Sistrum



Accession Number
AB23
Current Location
House of Death (ground floor), Gods case
Object Type
Implements and utensils, Musical intruments, Instrument, Sistrum
Period
Late Period
Material
Faience
Provenance
Egypt, Abydos
Measurements
Height: 48mm | Width: 30mm | Depth: 18mm
Number of Elements
1
Divine Name
Hathor

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Description

A blue faience sistrum fragment with a bi-frontal head of Hathor. She has an uraeus on each side of her head. Above her are the remains of a naos from which a single uraeus, crowned with a sun-disc, emerges. As musical instruments, such faience objects would have been useable, if fragile and quiet, and so this may have been a votive item given to Hathor. The hairstyle and uraei are similar to an example in Friedman et. al. (1998, pp. 215–217), which dates to the Twenty-sixth Dynasty (see also Metropolitan Museum of Art 17.190.1959). Probably from Abydos. The object was gifted to the University of Wales, Aberystwyth by John Bancroft Willans, a subscriber of the Egypt Exploration Fund/Society, who received the object in 1903. The fragment was subsequently gifted to the Egypt Centre in 1997. See also AB20. The face of the cow was originally the fetish of the cow goddess Bat. This motif was adopted and used on sistra, objects particularly connected with Hathor, a goddess associated with music and dancing and who held the epithet ‘mistress of faience’. The sound of the sistrum was said to be like the rustle of the papyrus plants as Hathor walked through it. Carrying and shaking the sistrum became an act of worship towards Hathor in particular, though as time went on it took on wider theological meanings and was used in the worship of other deities, particularly Isis, with whom Hathor came to have an ever-closer association.

Bibliography

Barahona, Agustín 2002. Ancient objects related to music and ancient Egypt in the National Archaeological Museum of Madrid. In Eldamaty, Mamdouh and May Trad (eds), Egyptian museum collections around the world 1, 75–86. Cairo: Supreme Council of Antiquities. Friedman, Florence Dunn, Georgina Borromeo, and Mimi Leveque (eds) 1998. Gifts of the Nile: Ancient Egyptian faience. London; New York: Thames and Hudson. Manniche, Lise 1991. Music and musicians in ancient Egypt. London: British Museum Press. Reynders, Marleen 1998. sšš.t and sḫm: names and types of the Egyptian sistrum. In Clarysse, Willy, Antoon Schoors, and Harco Willems (eds), Egyptian religion: the last thousand years. Studies dedicated to the memory of Jan Quaegebeur: part II, 1013–1026. Leuven: Peeters.

Last modified: 27 Oct 2020

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