Pair of Clappers

Period: New Kingdom, Amarna Period

Dynasty: Dynasty 18

Reign: reign of Akhenaten

Date: ca. 1353–1336 B.C.

Geography: From Egypt, Middle Egypt, Amarna (Akhetaten), King's House at Amarna, Pit south of the pond, Egypt Exploration Society excavations, 1931–2

Medium: Hippopotamus ivory

Dimensions: max. L. 21.5; max. h. as resting 2 ; max w. as resting 3.6 cm (8 7/16 x 13/16 x 1 7/16 in.)

Credit Line: Gift of Mrs. John Hubbard and Egypt Exploration Society, 1932

Accession Number: 32.5.2a, b


Carved from a single hippopotamus tusk sawn in two down the middle, these gently curved white clappers are in the form of a pair of human hands and forearms. Five incised lines around each wrist undoubtedly represent bracelets. A hole in each of the upper forearms allows for a cord to hold the two clappers together.

Specimens of such percussion instruments from prehistoric times onward, ancestors of the modern castenet, differ little from those still used by certain tribal groups. Prehistoric rock drawings of dancing figures and fourth-millennium B.C. images on pottery in Egypt seem to show curved-blade clappers held in one hand. In depictions from the Old Kingdom tomb of Nefer, grapes are trod to the rhythm provided by clappers. Clappers were later used in dances, religious ceremonies, and festivals to keep time and to accompany the music. These beautiful examples, however, were found in a miniature coffin at Amarna and seem to have been part of an offering.