Monday, January 21, 2008

The Role of Music in Ancient Civilizations Topic of New Exhibit at the Bible Lands Museum in Jerusalem

"...A new exhibit at the Bible Lands Museum in Jerusalem illustrates the role of music in the ancient Near East with an elegant display of musical instruments and iconography. Entitled "Sounds of Ancient Music," the exhibit opened on January 7 and features many noteworthy items, including some from as long ago as 12000 BCE.

As well as covering ancient Rome, Greece, Egypt and Mesopotamia, the display also has a special section examining music during the Second Temple period, and features a cornerstone from the Second Temple compound believed to be from where the priests would blow trumpets to usher in Shabbat. Also on display from the same period is an exquisite flute fragment found in a burial site in Jerusalem; due to its fine workmanship, assistant curator Moshe Piamenta speculates that it may have been actually used in the Temple itself.

ALTHOUGH THE only instruments that have survived the ages are those made from bone or metal like flutes, cymbals and rattles, the exhibit displays modern reproductions of ancient lyres, harps and drums created by closely following iconography found on vases, pottery and other implements. The iconography itself is very interesting, a fascinating gallery of mythological figures and statues playing ancient instruments. Especially noteworthy is the large number of females portrayed playing frame drums, a rare silver bowl from the Roman period showing Eros playing an ancient harp, and a cult item from 10000 BCE (found in Ashdod) depicting a five-person musical ensemble..."

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