Egyptian Stringed Musical Instruments

Written by carolyn gray
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Egyptian Stringed Musical Instruments
Ancient Egyptian temple and tomb walls provide images of ancient Egyptian stringed instruments. (Egyptian temple image by Horticulture from

Egyptian stringed musical instruments date to ancient Egypt. Three types of stringed instruments were played in ancient Egypt. Relief sculptures and paintings on tomb and temple walls depict musicians playing the lute, lyre and harp. Egyptian stringed musical instruments were plucked rather than bowed. Stringed instruments played in the Old Kingdom were more complex than the percussion and wind instruments of ancient Egypt.

Construction and Design

According to "An Introduction to Ancient Egyptian Music" by Jimmy Dunn, many of the stringed instruments in ancient Egypt were made of precious metals and jewels. King Ahmose I of the 18th Dynasty owned a harp constructed of ebony, gold and silver. Dunn describes a harp built for King Tuthmosis III that was made of silver, gold, lapis lazuli, malachite and other precious stones.

Egyptian Stringed Musical Instruments
Egyptian stringed instruments were decorated with precious stones. (precious stones image by Vladislav Gajic from


Lutes are stringed instruments similar to mandolins. According to Dunn's "An Introduction to Ancient Egyptian Music," lutes were made of wood and partly covered with leather. The lute was used in Ancient Egypt around 2000 B.C., according to This instrument originated in the Near East. In Egypt, it primarily was played by women. According to, a lute is a plucked stringed instrument with an oval or pear-shaped body, oblong sound box and long neck. Lutes are plucked with a small, thin piece of metal or bone called a plectrum.

Egyptian Stringed Musical Instruments
Lutes look similar to mandolins. (mandolin new image by Paul Moore from


Egyptians played three types of lyres, according to They are categorised as thin, thick and giant. The thin lyre was called the kinnarum. According to, the lyre was thought of as a lower-class alternative to the harp; lyres were drawn in pictures of tombs of poorer people. The giant lyre had more strings than the thin lyre. According to, the thin lyre arrived in Egypt from Syria around 1900 B.C.

Egyptian Stringed Musical Instruments
The lyre was first played in Egypt around 1900 B.C. (woman with lyre image by timur1970 from


According to, there were two different types of harps in ancient Egypt. The angular harp came from Mesopotamia. The arched harp originated in Egypt and was more popular. It had a curved rod and a collar where the strings were attached. According to, the number of strings on the arched harp could vary from 6 to 10, but all the strings were tuned to the same pitch. The angular harp had as many as 29 strings tuned in a greater tonal range.

Egyptian Stringed Musical Instruments
Two types of harps were played in Ancient Egypt. (statue of a woman playing a harp image by L. Shat from

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