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Ancient musical instruments on World Music Day
21 June 2021
On World Music Day, 21st of June 2021, the Egyptian Museum in Cairo (EMC) celebrated by displaying 22 ancient musical instruments from its collection at the museum’s entrance. This temporary exhibition has been celebrated since 1982 at the EMC. The day aims to encourage music festivals, competitions and the exchange of all musical expressions and experiences.
Ancient Egyptians had a great love of music, which plays a powerful role in both civil and religious life: rituals, during feasts, festivals, banquets, within temples and daily life. It was a well-organised art form, with its traditions, rules, maestros and mentors. Deities closely associated with music include Hathor, Goddess of Music, who associated with and protected music and musicians in Ancient Egypt. Another notable deity was Bes. Music was an important aspect of ancient Egyptian life since the earliest of times, which is evident in many of the artefacts and scenes that have been found from all periods of Egyptian history. The range of musical objects from ancient Egyptian musical includes percussion, wind, and string instruments.
The exhibition includes the following:
- A wooden model representing a troupe of male and female musicians and singers during a musical performance for their master. This model was discovered in Saqqara and can be dated to the Middle Kingdom (about 2034–1650 BC).
- A small vaulted funerary stela with a picture of a musician named Hur Sawa playing his instrument in front of the deity Ra-Horakhty. It was discovered in Sheikh Abd El-Qurna in Luxor and dates to the 25th Dynasty (about 747–656 BC).
- A group of single and double-bass flutes, from the wind instrument family.
- Two pieces of painted leather used as covers for drums. Drums and tambourines are considered one of the oldest music instruments known in Ancient Egypt. They were discovered in Akhmim in Middle Egypt and date back to the Late Period (about 664–332 BC).
- A group of clappers, cymbals, sistrums and bells. These musical instruments fall under the family of percussion instruments, which emit additional sounds through percussive action or shaking. Often, the instrument is hollow to amplify the sound. This group is made of different materials, such as bronze, wood, ivory and gilded wood. They were discovered in several regions, including Saqqara, Abydos, Luxor, and San el-Hagar and can be dated to the New Kingdom (about 1550–1069 BC) and the Late Period (about 664–332 BC).
- A group of small statues of musicians representing men and women playing the harp, and a statue of a man playing the flute. This group is made of terracotta, faience, and limestone. They were discovered in various places, such as Luxor and Tell el Yehudiya in the Eastern Delta and date to the Middle Kingdom (about 2034–1650 BC), New Kingdom (about 1550–1069 BC) and Late Period (about 664–332 BC).