Female Dancers and Musicians in Funeral Procession

Fragment of a limestone bas relief depicting female dancers and musicians beat tambourines and clapsticks before approaching funeral procession.

“In ancient Egyptian society a woman was accorded legal rights equal to those of a man from the same social class and had the same expectation of a life after death…

Female Dancers and Musicians in Funeral Procession
Female Dancers and Musicians in Funeral Procession

Pharaonic Egypt was not an exclusively male-dominated society in which women were regarded by men merely as breeding machines or beasts of burden. Instead, it was one in which they were allowed to exert a degree of freedom and, in some cases, influence, beyond the confines of the home…

Nevertheless, an Egyptian woman’s main occupations were marriage, running a household and bearing children, and inevitably the occupations of the majority of women affected the status that men accorded them and consequently affected male attitudes towards them.

It seems clear from numerous tomb-paintings and reliefs, especially those dating to the New Kingdom, that ancient Egyptians of the tomb-owning classes enjoyed entertaining large groups of relatives and friends at banquets…

During the banquet, men and women ate in the same room. Judging from the evidence on the walls of New Kingdom tombs, servants ― usually young, lissom girls wearing nothing but a girdle around their hips ― plied them with food and drink, and renewed the wax cones as they melted in the heat…”

Women in Ancient Egypt, by Barbara Watterson

New Kingdom, 19th Dynasty, reign of Ramesses II, around 1250 BC. From Saqqara. Now in the Egyptian Museum, Cairo.