Sistrum



Accession Number
AB20
Current Location
House of Life (first floor), Votive offerings case
Object Type
Implements and utensils, Musical intruments, Instrument, Sistrum
Period
Late Period
Dynasty
Twenty-sixth Dynasty
Material
Metals/alloys (Copper alloy)
Provenance
Egypt, Abydos
Measurements
Height: 45mm | Width: 49mm | Depth: 16mm | Weight: 66g
Number of Elements
1
Divine Name
Hathor

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Description

This is probably part of an arched sistrum, preserving the face of the deity commonly found where the handle joins the bases of the arch. It was dated to the Twenty-sixth Dynasty by Margaret Murray. Although heavily corroded, the ears and proper left eye of Hathor can be made out, as well as the remnants of what may have been the horns. The object was sent to John Bancroft Willans, a subscriber of the Egypt Exploration Fund/Society by Margaret Murray in 1903 as part of the distribution of material from Abydos. He later gifted the object to the University of Wales, Aberystwyth, who subsequently gifted it to the Egypt Centre on 24 March 1997. For a more complete example, see W553. The arched sistrum first definitively appeared in representations during the New Kingdom and became more popular than the older naos-style sistrum during the first millennium BCE. By the Roman era, the arched sistrum in particular had come to take on a wide range of symbolic meaning: for Plutarch, the two heads of Hathor symbolised Isis and Nephthys and life and death, while the loop was a symbol of the lunar cycle. The one who carried such an object therefore connected themselves with many key tenets of life itself, and by shaking the sistrum continued the ordered movement of the cosmos.

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: 16 Feb 2021

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