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Musicians from the Theban Tomb of Zjeserkaresonb, 18th Dynasty

The son of Het-Hert and Heru is Ihy, a child-god who personifies musical joy. His conception and birth were celebrated in the "birth houses" of her temples, where there are many beautiful hymns to her inscribed on the walls. Though the priestesses, the hemut-Netjer in her temples, were primarily noblewomen of high social status, and often the wives of the local priests at the temple, women from all walks of life took part in the musical performances during her celebrations. Women in the New Kingdom who functioned as musicians in the temples were known as shemayet.  This word would normally be followed by the name of the deity to whose worship the woman was attached.  Unlike the female Hemut-Netjer of the Old and Middle Kingdoms, these musicians could serve both male and female deities.[1]   Under the direction of the Weret-khener [2], "Great One of the Musical Troupe," an esteemed position held by the woman in charge, performances with the lyre, angular harp, lute, double oboe and round tambourine were combined with singing, dancing, and the rattling of the sistra. Hymns to Het-Hert found at Dendera and in her temple at Philae mention the music, rhythmic dancing, and intoxication of her festivities, all of them ways of experiencing her presence.


Musical and Ritual Instruments



Picture of musicians from James Putnam's Egyptology: An Introduction to the History, Culture, and Art of Ancient Egypt.  From left to right, large boat-shaped harp, lute, dancing girl, double oboe, and lyre.

[1] Robins, Gay, Women in Ancient Egypt, p. 145
[2} op.cit. p. 148

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