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

The Sumerian Gold Lyre, c. 2650 BC (BCE)


Among the estimated 170,000 valuable antiquities that filled Iraq's Baghdad Museum prior to its tragic looting in April 2003, some of civilization's oldest musical instruments were proudly exhibited. The Gold Lyre (replica on left) was one of more than a dozen Sumerian stringed instruments discovered at the ancient site of Ur in 1927. Headed by British archaeologist, Sir Leonard Woolley,a multi-national expedition excavated the instruments at the “Royal Graves of Ur." These burial sites yielded some of Mesopotamia’s most cherished artifacts, providing an astounding wealth of new information about Sumerian culture and the origins of music in civilization.

Browse the pages of "The Sumerian Gold Lyre" to explore the history of this unique instrument and the rich musical traditions of ancient Iraq. References and suggested readings appear below.

Left: full-scale Sumerian Gold Lyre replica
site and date: Ur, c. 2650 BC (BCE)
material: wood (cedar, pine & oak)
approximate height: 1 meter (36")
Replica crafted by Douglas Irvine

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.
References and suggested reading (more to come...)

Severy, Merle; Iraq, Crucible of Civilization; National Geographic Magazine, © May 1991.

•  Barnett, R.D.; New Fact About Musical Instruments From Ur; Iraq, 31; © 1969.

Mallowan, M.E.L.; New Light on Ancient Ur, National Geographic Magazine, © 1932?

•  Woolley, C, Leonard, Ur Excavations Vol. II, The Royal Cemetery; Publication of the Joint Expedition of the British Museum and the Museum of the University of Pennsylvania to Mesopotamia; © 1934.

•  Glubok, Shirley; Discovering the Royal Tombs at Ur; Collier-Macmillan LTD., London; © 1980?
Status & Dedication / Gold Lyre Introduction / Lyre Reconstruction & Anatomy
Discovery & Excavation at Ur / Music in Mesopotamia / Audio Clips