Friday, January 15, 2016

A Middle Kingdom Harp

Fig. 1 - Stela of Iki
     Harps were a common musical instrument in ancient Egypt. There are numerous representations of harper, including the stela shown here. This object, made for a man called IKI and his wife Renesankh, shows a grossly overweight harpist (fig. 2) playing a tune for the couple.

Fig. 2 - harpist from the top register of the stela
Fig. 3 - Middle Kingdom harp
     The stela is of a common type, rectangular in shape, almost as if it is a shrine of some sort.  Iki sits in front of an offering table to the harpist's left. His wife stands behind him and rests one of her hands on his shoulders. The middle and lower rows of the stela show Iki and his family receiving funerary offerings. Hapists are often represented as being blind, but there is no indication of that being the case here. This object is from late Dynasty 12 and is from Abydos. It is now in the Rijksmuseum in Leiden.

     In fig. 3 we see an actual harp that dates to late Dynasty 12 or early Dynasty 13. The sound box at the bottom of the harp would have originally been covered by an animal skin or parchment. The harp had five strings that were played by being plucked.

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