Art/ Collection/ Art Object

Ostracon Depicting a Queen Holding a Sistrum

New Kingdom, Ramesside
Dynasty 19–20
ca. 1295–1070 B.C.
From Egypt, Upper Egypt, Thebes, Valley of the Kings, Workmen's Huts near KV 55 (site 18) or between KV 18 and KV 21, or from chip heaps in same branch of Valley, Davis/Ayrton excavations, 1907–08
Limestone, paint
H. 27.4 × w. 9.4 × d. 2.5 cm (9 3/4 × 3 11/16 × 1 in.)
Credit Line:
Gift of Theodore M. Davis, 1909
Accession Number:
On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 124
A queen/queen mother, identifiable by the vulture cap with uraeus that she wears, shakes two arc sistra. The fully preserved example has a Hathor emblem below the arc. On the queen's head is a modius of uraei whose bodies are extremely elongated. She wears a fine transparent linen over-garment open at the front revealing her sensual figure. Her overlarge eye and the quick line of her profile give her face a lively air.

New Kingdom queens and princesses played the sistrum in temple ceremonies, and may be found doing so in temple scenes at many sites. This ostracon was left in the Valley of the Kings by the workmen from Deir el Medina who executed the tombs in the Valley, but it is difficult to see its connection to the work in the Valley. The few royal women buried in the valley are not depicted shaking sistra. The workmen worked at many other sites, for instance, the Valley of Queens where queens do shake the sistrum, royal temples on the west bank, or the temple of their own village, so it is possible this piece was a drawing or study for another project.
Excavated in the Valley of the Kings by Theodore M. Davis; acquired by Davis in the division of finds. Donated to the Museum by Davis, 1909.

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