Article - Ancient Musical Instruments
Ancient Musical Instruments
Music and musical instruments have been part of the heritage of the people of Israel from earliest times. The Bible mentions the names of dozens of musical instruments as well as musical expressions, and even the names of performers and conductors are recorded. All of which goes to prove that music and song occupied an important place in ancient Israel.
For a long time research into music in biblical times confined itself for the most part to philology. It is only in the past couple of decades that, thanks to various archaeological finds, new fields of research have opened up to the researcher into the history of ancient music.
The varied archaeological finds, while not numerous, uncovered materialistic culture side by side with evidence of ramified artistic creativity. Among the different musical instruments that have been found are: clay rattles; trumpet-like seashells; whistles; recorders; bells and cymbals. No less fascinating than the instruments themselves is a study of the different manner in which ancient musical instruments are depicted in art, sculpture, etc. Among the various finds have been clay figurines and statuettes of male and female musicians, drummers and professional mourners.
Images of musicians and different types of musical instruments have been found on frescoes, on woven cloth, ivories, clay drinking vessels, clay lamps, mosaics, coins and seals. These finds have enabled us to see what many of the musical instruments mentioned in the Bible and the Talmud looked like and in certain cases even show us how they were played.
The trumpet was a multipurpose instrument. Like the ram's horn (shofar), it played a prominent role in the Temple services. "Also in the day of your gladness, and in your solemn days ... ye shall blow with the trumpets..." (Numbers 10:10).
We read of the trumpets used by the army in time of war " ... and Moses sent them to the war ... and the trumpets to blow ... " (Numbers 31: 6).
Similarly we read " ... and if you go to war in your land ... then ye shall blow an alarm with the trumpets ... " (Numbers 10: 9).
The trumpet also played a role on state and royal occasions. The trumpet portrayed on the Bar Kokhba coin (132-135 CE) is the military version with a large mouthpiece and a very wide bell to amplify the sound.
The most frequently mentioned stringed instruments in the Bible are the Lyre and the Harp. These two instruments, in various shapes and sizes, were to be found throughout the centuries in the hands of the people as well as in the service of the Temple.
The biblical lyre was a stringed instrument played by plucking the strings either by hand or with a plectrum. The bow was not known, and hence not used, by the peoples of the ancient world such as the Sumerians, Egyptians and Greeks.
The most common type of lyre in popular use and which is depicted on the coins of Bar Kokhba consisted of a sounding box and two arms connected by a crossbar. Its three strings were made of sheepgut. The instrument was not decorated, as was usual among other peoples, with the heads of wild animals or birds.
Of all the metal percussion instruments, the jingle (cymbals) is the best-known to us, although to this very day we do not know the precise identity and design of the musical instruments referred to as "jingles", "loud jingles" and "high-sounding jingles."
The jingle is also mentioned in the Talmud and refers apparently to the Roman sistrum - an instrument consisting of a wooden handle and a metal bow fitted with loosely held jingles.
These stamps are dedicated to the ancient Israel trumpet, the ancient Israel lyre and the ancient Israel jingle.