely minimal, barely representing more than an overall outline of a mummiform figure with indications of very basic anatomical segments: head, body, and feet. This type of shawabty was often provided with its own model coffin of wood or pottery.

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 Sheikh Farag (tomb/grave SF167. 1913: Excavated by the Harvard University–Boston Museum of Fine Arts Expedition. Assigned to the MFA by the Egyptian government in the division of finds. (Accession Date: December 4, 1913)

Credit Line

Harvard University—Boston Museum of Fine Arts Expedition