Sep 12, 2016
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The harpist chants laudation of the Pharaoh before the god Shu

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The harpist chants laudation of the Pharaoh before the god Shu. Tomb of Pharaoh Ramesses III, XX Dynasty, 1185-1070 BC, The Valley of the Kings, Western Thebes. Sketch after James Bruce, Travels to Discover the Source of the Nile, 1813 via Original caption reads:

The harpist chants laudation of the Pharaoh before the god Shu, symbolizing the space between Heaven and Earth, who wears an ostrich feather headdress and holds a scepter Was, symbolizing the power and domination, and the sign of life – The Key Ankh.

  • J. Bruce, Travels to discover the source of the Nile, Ballantyne, 1804.
      author    = {Bruce, James},
      title     = {Travels to discover the source of the Nile},
      year      = {1804},
      date      = {1804},
      note      = {Google-Books-{ID}: 6fsGAAAAQAAJ},
      publisher = {Ballantyne},
      pagetotal = {524},
      url       = {},
      urldate   = {2016-09-23},
      langid    = {english},
      owner     = {trismegisto},
      timestamp = {2016-11-14},

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Original video description says:

It is a 3000-year-old song, sung in a dead language that no one speaks or understands, accompanied on an instrument called the “djedjet” that hasn’t existed in several millennia!

The words for this song are from an ancient Egyptian papyrus scroll, written in a formalized version of the language of the New Kingdom (roughly 1500 B.C.). This was the era of some of Egypt’s most famous pharaohs, including Tutankhamun, Queen Hatshepsut and the notorious “heretic king” Akenaten and his wife Queen Nefertiti.

The song itself is written in several parts as a dialog between a young man and the girl he loves. This is the first part of it sung by the young man. Although he refers to the girl as “sister”, she is not his actual sister. It was common for people in those days, as it is in some places today, to refer to one another as “brother” and “sister” when they belonged to the same community.

The language of ancient Egypt died out long ago, and no one is certain exactly how it was pronounced because only consonants were written – no vowels. The song itself is surprisingly explicit and erotic. After I made the video, I decided I had better add subtitles with a translation because without that nothing made any sense.

The instrument I am using to accompany myself is a reproduction of a 22 string Egyptian New Kingdom arched (‘C’ – shaped) harp called a “djedjet”. It is made entirely of cedar and animal skin, without nails or screws of any kind. It has a rich, deep tone and I placed a microphone at the bottom of the instrument to pick up the sound. There is nothing except harp and voice in this recording.

Ancient Egyptians wrote out many of the words to their songs but they did not write down the music, so we have no idea what their songs or instrumental music sounded like. I have tuned the harp in this video to what is called a “double harmonic major scale”. This does not correspond to any of the “modes” of western musical theory. Did ancient Egyptians use this scale? No one knows, but it is possible. I believe that the ancient harpists tuned their instruments to suit the piece of music they were playing.

Many biblical scholars have suggested that this song was the inspiration for the SONG OF SONGS, or “Song Of Solomon” from the Old Testament of the Bible because the parallels between them are striking. The Song Of Solomon would have been written down long after the period of the Egyptian New Kingdom.

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2000 - 1000 BCE · Egypt · Illustration

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