Art/ Collection/ Art Object

Bow harp

Middle Kingdom
Dynasty 12
ca. 2030–1640 B.C.
From Egypt, Upper Egypt, Thebes, Asasif, MMA excavations, 1918–19
Wood, paint
L. 81.4 cm (32 1/16 in); W. 26.4 cm (10 3/8 in.)
Credit Line:
Rogers Fund, 1919
Accession Number:
On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 109
The harp, called benet in ancient Egyptian, was one of the most popular musical instruments throughout pharaonic history. This bow harp, among the oldest to have survived, is characterized by a long, curving neck and a shovel-shaped sound box. Originally covered by parchment or animal skin, the sound box would have resonated when the instrument’s five strings were plucked. Harpers played either alone or in ensembles with singers and other musicians.
Museum excavations, 1918–19. Acquired by the Museum in the division of finds, 1919.

Hayes, William C. 1953. Scepter of Egypt I: A Background for the Study of the Egyptian Antiquities in The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Part I: From the Earliest Times to the End of the Middle Kingdom. New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art, p. 248, fig. 158.

Yamamoto, Kei 2015. "Bow Harp." In Ancient Egypt Transformed: The Middle Kingdom, edited by Adela Oppenheim, Dorothea Arnold, Dieter Arnold, and Kei Yamamoto. New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art, pp. 157–58, no. 92.

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