Bone Clappers

Plaques of bone, in the form of a pair of hands and forearms with engravings representing the finger joints of the hands, and bracelets at the wrists.

Bone Clappers, CC BY Horniman Museum and Gardens

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  • Intro
    Museum's Description
    Teacher notes
    • What are these hands saying to you? Are they stopping you or inviting you? Are they waving to you? What could they be used for?

      Clappers like this, made out of animal bones, were hit together by ancient Egyptians as a musical accompaniments and even to ward off evil spirits more than 3,000 years ago!

      A thread may have been passed through the holes in the end, keeping the arms together and making them easier to carry. A lot of what we know about the ancient world comes from images painted on surviving pottery and images of clappers are found on the oldest of pottery. We know music was very important in ancient Egyptian society because of pictures of harps, lyres, flutes, tambourines, clappers, and sistrums all appear in the tombs of important people.

      Things to think about:
      • Some clappers were curved because they were made from hippopotamus bones. Which animal do you think these clappers were made from?
      • What other instruments make a noise by hitting two similar pieces together?
      • Why do you think music is so important to cultures around the world?
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