Accession Number
Current Location
House of Life (first floor), Music case
Object Type
Implements and utensils, Musical intruments, Wind instrument | Implements and utensils, Toy, Whistle
Animal products (Ivory) | Metals/alloys (Copper alloy) | Stone/minerals (Lapis lazuli)
Length: 93mm | Length (mouthpiece): 28mm | Diameter: 14mm
Number of Elements

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A tubular implement, possibly a fragment of a musical instrument, made from alternating blue (lapis lazuli) and white (ivory) rings attached to a heavily corroded copper tube with what appears to be string and/or gesso. The object terminates in an ivory or bone ‘mouthpiece’, which would be played at an oblique angle. Ongoing analysis in Cardiff, where W247 is currently undergoing urgent conservation work, indicates that this object was subject to numerous early conservation efforts before it came to the Egypt Centre in 1971. Traces of possibly original bituminous adhesive have also been identified. The exact identity of this object is elusive, and forms part of an ongoing research project, though it probably formed part of an aerophone (any musical instrument that produces sound through the vibration and movement of air) from the Mediterranean world. Most ancient Egyptian pipes were made of reeds, though copper is known to have been used in later periods. It bears some similarity to Nubian auloi. Several of these were excavated in 1921 from Meroe and now residing in the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. A flute of lapis is said to be used in the underworld by Tammuzi in some Akkadian and Babylonian versions of version of The Descent of Ishtar into the Netherworld (Alexander Heidel. The Gilgamesh Epic and Old Testament Parallels, First Phoenix Edition, published by The University of Chicago Press, Chicago, Illinois, 1963, lines 49 and 56). W247 was purchased by Wellcome in 1922 from the collection of the Reverend William MacGregor as part of a miscellaneous lot of faience and pottery. From there it came to the Egypt Centre as part of the dispersal of Wellcome’s collection in 1971.