Prehistoric Music Ireland   Drumbest adharc

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Last modified: December 2010

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Prehistoric Music and Instruments


The study of music and instruments from prehistoric times is a relatively new phenomenon.   As a discipline of archaeology it has remained on the periphery, the preserve of a small number of dedicated enthusiasts around the world.   In recent years however, there has been a growing awareness of the importance of the prehistoric musical instrument collection and the very large contribution that it can offer to our knowledge of the evolvement and interaction of civilisation in prehistory.   It is curious to note that the oldest surviving instruments emerge at the same time and in the same settings as the first cave art from 40,000 years ago.   In numerical terms, examples of surviving instruments or parts of instruments are relatively rare.   Yet many images of musicians occur and musical traditions are still practiced today that may have their origins in prehistory.

The study of ancient instruments is more that just music.   Insight can be gained into culture, religion, migration, organic and metal craftsmanship and the evolvement of the vast complexity and diversity that is music in modern times.   When, for example, and Iron Age bronze trumpa from Ireland is almost identical to a Nepalese version which is played in the living tradition many intriguing questions are posed.   It is possible that unanswered mysteries may be solved or reinforced through discoveries made in the study of prehistoric music and instruments.


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