From my backlog: in an e-mail dated May 4 Andy Lowings told me that the 1st playable replica of the famous gold bull's head lyre of the royal graves at Ur is finally finished. It was truly a multidisciplinary and international effort that at times ran into seemingly unsurmountable obstacles. The replica was constructed with reasonably-close-to-the-original materials (gold, lapis lazuli, bitumen, cedar wood, pearl shell, pink limestone, sheep gut). Unfortunately, we don't have sufficient knowledge of ancient Mesopotamian music notation to allow for confident interpretation of the extant "music scores" on cuneiform tablets. Even before the replica's decoration was completely finished, it was already being played in concert, e.g., at the Stamford Harp Festival in 2004 by Iraqi musician Tara Jaff, and at the Live8 at the Eden Project in 2005 by Kenyan musician Ayub Ogada. Click on the video at the end of this post to watch a brief clip of Andy Lowings playing the lyre accompanied by Barnaby Brown on the pipes (also copies of ones found in Ur). A project like this may not by itself bring back any smashed archaeological artifact or protect any archaeological site in Iraq but it is very useful in making the very distant Sumerian past come back to life just a little bit again. In order to rally support for the protection of the archaeological heritage of Iraq, it must after all become more than a few pictures in a text book. The project also involved a lot of people and institutions that otherwise would not have been exposed to ancient Mesopotamia...
September 25, 2006