Ancient Instrument Pushes Music History Back 1K Years

Archeologists find remains of lyre in Scottish cave
By Neal Colgrass,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 31, 2012 5:18 PM CDT
Ancient Instrument Pushes Back Music History 1K Years
This fragment of an ancient lyre may push music history back 1,000 years in western Europe.   (Historic Scotland)

Turns out even ancient Europeans liked subtle and complex music. Archeologists have found part of a 2,300-year-old lyre—the oldest instrument ever discovered in western Europe—inside a Scottish cave, the Daily Mail reports. The broken and burnt piece of wood "pushes the history of complex music back more than a thousand years, into our darkest pre-history," music archeologist Graeme Lawson tells the BBC. "And not only the history of music but more specifically of song and poetry, because that's what such instruments were very often used for."

Older lyres dating back 5,000 years have been found in modern-day Iraq, but until now there was no physical evidence of western Europeans playing complex music before the Common Era. "It clearly demonstrates how our ancestors were using music and ritual in their lives," says one Scottish official. It also marks Skye—a Scottish island where the lyre was found—as a cultural gathering place: "It obviously had an important role to play in the celebration and ritual of life more than 2,000 years ago." (Read more instrument stories.)

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