Pair of ivory clappers

From Thebes, Egypt
18th Dynasty, around 1300 BC

Musical applause

These ivory clappers are made in the form of a pair of hands. The clappers are joined at the end opposite the hands, and were used as a musical instrument. Clappers were often played together with sistra, harps and pipes. The curved shape of the clappers shows that they were made from hippopotamus tusks.

Music was an important part of festivals and banquets, often accompanied by singing and dancing. The noise of clapping, banging and rattling was also thought to drive away hostile forces. Stamping, and dancing were used in the same way to banish dangerous spirits.

The goddess Hathor, whose head appears on both clappers, was often associated with music and entertainment. According to myth, she displayed her feminine charms to banish the bad mood of the sun-god Re. Hathor was also seen as a protective deity. She was often invoked in spells to drive away evil spirits such as those which caused illness. She also protected both mother and child during the dangerous time of childbirth, as did Taweret and Bes.

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More information

Bibliography

G. Pinch, Magic in Ancient Egypt (London, The British Museum Press, 1994)

R.D. Anderson, Catalogue of Egyptian Antiqu-2 (London, The British Museum Press, 1976)

Dimensions

Width: 5.100 cm (right hand)
Length: 32.700 cm (right hand)
Width: 5.100 cm (right hand)
Length: 32.700 cm (right hand)

Museum number

EA 20779;EA 20780;

YCA5135;YCA5136

Location

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