Stick Shawabty

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

Findspot: Egypt, Sheikh Farag, S.F.65


Height: 23.5 cm (9 1/4 in.)

Accession Number


Medium or Technique


Not On View


The Ancient World


Shawabties and shawabty boxes

This wooden “stick” shawabty is a highly stylised mummiform figure carved very crudely from a peg/dowel. A tripartite wig is likely intended, and facial features are barely recognizable. An outward curve in the upper portion indicates arms, shown as though bundled beneath linen wrappings. Feet are blocked in. Many such shawabtys were originally contained in small model coffins 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 SF 65. 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