Ancient Egyptian Instruments: The Harmonic Legacy of a Civilization

Music played a crucial role in the ancient Egyptian society, serving various purposes from religious rituals to entertainment at banquets. A variety of musical instruments contributed to the rich soundscape of this civilization, highlighting the Egyptians’ appreciation for melody and rhythm.

Percussion Instruments

Percussion instruments were widely used in ancient Egypt. Hand-held drums, tambourines, castanets, and sistrums (a type of rattle) were prevalent. The sistrum, associated with the goddess Hathor, held religious significance and was often used in rituals and temples. Cymbals were used to accentuate the rhythm, while clappers made from bone or ivory were used in dances.

Stringed Instruments

Stringed instruments held a special place in ancient Egyptian music. Harps were one of the oldest and most popular instruments, depicted in tomb paintings from as far back as the Old Kingdom. Harps varied in size and complexity, with the more grandiose versions often found in royal courts.

The lyre was another popular stringed instrument, believed to have been introduced later during the Middle Kingdom. Lutes were also common, especially during the New Kingdom era.

Wind Instruments

Flutes were a common wind instrument, made from reeds or bones. They came in two types: a direct flute, played by blowing air across the top end, and an end-blown flute, similar to a modern recorder. The double pipe was also popular, allowing musicians to play two notes simultaneously.

Trumpets made of silver or bronze were used in military and religious contexts. The sound of a trumpet was believed to scare off evil spirits and was thus used in religious processions and ceremonies.


The wide array of musical instruments in ancient Egypt reflects the importance of music in this ancient civilization. From percussive rhythms to melodious harps and the soulful tunes of flutes, these instruments provided a harmonic backdrop to various aspects of daily life, be it work, worship, or celebration. The legacy of ancient Egyptian music continues to inspire, and their instruments bear testimony to humanity’s long-standing relationship with the language of sound.

Wikipedia: Ancient Egypt
History Channel: Ancient Egypt
Live Science: Ancient Egypt
Ancient Egypt for Kids
British Museum: Ancient Egypt

Ancient Egypt