Ancient egyptian musical instruments – harp, lyre, trumpet, percussion

The importance of music in ancient Egypt

In ancient Egypt, music was much more than a form of entertainment. It was an integral part of religious rituals, celebrations, and even daily life. The ancient Egyptians believed that music could appease the gods, bring about fertility, or usher in a good harvest. Music was also used in medicine, as the Egyptians believed that it had the power to heal. In this article, we will delve deeper into the various instruments that the ancient Egyptians used to create their unique soundscapes.

Stringed instruments

The harp was one of the most important musical instruments in ancient Egypt. Early harps were archaic and lacked a fore-pillar, but as time went on, the design was refined and developed. There were both large and small harps available, used for different occasions. Depictions on tomb walls often show harps being played at banquets, funerals, and other events.

The lyre was another stringed instrument, smaller than the harp and usually made from wood. Musicians would strum the strings with a plectrum to create sound. The lyre was primarily used in religious and funerary contexts.

Wind instruments

Wind instruments were also popular in ancient Egypt. The flute was commonly used in both secular and religious music. The ancient Egyptians made flutes from a variety of materials, including reeds, bone, and copper. They also used double pipes, which were two flutes played simultaneously.

The trumpet was a significant instrument in Egyptian culture, usually played during ceremonial events and in military contexts. It was made from silver, bronze or copper, and was depicted in wall paintings and reliefs, highlighting its importance.

Percussion instruments

Percussion instruments were essential components of ancient Egyptian music. Handheld drums, tambourines, rattles, and bells were all commonly used. These instruments provided rhythm and a steady beat for the music.

The sistrum was a unique percussion instrument of ancient Egypt, usually used in religious ceremonies. It was a handheld instrument with small metal discs attached, which made a jingling sound when shaken. The sistrum was closely associated with the goddess Hathor, the deity of joy and music.


Music was a fundamental part of life in ancient Egypt, used to celebrate, to mourn, and to venerate the gods. The variety of instruments used reflects the diversity and richness of the musical culture. They were not just tools for creating sound, but symbols of the deeply rooted beliefs and values of the ancient Egyptian civilization. Understanding these instruments helps us better appreciate the complexity and sophistication of ancient Egyptian culture.

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

Ancient Egypt