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Lyres in the Celtic past

28 March 2012

At www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-highlands-islands-17537147 … at a cave on Skye a small burnt and broken piece of wood is exciting archaeologists. It is part of the bridge of a lyre – and it dates to the first millennium BC. The 'expert' consulted by the BBC reporter, from Cambridge University, appears to be surprised by this – that complex music, song and poetry could have existed in the darkest moments of the Iron Age period. Lyres are actually known in archaeological contexts in the Near and Middle East going back to 3000 years but being made of wood they have mostly not survived. The cave was damp and dark but the occupation layer was thick, leading to the survival of the wood as a recognisable fragment. In addition, string instruments, such as the lyre, actually feature on stone carvings in Scotland and Ireland.

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