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Status & Dedication
Discovery & excavation at Ur
Gold Lyre Introduction
Music in Mesopotamia
Lyre reconstruction & anatomy
Audio clips

Lyres in the Great Death Pit
Ur, Iraq, c. 2650 BC (BCE)
The Sumerian Gold Lyre, c. 2650 BC (BCE)

Discovery & Excavation at Ur:

At the time of the excavation, archeologists discovered that none of the Gold Lyre’s wood had survived. The Gold Lyre’s sound box and arms, did however, contain broad mosaic borders of lapis lazuli and red limestone that helped determine the instrument's shape.

Strips of waxed cloth were place over the Gold Lyre to remove it from the ground. The cloth acted like a sheet of glue, holding the instrument’s sound box, arms, cross bar and inlay in place. The instrument was then taken from the excavation to be restored. When the waxed cloth dried, sketches and accurate measurements of the Gold Lyre were made. New wooden parts were crafted and the ancient mosaic borders and decorations were transferred from the cloth to the new wooden reconstruction.
Image: The University of Pennsylvania Museum,
© University of Pennsylvania Museum.

WOOLLEY SKETCH
(Interactive)
The Great Death Pit :Grave PG/1237
Circa 2650 BC (BCE)

This facsimile of Leonard Woolly's death pit sketch documents 74 people along with musical instruments, weapons and other royal artifacts. Three lyres were discovered at the Great Death Pit.
Using your mouse, try to locate and click on the Gold Lyre. Or, click here to find the Gold Lyre, and two silver lyres.

The inhabitants of the Great Death Pit were members of Sumerian royalty. One theory suggests that the the group participated in a mass-suicide by simultaneously sipping poison. Regardless of the specific ritual that occurred, the remains of Great Death Pit provide a glimpse into the sophisticated religious and musical practices of the Sumerian people thousands of years ago.

Image (right): The University of Pennsylvania Museum,
© University of Pennsylvania Museum. All rights reserved.
Sounds of the Gold Lyre replica are featured in Douglas Irvine's CD, Ambient Egypt. The recording features dozens of ancient instruments from Mesopotamia and Egypt.
Status & Dedication / Gold Lyre Introduction / Lyre Reconstruction & Anatomy
Discovery & Excavation at Ur / Music in Mesopotamia / Audio Clips