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  • Place of origin:

    Egypt (made)
    Serabit el-Khadim (found)

  • Date:

    c. 1550 BC - c. 1077 BC (made)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Glazed composition

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

In ancient Egypt, the sistrum was both a musical instrument and ritual item, used especially in connection with the cults of the goddesses Hathor and Isis. The rattling sound made by the instrument was meant to evoke that of rustling papyrus marshes, recalling the myth whereby the young god Horus, son of Isis, was hidden from his uncle Seth in the marshes of the delta as a child. Sistra were also produced in glazed composition and deposited as votive items in the temples dedicated to these goddesses.

Serabit el-Khadim, in the Sinai peninsula, was an important turquoise mine worked throughout Egyptian history. The miners seem to have come largely from this region rather than the Nile valley; many graffiti were found at the site written in a language now termed ‘Proto-Sinaitic’. In his excavations of 1904-5, Flinders Petrie discovered huge numbers of votive items deposited at the temple of Hathor at the site, mostly dating to the New Kingdom. These were typically small items such as bracelets, plaques, sistra and figurines, usually made of blue-green glazed composition. This turquoise colour was ritually important to Hathor, who amongst many attributes was considered the protective deity of mining regions (one of her many names was ‘Lady of Turquoise’).

Physical description

Fragment from the end of a glazed composition votive sistrum, in the form of the head of the goddess Hathor, decorated as such on both sides. The cream colour of the glaze was once possibly blue-green, now heavily faded.

Place of Origin

Egypt (made)
Serabit el-Khadim (found)


c. 1550 BC - c. 1077 BC (made)

Materials and Techniques

Glazed composition


Height: 6 cm, Length: 3.5 cm, Width: 7 cm

Object history note

Found at Serabit el-Khadim, 1904-5 excavation season.

Descriptive line

Fragment of a votive sistrum, glazed composition, Serabit el-Khadim, Egypt, New Kingdom

Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

Sistra are discussed in W.M.F. Petrie, Researches in Sinai (New York: Dutton and Co., 1906): 146-7, Fig. 151
G. Pinch, Votive Offerings to Hathor (Oxford: Griffith Institute, 1993): 144, Pl. 29 top right


Ceramics Collection

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