The Egyptians believed their gods were entertained by music and one ancient text says the temple singer was one ‘who pacifies the god with a sweet voice’. The temple singers were an elite group of women with high status in society. Ancient sources suggest they were probably trained by their mothers, with several generations of women in a single family often holding the position in the temple, which is part of the temple complex of Karnak.
The temple contained a small statue of Amun-Ra, probably only about 1ft tall but made of gold and silver. Each day the priest would purify the statue by bathing it, dress it in fresh clothes and food would be laid at its feet.
Amun-Ra was an amalgamation of a very early Egyptian god called Amun, who was concerned with creation, and Ra the sun god.
Tamut is depicted on the cartonnage wearing barely-there linen robes and a long black wig as she makes her journey to the underworld. Dr Taylor said her clothes are those of a high status woman and she would have worn similar attire in the temple. He said: ‘It was expected that a young woman dressed in a slightly provocative way.
'Basically, the temple singers were trying to assure the approval of the god and that included his sexual appetite so it was thought acceptable to dress in partly see-through clothes.’ Wigs made of human hair were a status symbol and also worn as a way of staying free of head lice, which were often a problem in ancient Egypt. It is known from her remains that Tamut had short-cropped hair beneath the dark wig she is depicted wearing.
It is thought temple singers received a portion of the food which was laid before the god’s statue. This could, sources suggest, be up to 20 sacks of grain a day – meaning the annual total would have been enough to support 110 families.
Dr Taylor said: ‘I would imagine she had a reasonably easy life style. 'She probably didn’t do much in the way of manual work, but would have run the home and probably spent quite a lot of her time pregnant and looking after the children.’