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Dance in Ancient Egypt

Author(s): Patricia Spencer
Source: Near Eastern Archaeology, Vol. 66, No. 3, Dance in the Ancient World (Sep., 2003), pp.
Published by: The American Schools of Oriental Research
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.127 on Thu.possibleto learnsomethingaboutdanceanddancersin ancient Egypt.Nevertheless.A ncient Egypthas left a rich and variedtextual legacy. - . They have one leg raised and would seem to be clapping their hands as they perform. .'~~ ~ ~ ~ ~. - NEAR EASTERNARCHAEOLOGY 66:3 (2003) This content downloaded from 193. since the ancient Egyptianssaw no need to describe in words something that was so familiarto them. . Other termsthat describespecificdancesor movementsare knownbut unfortunately theseoftenoccursimplyas "labels"to scenesor in contextswheretheysaylittleor nothing of the natureof the dancein question.theirlives and the attitudesof the ancientEgyptianstowardsperformers. however."the most commonbeingib3. Drawing by Richard Parkinson after Marion Cox.oo : . ': '- \ .. depicting dancers performing at a royal ceremony.Fromcasualreferencesin literatureor administrative documentsit is. . There are a numberof termsthat were used for the verb "todance..evidence on dance perse from literarysources is rare.: .227. . The "Scorpion" mace head. 11 Dec 2014 02:23:26 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions 111 .. -: . Three dancers (there may have originally been more) are shown with braided hair. ?N *~.1.These dancers accompany a scene of the king (named "Scorpion") ritually breaking soil and were therefore performing in a ceremonial context..

? _ tp Dancers performingat the Festival of Opet. during which the state god.Reproduced courtesyof the Trustees of The BritishMuseum.r ~~ ~~ ~ r ~ ~ ~ j A~~~~~~ . probablya god of Africanorigin.127 on Thu. at parties or in the context of weddings or street festivals.227. if not impossible.traveled in his barque from his home at Karnakto Luxor temple. 11 Dec 2014 02:23:26 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions The god Bes dancingand playinga tambourine. In the popularculture. Virtually all representations of dancers from ancient Egypt are two dimensional.1. Amun-Re. Bes.was usuallyshownas a lionheaded dwarfand was associated particularly withthe warding-offof evil spiritsand thus with the protectionof the motherand childduring childbirth. essentially. that any accurate representation of movement was difficult. static. but is especially so for ancient Egypt where the conventions for depicting the human form were so stylized and. of course. dance was somethingpeople took for granted and rarelydescribed. There are many obstacles to attempting to understand the purpose of dance and the contexts in which it took place in ancient Egypt and especially in attempting to reconstruct any of the movements involved. It was only when European travelers started to visit Egypt and the Near East and to record the dance that they saw performed in private salons.~ & 4 . They come from the walls of temples or 112 NEAREASTERNARCHAEOLOGY 66:3 (2003) This content downloaded from 193. that Egyptian or other "oriental" dances were described in any detail. not unique to Egypt in antiquity-references to dance in Egypt from the Byzantine period to the eighteenth century CE are scarce but this does not mean that dance had ceased to exist. Photo courtesy of the author.The Egyptians believedthat his dancing and musicwoulddrive awayevil spiritsand offer protectionto his charges.This is. . The same is true of any historical period for which one has to rely on textual and decorative evidence.

Ac U t Scenefromthe tomb of Intefat DraAbu'lNaga. University I.AfterPetrie(1909: frontispiece).227.dancingin pairswitha wide range of movements.Twogirls are shown dancingaccompaniedby a group of female musicians.r I ? (I/ Ia IIii I I I 1 .m 1 and skill to try and show three-dimensional movement with any degree of accuracy. 66:3 (2003) NEAREASTERNARCHAEOLOGY This content downloaded from 193. its natureand context. tombsor fromdepictionson ostracaand papyrus.1.The two dancers are depicted with much more freedom than was possible for earlierartistsand their bodies are almost entwined as they dance and snap their fingersto the beat of the music. Reproduced courtesyof the PetrieMuseumof Egyptian Archaeology ColleqeLondon.There is also the additional problem that the dance scenes that have been preserved from ancient Egyptwere not intended to informviewersabout dance. 11 Dec 2014 02:23:26 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions 113 .Reproducedcourtesyof the Trusteesof The BritishMuseum. and they were governed by the artistic conventions of ancient Egypt. but were carvedor painted on the walls of tombs or temples for purposes that are not always obvious or even Banquetscene fromthe tomb of Nebamun.This tomb scene showswomenwearingcalf-lengthdresses.127 on Thu. Il ^ I'" ^ 'Iii~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~11 .some moreelegantlydepictedthan others. braceletsandanklets.andwithwhitefilletstied around theirlongflowinghair. which required that the human form be depicted in accordance with a strict canon that left little room for flexibility or for the artist to use his imagination l It '^I I II IH 4 I I.

11 Dec 2014 02:23:26 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions .it is possibleto surveywhat is known of dance in ancient Egypt. while it is deservedly regarded as having been a very "conservative" Acrobaticdancers in the tomb of Kagemniat Saqqara. hopefully.)Throw-sticks were used by the Egyptiansin hunting. even if a full understanding of its nature and its context must remain tantalisinglyunattainable. to facilitiate entry to the next world or to show activities that. impossible physically a - during that time.The young women are shown standing on one culture.227. however.(Thesistrum is a musicalinstrumentwithsmallmetaldisksthreadedhorizontally to forma kindof rattle. 114 NEAREASTERNARCHAEOLOGY 66:3 (2003) This content downloaded from 193. a deceased AfterJunker(1951: Abb. bringdown birds.Threeof the dancersholda throw-stickintheir left handswhileshakingsistra.andtheiroccurrencein dance scenes mayindicateoriginsin a ritual"hunting-dance. to demonstrate devotion to a cult.44). Reproducedcourtesyof the EgyptExplorationSociety. Most of the scenes were never intended to be seen by more than a handful of cult devotees.127 on Thu." intelligible to modern eyes-for example. whether of a god or . would occur in perpetuity once the deceased had attained his eternal goal.It should also be borne in mind that the ancient Egyptiancivilizationlasted j for over three thousand years and.1. _* IfoWith these privisos in mind. there must have been (withthe otherleg andboththeirarmsraised)to anextentthatwouldbe leg andleaningbackwards changes and developmentsin dance in real life.A funeraldance scene fromthe tomb of Niunetjerat Giza.

thoughsomeworetheirhairlongandtiedbackwith a disk at the end of the "pony-tail" to weighit down and makethe hair's movement more dramatic. may simply reflect Egyptian artistic conventions) and their dance would appearto have been very stylized with a limited number of movements. of course. 11 Dec 2014 02:23:26 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions 115 ...1. Many of the movements depicted are "acrobatic"in nature..In these Old in a '^ss. Similar scenes.127 on Thu. as in the scene from the tomb of Kagemni. though the details vary.The entire groupmay be an attempt to represent(in so far as it was possible for the Egyptian artist within the prevailing conventions) seven women dancing around the dwarfin their midst (Anderson1995: 2563).In this period."The female dominance of the hnr seems to have ended towards the close of the Old Kingdom when male startto be depictedand maleofficialsarenamed(Nord performers 1981: 29-38)..... n It. 1795-1550 BCE)at Dra Abu'l Naga on the west bank at Luxorbut is now preservedin the Ashmolean Museum.The costumeof the dancers in this tomb is typical of the period.. One Fifth Dynasty lady. =~'C7" I. The dancers are often shown in rows (though this." . with women labeledin tomb sceneswith titlessuch as "overseerof the hnr"or "inspectorof the hnr"showinga high degree of organizationand professionalism within the group.these entertainersseem to have been groupsof..I ' Fei L 1 (5^= 0~ . Occasionallytheyaredepictedas if naked. The "Scorpion"mace head showing an Upper Egyptian king of the period just before unification providesan earlyrepresentationof dancersin accordancewith dynastic Egyptianartistic conventions. The three dancersare led by a fourth who carries a sistrumbut no throw-stick.::: ..Neferesres.1 . probably to free their legs for the dance. are found in many Old Kingdom tombs. .Initiallyall the membersof the hnrseem to have been female.but thesearealways twomenor twowomen-men andwomenneverdancetogether.= I. who also plays a sistrum../ )/ f r`??K \ -lr The earliest depictions of dance in Egyptare found in rockart and on predynasticvessels and are describedin Garfinkel's contribution to this issue._Norman 4 (I / .Here the dancersare accompanied by women clapping (and probablysinging) as in so manyother funerarypaintingsof dancers. with short skirts and crossed bands across their chests... The relaxation of rigid state control that always occured during an "Intermediate period" (when centralizedgovernment broke down in Egypt)has allowed the NEAR EASTERNARCHAEOLOGY 66:3 (2003) This content downloaded from 193. The scene originally came from the tomb of Intef (Second Intermediateperiod...funeraryestatesand importanttombsor cemeteries. Dances Funerary the next seriesof dance depictionscomesfrom Chronologically.however.^?e olrelp.. Dancersdepicted in the tomb of Antefikerat Thebes. .. One of the most uninhibited depictions of dance to have survivedfrom ancient Egyptfeaturespair-dancers(see a time when most womenweredepictedwith long ankle-lengthdresses.. Oxford..usuallyalso wore short skirts..orwithjusta beltaround their hips. Male dancershave short hair and often so do female dancers. . 23.and are followedby a female On the mace head the dancersare shown takingpartin a royalceremonyand the vast majorityof depictionsof dancersfrom ancient Egyptalso come from ceremonialreligiousor funeraryscenes.ia.. Another three dancers face in the oppositedirectionand have neither throw-sticksnor sistra. scene fromthe well-preserved tomb of Niunetjer at Giza.There are tomb scenes which show couplesdancingtogether. had the titles"overseerof the hnrof the king"and "overseerof the dances of the king. Usually the dancersdepicted in these scenes are female. male dancerswearwhat mightbe regardedas "everyday" clothes with a short kilt.professionalmusiciansand dancerswho wereattachedto temples. 23a).227. After de GarisDavies (7920: pls.. Femaledancers.thoughtherearealsomen and occasionallya dwarf. Egypt became a unified kingdom about 3100 BCEand the political and military stability that followed unification led to the flourishing of the distinctive pharaonic civilization and the establishment of the artistic conventions to which all representations of dance in ancient Egypthad to conform. presumably.4-. 113). tomb-scenesof the Old Kingdomwhere dancersand singersare shownperformingduringthe funeralprocessionor at the entrance to the tomb. The dancers are described collectivelyas ib3wtand they are accompanied by a kneeling group of three female singers (hswt) who are marking the beat by clapping.The collective name for such a groupduringthe Old and Middle Kingdomswas the hnr and they would performat importantfestivalsas well as funerals.

The Apis and Mnevis bulls were accorded royal and divine honors during their lives and were given elaborate burials in special cemeteries on their deaths. describes himself on his sacrophagus (Egyptian Museum. Thisassociation the mourners to'bid farewell to the deceased and also playing his passinginto the next world. 22). Temple frequently An early textual reference to a "divine"dance in dynastic andtheywereinvolved intemple dances. I am the dwarfwho dancedin Kemon the dayof the burialof wereoftendescribed withmusicanddanceanddancers the Apis-Osiris. Meir and Deir el-Gebrawi.127 on Thu. lines 194-195) There were also dancers who would seem to have been permanentlyattached to the headquartersof the embalmers. seems to have been god. These headdresses were made of woven papyrusstalks and recalleddwellers in the marshyNile Delta where the cites of Sais. One interestingscene in the TwelfthDynastytomb of Antefiker and his wife Senet at Thebes shows three women clappingwhile two groupsof dancersmove towardseach other.i .---ffJ- r-l ( -- 1i::u = i~~~~~Zi I 6/ . Both groups. and singersgoingbeforeyou.associated forexample. the tombs at Beni Hasan. Egyptcomes from the well-known letter written by the six-year old king Pepi II (ca. as havingbeenperforming in herhonor. who frequent the emblamingrooms"among those to be summoned for a royalfuneral(Spiegelberg.withhersonIhy.Sometimes see alsoDasen1993:150-55andpl. Cairo CG 29307) thus: Certaingodsand goddesseswereparticularly withdanceinancientEgypt. whether for a Another collars)thatweresacredtoHathor..227.each made up of two dancers. Their funerals must have rivaled those of members of the royal family and would have been processionalin nature with dancers employed along the route. a sacred bull or a private individual.A demotic story of the Ptolemaic period lists "dancers. associated Hathor./ r // artist of this scene the freedom to depict the dancers' evident enjoymentof their performance.The danceof the Muuwillbe performed at the entranceto yourtomband the offeringlist shallbe recited foryou.. 2087 BCE)to his official Harkhufwho had 116 NEAR EASTERNARCHAEOLOGY 66:3 (2003) This content downloaded from 193. was. Pe and Dep were located.1. celebrated in the dwarves account of Egyptian for popularity may dancescenes. andwhodancedin Shenqebehon the dayof the eternalfestivalof the Osiris-Mnevis.quoted by Lexova 1935: 67-68). unlike the clapping women who wear long shifts.with oxen pullingyou. 26. (Spiegelberg1929:76-83.. were Dances at thefunerals showndancing ofindividuals.wasoftenshowndancingand very important to the ancient Egyptians.(Sinuhe.The dancersapproachingfrom the righthave short hair while the paircoming towardsthem fromthe left both have long pony-tailswith the weighteddisk at the end. AfterNorman de GarisDavies (1920: pl. 2). with a gold coffin.The dancers helped withBes musical instruments. Dancers also played a major role in the funerary rituals of the most importantof the sacred bulls of Egypt. with their distinctive headresses. in front of the clappingwomen. The dwarf Djeho. also often included movements that would seem to our eyes to be more "acrobatic"than representativeof "dance"but we should not assume that the ancient Egyptians made the same distinction between "dancers"and "acrobats" that we do. who lived during the Thirtieth Dynasty.heaven aboveyou. 11 Dec 2014 02:23:26 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions .a maskof lapislazuli.j wearing distinctive headdresses. instruments dancers areshowncarrying musical (sistra or menatandclappers) orobjects(suchas mirrors The presence of ritual dancers at a funeral.. They were \ \ \\ iY \\~ often (though not always) shown \'~X J N.thepopularBes. which is attested in scenes from the Old Dancesof the Gods \ /_ Kingdom to the end of the New X Kingdom(ca. )_) J which make them instantly recognizable. they are simplydressedin short kilts and floral collars. The storyof the TwelfthDynastyofficialSinuhe offersa good descriptionof an Egyptianfuneralinvolvingthe Muu dancers: A funeralprocessionwillbe madeforyouon the dayof burial. you beingplacedin the portableshrine. In the MiddleKingdom(ca.f "\ n Muudancers. Egyptian king. for we have seen. as shown in the tomb of Antefikerat Thebes. 2135-1985 BCE) funerarydances. f p2. Dwarves. Perhapsthe most importantof the funerarydances was that of the Muu dancers. are female but. 1069 BCE). as depicted in.

Usually placed in a sacred barque and carriedon the shoulders of the priests.." Harkhuf's success in acquiring the "dwarf" earned him a personal letter of thanks from the excited young king which Harkhufproudlyhad carved on his tomb walls: Youhave said in this letter of yoursthat you have broughta dwarffor the dances of the god .there is sufficientevidence to show that dance was not confinedto ritualcontexts and playeda veryreal.These dancers were paid to performat religious feastivals to mark the end of the old addition to Egyptians. Scenes of both this case possiblya pygmy. Pe and Dep. including dancers and acrobats.which often took the formof processions.the Muuperformed when the funeralprocession reachedthe tomb. temples. Most Egyptiantemples seem to have had dancers and musicians on their staff. The Muudancers originallyrepresentedthe ancestors of the deceased who greeted the funeralcortege after it had made a sacred pilgrimageto the ancient Delta cities of Sais. Dancing on such occasions.might well have been less inhibited than it normallywas inside the peacefulsanctityof the temple.. bring this dwarfwith you . musicians and singers performedwithin an Egyptiantemple would.The procession as in accompanyingthe sacredbarqueincludeddancers/acrobats the importantfestivals at Thebes (modern Luxor) in the New Kingdom (ca. but presumablythey took place in a religiouscontext. somewhat sedate in nature. 1550-1069 BCE).127 on Thu. presumably.. Ancient Egypt had no theatricaltradition.for the "dances of the gods. alive prosperousand healthyforthe dancesof the god. the full and new moon and the feasts of specific gods (Griffith1898: 59-62). then the entertainers. The entertainers would have been called upon to praisethe god or goddess at particularfestivalsthroughoutthe year and their performances would have been witnessed by only a small select group of priests and temple officials. probably within a temple precinct. From this we learn that the temple employed Asiatic and Nubian performers. in the open air. orbe takento visitothergodsin neighboringtowns.and important. Whetherthe deceased had actuallybeen taken on the pilgrimageor was just regarded as havingdone so magically. come north to the palace immediately . Dancein Everyday Life Although most of the depictions of dance which have survived from ancient Egypt relate to funerary or religious distractthe heartandgladden the heartof the Kingof Upperand LowerEgypt. depicted in tombs and the procession. when the divine image was taken out of the temple at the time of more public feasts. led an expedition into what is now Sudan to bringback to the court at Memphisa dwarf. A papyrusfrom the TwelfthDynasty temple of Senwosret II at Lahun describesin tabular form the occasions on which dances were performed with the name and nationalities of the singers and dancers/acrobats concerned.. 11 Dec 2014 02:23:26 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions 117 .1..the divineimagewouldprocessaroundthe god'slocalarea.have been very formal and.Muudancers performingat the Delta shrines. MyMajesty wishes to see this dwarfmore than the produceof the mining regionorof Punt. the New Year.with the possibleexception of mythological NEAREASTERNARCHAEOLOGY 66:3 (2003) This content downloaded from 193.227.the coming of the annual inundation.HoweverordinaryEgyptianswereableto watchdancesfor the gods on the occasionof publicreligiousfestivals. However. Most of the ritualsof Egyptianstate religiontook place within the temple itself.showdancers/acrobats accompanying The occasions on which dancers. so the temple singers and dancers would have performedonly forthe eyes of the priestsand the godswhom they served. one imagines. role in the life of ordinary Egyptians. In addition to the "Festivalof Opet" there was the "Festivalof the Valley"when Amun-Re's imagecrossedthe riverNile to visit the royalmortuarytemplesof the west bank.It was standardpracticeat Egyptian cult templesforthe divineimageto be broughtout of its shrineand carriedout of the templeat the time of importantfeasts.. We don't know exactly what the "dancesof the gods"were. XCII).who performedas part of the god's procession would have been seen by the large crowds who gathered to watch what must have been one of the most impressive occasions in the local calendar. AfterNormande GarisDavies (1943: pl. to which only the priests and the king were allowed entry..Scene from the tomb of Rekhmireat Thebes.

and can attempt to reconstruct the situations in which dance occurred and the natureof the dance itself. however. The impression is certainly given that these are professional performers.1. dressed for their part. the difference in skin tones being accurately depicted.playsperformedat religiousfeasts.The Egyptiansseem not to have had any form of musical notation so we cannot know what ancient Egyptianmusic sounded like. would have increased the range of music available and may in turn have influenced the movementsof dancers. 11 Dec 2014 02:23:26 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions who seems totally absorbed by her is naked performance._ with other Egyptian A.t \.127 on Thu. though sometimes with what would seem to be a diaphonous robe on top-their bodies are clearly visible through the transparentcloth.Thelittle *t -odancer.Entertainmenton festiveoccasionswouldhave been to a large extent "homemade"and provided either by membersof the celebrant'sfamilyor by hiringprofessionalperformers. anklets and long dangling earrings. of course have been on the same level as the dancers-Egyptian artistic convention could not show them all in one register. often with just a scarf or band around their hips... or a wig. apartfrom herjewelry and floralcollar. Its absence from later tomb decoration is a reflection of the different nature of funerarydecoration after the New Kingdom. who would. now in the BritishMuseum. but percussiveinstrumentscertainlyplayeda majorrole. the Egyptiansalso showed dance as it occured in secularsituations. as this would have obscured parts of or whole figures. and jewelry./ dancers or musicians. . Dancersin tomb scenes at privatebanquetsare often shown with accompanying musicians clapping hands or playing instruments.In the register above the dancersand musiciansis their audience. Their eyes are always heavily outlined with kohl.The introductionin the New Kingdom of a greater variety of stringed instruments. . which the Egyptians liked to have melt over their heads duringentertainment. Both dancersshown are virtuallynaked wearingonly a narrow belt around their hips.+ilii S \ 118 NEAREASTERNARCHAEOLOGY 66:3 (2003) This content downloaded from 193.227. r . The most elaborate of these scenes is that from the tomb of Nebamun at Thebes. Dancers are also usuallybejeweled. Their hair. dance which may have seemed more exotic to Egyptian r Musiciansand a Nubian dancer as shown in the tombof Djeserkaresoneb. essentially at private entertainments. and it is from these depictions. such as the lute and the lyre.were replacedby more religiousthemes. though men can be found playingto accompanyfemale dancers. bracelets. with heavy floral collars. It must. Dancers in these New Kingdom tomb scenes are usually women and the musicians are also often women. less rigid in style and convention than those in formalreligiousor funerary scenes. when the "dailylife" scenes that previously had been regarded as essential. In the earlier periods. most dancers were accompanied only by percussiveinstrumentsor by clapping.and any publicentertainment as such must have been limited in scope at a time when most people probably rarely strayed far from their home town or village. These Nubians probably performed a different. is usually long and loose and the dancer's head could be topped by the cone of scented beeswax. Although in earlier periods dancers were usually shown wearing skirts or dresses. Courtesyof the Egypt ExplorationSociety. perhapsmore African. particularly in the New Kingdom. by the New Kingdom they are more scantilly dressed. any more than we can reconstructdance movementswith any degreeof accuracy.alwaysbe borne in mind that even these "domestic" scenes served a funerary purposesince most of them arefound on the decoratedwallsof tombs and depict an idealisedview of the next world-a world in which good living and entertainmentwas to be anticipated. Dance in a domestic context is shown in scenes from the Old Kingdom to the end of the New Kingdom.. Nubians (from the very south of Egypt or from what is now northernSudan) were (_ often shown dancing > 5 . that we can learn most of the context of dance in the lives of ordinarypeople in ancient Egypt. In additionto scenes of funeraryand temple cult dances.

professionalperformers.probably and dancers.. would have In however lead to been out of doors could Performing problems. eight-year professional dancers. beinterpretedas a scene of with little "patterns" dancersand musiciansin themidstof a party. they did assist at tomb of Djeserkaresoneb is the birth of the triplets who would become the first three more skillfully executed than the original.127 on Thu.-Il*-IJ .. at the end of the Amarna Period. like everyone else in the country.o.1. itinerant of Huy (reign of Tutankhamun) where a group of women is shown dancing to welcome Huy home fromhis travels.. of of prominent upl in which themselves as a as with the celebratec is cene from the tomb of disguised way Egyptian artists often worked from group of traveling musicians Nebamun (page 113).but they in the the nearby tomb of nearby tomb were seated and grouped sep .. Dancers would also have performedout of doors (as indeed kings of the Fifth Dynasty and were rewarded by the in modern where there was more do grateful father with a bag of grain. Si*\t d rr c rr rr rr rrr rr rr IIII1LI.^ . artistic conventions were more relaxed and the artist took advantage of this to try and give more of an impression of the movements of the dancers. performers. Scene in the tomb of Huy at Thebes. cot married 1923: pl.. a\ h r~ the accompanying texts as ... space. tragedy roof-tops.227.\/e-:_.t. payments to the narrowstreets of an Egyptianvillage.." Even by the Graeco-Roman period. 182 CE). They carried with them clappers and freedom of choice as to 7 th dby bys ree sides the dierssistra. less-rigid Since there was no currency in ancient Egypt. ++>>acceptable. which they asked to be they frequently Egypt) A is shown in the Theban tomb outdoor scene kept safely for them until they returned from their travels. course. village Senepta. i n (one register while their female Egyptian musicians. after money had been introduced into Egypt. NEAR EASTERN ARCHAEOLOGY 66:3 (2003) This content downloaded from . After Nina de Garis Davies (1926: p.. in ancient Egypt? Today. At this time.. are these S unlikely to be /ll\ \ A-.i that r^-? performersin ancient tombare sometimes identified in 1~\ dt Xscenes Ir5. spectators (again as dancers were still made partly in kind..with the exception Dynasty describeshow some Amenhotep-Siese (Davies This es. illustrating the goddesses and a god should. fell to his death (p xy 475.Yi la c :~-% are not related and may stay away ?^: .fn en and women.-s""I. subject in did not the the actually perform in Interestingly copy the story. out from a when an old slave leaning Oxyrhynchus. matter and Although the group style. The fact /S J 1 . can be seen today) would have crowded into any vantage from of stories or Can we say anything of the social status of professional often the windows watching upper point.. XV). often in the r /L?CIC?I'I?C I*?l----IC*?IICC . paid "in kind. accordingto Egyptian with a of dancing group are known to have existed artistic conventions. though they may be admired for their roof to watch the "castanetdancers"who were performingat a skills. which society frowns. of men to whom they . .arately. They travel around.A story audience was shoun in c)th erregisters. in ancient Egypt. V).I ?from home at night-behavior on .They are : relations of the deceased dancing for him in private in both his i Ix?c`??r $C i C ^ Aii\\\j '/ |V \ |DI \ i | 3ii> -*ii \ \ \ Dancers welcoming Huy home. A famous scene (now nearbyhouse. near This led to a at the of entertainers. Itinerant performers are Scenes 1CIersinTomb The Depiction of Darnci destroyed)fromthe tombof Djeserkaresoneb at Thebes shows a small Nubian girl found in manycultures and Dancers were often delpict ted. are not accorded high status in Egyptianvillage society.eyes.The audience about the divine births of The scene was a copy of one the kings of the Fifth could be made up both o.7 of the tomb-owner's I< AS {fmembers family might suggest that to be a musician or a dancer was socially (it ' but in such cases. including dancers. 11 Dec 2014 02:23:26 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions 119 .

even today.1. a flat surface. for someone to mark the beat and people will start dancing. A papyrus found at the Graeco-Roman city of Arsinoe describes how a "castanet dancer" A similarpapyrus.She makes an important point that must always be borne in mind when trying to assess Egyptian dancing scenes in that the draughtsmen must often have selected for portrayalthose movements and steps that were the simplest to draw or the most easily represented in accordance with the conventions of Egyptian art. 11 Dec 2014 02:23:26 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . Templeperformers-dancers. with or without engaging professionalentertainers. Can we make any attempt to interpret the movements and steps of ancient Egyptian dance. and if so. is a very "conservative" country and many similaritieswith ancient activities can still be seen in Egypt.Only a drum is needed or. HasAncientEgyptian DanceSurvived Times? intoModern Egypt.writtensomethirtyyearsearlieralso (krotalistria) named Isidora was engaged by a theengagement describes (thistimecalled of entertainers woman called Artemisia to performin her village.however. Anyone who has seen Egyptiansdancingfor sheer pleasureat village weddings or at street festivals will know that. as noted above. was certainly important as a means of celebration in ancient Egypt as it is in modern Egypt.(Westerman The best evidence for the lifestyle of professional dancerscomesfrom late in ancientEgyptianhistory. except by family membersbringing offerings to the tomb chapel. We must also remember that these tomb scenes were not intended ever to be seen. interestinglyfor the same rate of pay (36 ToIsidora. musiciansand singers-would have been accordedhigh status in line with their dedicationto the service of the gods but it is possible that professional performersmight not have been so highly regardedin ancient Egyptiansociety. is stillthere for all to see. the Egyptianjoy of the dance. if no instrument is available.and thatwe willfurnishyou withtwo donkeyswhenyou comedownto us and a likenumberwhen 1924: 134-44) yougo backto thecity.It shouldbenoted. withthedailyaveragerate(lessthan3 dancer-total two-undertaketoperformat thefestivalat my generous compared that laborers receivedat thetime.andon condition orgoldornaments arebrought down. the daughter of a Czech Egyptologist. Photo by PennyWilson. and we to furnishyou in addition4 parttime anduncertain natureof theiremployment. orchestriai) from Arsinoe to performin the city of togetherwith anotherdancer: Bacchias. Dancing.127 on (two) to receiveas pay 36 rateof payfor dancersandsingersprobably reflectedthe drachmasfor each day.I requestthatyou. earthly and his eternal home and they should not be equated with public performers.fromArtemisiaof thevillageof drachmasa day) as thatofferedto Isidoraa generation thatthisdailyrateseems Philadelphia. can they be compared with those that can be seen today? In 1935 Irena Lexova.The higher houseforsixdaysbeginning withthe24thof themonthof Payni drachmas) accordingto theold calendar. just as modern Egyptian women will dance in the privacy of their own homes for their family but would never performfor strangersin public. whichfirst developed over five thousand years ago. NEAREASTERNARCHAEOLOGY 66:3 (2003) This content downloaded from 193.castanetdancer.we furtherthat. even if the musicis differentand the movements have changed. attempted this exercise and her interesting little book on the subject has recently been reprinted.ProfessionalDancersof AncientEgypt artabasof barleyand24 pairsof breadloaves.ifgarments willguardthesesafely. assistedby anothercastanet later. As in the case of the Theban tombs of Amenhotep Si- 120 A professionaldancer with the bride'sfather at a village wedding in the Nile Delta in 1993.

de GarisDavies.W. 1981 The Termhnr:"Harem"or "MusicalPerformers"? Pp. Sasson.Egypthas been subject to a great deal of outside influence and modern raqs sharqihas developed over several centuries. as shown by the many depictions in antiquity of dancers with scarves or belts around their hips. 1995 Music and Dance in Pharaonic Egypt. References Anderson. Westerman. Could anything have survived in Egypt today of the dance depicted on the walls of ancient temples and tombs? This is really impossible to say. 1924 The Castanet Dancers of Arsinoe. TheJournalof Egyptian 10: 134-44. Spencerbecameinterestedin Egyptiandance (both ancient and modern) and she participates regularly in amateurRaqs Sharqiperformances in theLondonarea.Zeitschrift furAltdgyptischen Sprache64: 76-83. Tell Belim and (currently) at Tell elBalamun. London:EgyptExplorationSociety. 1929 Das Grabeines GroBenunde seines Zwergesaus der Zeit des Nektanebes. it reflects the merging of the ancient traditions with those of the Arab world. IV. and dismissed any similarity between the dances she had reconstructed from ancient depictions and what she described as the 'angular movements in bending of limbs.Viceroyof Nubiain theReignof Tutankhamun (No. London:EgyptExplorationSociety. Griffith. or one foot resting on its toes as if the dancer was about to move. Junker. Certainly in its most obvious and commercial form.127 on Thu.M.V 1993 Dwarfsin AncientEgyptandGreece.E LI. is one of the essential similarities between ancient and modern Egyptian dancing. S.theAegeanandtheSudan:Essaysin Honorof DowsDunham. The intention of the artist would. F 1909 Qumeh. governed by his formal conventions and rigid grids.W. Vienna:RudolfM. she has been a member of the BritishMuseum'sexcavationteam Patricia Spencer in Egypt. and throughout the near east. Prague: Oriental Institute. 1951 GizaX. 1923 TheTombsof TwoOfficialsof Tuthmosis theFourth(Nos. Even the Egyptian artist. for example. Ancient Egyptian art was possibly the least effective medium for showing the spontaneity of dance and the enjoyment of its participants.edited by W. 29-38 in Studiesin AncientEgypt. though some of the ancient dancers have similarities to performers of "modern" Egyptian or oriental dancing (raqssharqi). Dance just for the pleasure of it was hardly ever depicted. 1898 HieraticPapyri fromKahunandGurob. Since 1982. Since the time of the pharaohs.edited by Jack M. It was while attendingvillage weddingsin Egypt that Dr. London:EgyptExploratioinSociety.D. usually known as "belly-dancing.New York:DoverPublications2000). However the relationship between the hieroglyphic script and accompanying scenes must always be borne in mind. 11 Dec 2014 02:23:26 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions 121 . this love of dancing does sometimes show through. Simpsonand E.Norman 1920 TheTombof Antefoker I andof HisWifeSenet Vizierof Sesostris (No. have been to show a figure that was recognizably "dancing" rather than to depict accurately specific movements as made by genuine performers. Thus dancers were shown in distinctive "dancing"poses. Pp. NEAREASTERNARCHAEOLOGY 66:3 (2003) This content downloaded from 193. Archaeology a^^^^^ Patricia Spencer is Secretary General of the London-based Egypt Exploration Society and Editor of the Society's magazine EgyptianArchaeology. Lexova.R. 1935 Ancient Egyptian Dances.L.H. but ancient Egypt would have been a strange and unusual country if dancing for pleasure had not existed and despite the conventions of Egyptian art.New York:Scribner's. Figures in Egyptian wall scenes often served as a kind of pictographic determinative to the accompanying text. witnessing to jerky movements" and "those tasteless movements and postures" of dance as practiced in Egypt in the twentieth century. Spiegelberg. In recent centuries dance in Egypt. The actual steps and movements of ancient dance in Egypt might have been quite different from those depicted in tomb or temple scenes.Boston:Museumof FineArts.227. She is the authorof The Egyptian Temple: A Lexicographical Study and Amara West I and II. K.Vol. In its present form. 40). (Reprinted:Mineola. Rohrer.Nina 1926 TheTombof Huy.1. Petrie. at el-Ashmunein.London:Quaritch. 60). W. introduced after the coming of Islam to Egypt (641 CE). therefore. Meltzer. Dasen." dance in Egypt today can seem far-removedfrom the graceful lines of New Kingdomdancers.The emphasis on hip-movements.75 and 90). with their arms raised and often with one leg bent. has also been influenced by contact with "western"music and movement. could not totally obscure the spirit of the dance.London:Schoolof Archaeologyin Egypt.ese and Djeserkaresoneb. Nord.I. deGarisDavies. Lexova had little admiration for or sympathy with the dances of "modern" (1930s) Egypt as witnessed by her and her father.Oxford:Clarendon. 2555-68 in Civilizations of theAncientNear East.they also would have worked from "patterns"of typical scenes so that there was a limit to the sponteneity possible for the Egyptianartist.