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Arched wooden harp

British Museum

British Museum

Harps were often shown in banquet scenes, decorating the walls of tombs. The harp is usually depicted on a stand and such scenes sometimes included the lute and double oboe, as well singers and dancers. Analysis of these images has shown that the harp was probably played by plucking two strings at the same time. The pitch and semitone interval between strings made it ideal for accompanying songs. Most of the songs performed at a banquet were dedicated to a deity, usually Amun. He was the most important god at Thebes, and the most important annual feast of the Theban necropolis was celebrated in honour of this deity.

The instruments were usually highly decorated, this example being no exception. The sound box has the head of deity wearing a double crown and striped head-dress at its end. The underside and lower part of the harp's neck are decorated with a floral pattern. The falcon head at the top of the neck is characteristic of this type of harp, which usually had between nine and eleven strings, rather than the five shown in this model.

Instruments of this shape were usually played by male solo artists.

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  • Title: Arched wooden harp
  • Physical Dimensions: Length: 97.20cm (soundbox and neck); Width: 12.50cm (soundbox); Diameter: 9.20cm
  • External Link: British Museum collection online
  • Technique: glazed; painted; inlaid; plastered
  • Subject: ancient egyptian deity
  • Registration number: 1891,0404.162
  • Place: Found/Acquired Tomb of Ani
  • Period/culture: New Kingdom
  • Material: wood; bone; glazed composition; plaster; reed
  • Copyright: Photo: © Trustees of the British Museum
  • Acquisition: Purchased from Murch, Chauncey
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