Fragment of a sistrum



Accession Number
EC1467a
Current Location
House of Life (first floor), Metalwork case
Object Type
Religious or cult object, Sistrum
Material
Metals/alloys (Copper alloy)
Measurements
Height: 35mm | Width: 38mm | Depth: 16mm
Number of Elements
1
Culture
Egyptian
Animal
Cat

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Description

Fragment from the base of the loop of a bronze sistrum featuring a representation of a feline, intended to face the user. For a more complete example of such a sistrum, see W553, though the feline is found at the apex of the loop on that example. The presence of the feline may have evoked the pacified goddess, calmed by the use of the sistrum, though the later Greek writer Plutarch believed the cat to represent the moon. The Egyptian arched sistrum was later used in the wider Mediterranean world; these usually feature a simpler handle without the bi-frontal face of Hathor seen on most Egyptian examples. One such example features a feline at the top of the loop with a crescent and disk (Metropolitan Museum of Art 19.5, first–second century AD. Another example in the same museum is 89.4.1250, from the first century AD), enforcing the divine connotations of the feline on sistra in the latest epochs of ancient Egyptian history. EC1467a dates earlier than such examples, to the last half of the first millennium BC or into the earliest years of the common era, c. 664 BC–100 AD based on parallels. A very similar example can be found in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, 86.1.78, (see also British Museum EA 38175 [middle sistrum]) and indicates that our fragment would have formed the material transition between the Hathor head and the sistrum loop. Whether the connotations of the feline in this context is similar to that of later examples is, for the moment, difficult to tell.

Bibliography

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.

Other Identity
EC1467 (five objects previously grouped under one number)
Previous Owner
Sir Henry Solomon Wellcome (1853–1936)
Acquisition
Assumed long-term loan, The Wellcome Trust (15 Feb 1971)
Last modified: 10 Mar 2022

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