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The title Chantress (transliteration: šmꜤy.t), Singer, Entertainer, Systrum Player, or Flutist, is an ancient Egyptian religious occupational title. By the time of the New Kingdom, it had replaced the title Priestess (ḥmt-nṯr) as the female equivalent of the title Priest. Like with priests, each deity had their own chantresses as well. Chantresses had an important role in religious ceremonies which involved music and dance. They are frequently depicted shaking the systrum. The most important and privileged female priestly role was the Divine Adoratrice of Amun, of which there was only one at the time. Male singers and entertainers, though less common, existed as well.


Chantresses were often referred to as their corresponding deity's harem, though in a symbolic sense as they rarely lived in celibacy. They nonetheless served a very similar entertaining role to the deity of their priesthood as the royal harem did to the pharaoh, who was essentially considered a living god himself. A difference between chantresses and women of the royal harem is that chantresses who served in a priesthood could have been married to anyone, while entertainers in the royal harem were often also the king's consorts.


During the New Kingdom priests became predominantly male because the - now full-time - occupation was incorporated into the government bureaucracy, which was controlled by men.[1] By this time, the role of women in the priesthood focussed primarily on music and dance, which was fulfilled by Chantresses. Unlike the former priestesses, they served in the temples of both male and female deities[2] and could serve more than one temple at a time.[3]

See also[]


  1. Hawass 2000.
  2. Robins 1993.
  3. Lesko 1999.


  • Hawass, Z., 2000: Silent Images: Women in Pharaonic Egypt. Harry Abrams Inc., New York.
  • Lesko, B., 1999: The remarkable Women of ancient Egypt. B.C Scribe Publications, Providence.
  • Robins, G., 1993: Women in Ancient Egypt. Harvard University Press, Cambridge.