Wooden figure of a woman playing a harp
This wooden painted figure of a woman playing a harp, dates from the Third Intermediate Period, c.1070-664 B.C.
She stands 26cm tall and 6.5cm wide, and currently resides in the British Museum.
Music played a very important part in ancient Egyptian life. From all periods there are scenes in temples and tombs showing musicians playing. Deities were praised in songs and many women of the elite had titles such as ‘chantress of Amun’, demonstrating the importance of music in the cults of the gods.
Music and dance were highly valued in ancient Egyptian culture, but they were more important than is generally thought: they were integral to creation and communion with the gods and, further, were the human response to the gift of life and all the experiences of the human condition.
Ritual temple music was largely a matter of the rattling of the sistrum, accompanied by voice, sometimes with harp and/or percussion. Party/festival scenes show ensembles of instruments (lyres, lutes, double and single reed flutes, clappers, drums) and the presence (or absence) of singers in a variety of situations.
Harper’s Songs are ancient Egyptian texts that originated in tomb inscriptions of the Middle Kingdom (but found on papyrus texts until the Papyrus Harris 500 of the New Kingdom), which in the main praise life after death and were often used in funerary contexts. These songs display varying degrees of hope in an afterlife that range from the skeptical through to the more traditional expressions of confidence. These texts are accompanied by drawings of blind harpists and are therefore thought to have been sung. Thematically they have been compared with The Immortality of Writers in their expression of rational skepticism