Chantress of Amun-Ra, Tentosorkon

Lady of the House; Chantress of Amun-Ra, Tentosorkon, as appearing in her Papyrus (Book of the Dead), discovered in Thebes. c. 945 B.C.

British Museum. EA9919,2

Chantress of Amun-Ra, Tentosorkon
Chantress of Amun-Ra, Tentosorkon

The name means ‘The (female) servant of Osorkon’. Tentosorkon (That of Sorkon), a name of Libyan origin which appeared around the 21st dynasty in the Delta, and was popularised in the 22nd dynasty with the advent of the Osorkon kings.

The women who served as chantresses generally came from the upper class, and even queens belonged to the most important group of chantresses: those who served the god Amun, king of the gods. The chantress accompanied her singing with a sistrum.

People have been claiming there was nothing new left to find in the Valley of the Kings for almost as long as they have been digging there. The Venetian antiquarian Giovanni Belzoni believed he had emptied the last of the valley’s tombs during his 1817 expedition. Theodore Davis, who excavated there a century later, came to a similar conclusion—right before Tutankhamun’s burial was found.

The title “Chantress of Amun” belonged to women of the upper classes, Teeter says. Genealogies show multiple generations of women held the title, with mothers probably teaching the profession to their daughters. “It was a very honorable profession,” says Teeter. As was the case with the priests, temple singers were paid from the income generated by the huge tracts of land that Amun “owned” across Egypt.

Some priests and priestesses served in the temples only a few months out of the year before returning home. There’s little information about what women like them to have done while at home, Teeter says, but it probably wasn’t too different from other women’s traditional duties of the time: running the household, raising children, and supporting their husbands.